Cover of Ladders To Heaven

Latest updates

Big news - From 4 sentences in a book about fig trees to nearly 1000 original artworks

Saturday, 10 April 2021

On a quiet day in June 2020, a stranger on a distant shore contacted me and blew my mind. He asked me to keep a secret until this day.

The stranger was US-based artist Nathan Langston. He told me he had press-ganged some of my words into the service of an international art project called TELEPHONE. Nathan said that, at that moment, artists and poets and musicians all around the world were creating…

Sir David Attenborough spreads the word about fig trees

Wednesday, 20 January 2021

Hi everyone

I have a little good news to share with everyone who supported my book about fig trees, Ladders to Heaven.

Have you seen the new David Attenborough series A Perfect Planet? Last week, I heard from one of the producers that my book had inspired the sequence in episode two on gibbons, fig trees and fig wasps. You can find the episode on iPlayer here:…

The book you funded has inspired a new beer

Wednesday, 15 January 2020

Hello everyone,

Here’s a little news that I’ve been dying to share…

It is about a quirky side-effect of the book that I wrote, and which you all brought to life with your generous support.

My book is about how fig trees have influenced human evolution and cultural development, have shaped the world about us, and can help us restore damaged rainforests. Last November, I heard that it had inspired…

A new edition has hit the shelves

Friday, 21 September 2018

I'm very happy to announce that the paperback edition of Ladders to Heaven came out this month. Last week, the Daily Mail called it a 'must read'. Thanks again to everyone who pledged in advance for the hardback two years ago, or who has left reviews on Amazon / Goodreads. I'm grateful for all of your support. Please keep on spreading the word! Cheers, Mike.

Outtakes and extras part 2

Monday, 6 August 2018

In the run up to the paperback edition of Ladders to Heaven coming out on 6 September, I will be sharing some of the stories that didn't make it into the book. Meanwhile, thanks to everyone who has reviewed the book on Amazon – if you would like to add your rating, here is the link (for GoodReads reviews, the page is here).

Read the story

Read the story

Outtakes and extras part 1

Friday, 20 July 2018

In the run up to the paperback edition of Ladders to Heaven coming out on 6 September, I will be sharing some of the stories that didn't make it into the book. Meanwhile, thanks to everyone who has reviewed the book on Amazon – if you would like to add your rating, here is the link (for GoodReads reviews, the page is here).

Read the story

Read the story

Some good news

Wednesday, 21 February 2018

Hi everyone

I've got some good news to share about Ladders to Heaven.

First up, Unbound will publish a paperback edition later this year. It will come out in September but is available for pre-order now on Amazon, Waterstones and through independent bookshops.

There is also now an audiobook of the US edition narrated by TV and stage actor James Cameron Stewart. And the first translated edition…

World premiere of How to be a Fig

Wednesday, 4 October 2017

Something special has happened in India. On 23 September, two dozen black-clad dancers took to a stage before an audience of scientists and, as music played, transformed into insects, birds, mammals and strangler figs. It was the world premiere of ‘How to be a Fig’, a performance based on my book Ladders to Heaven about how fig trees have shaped our world and can enrich our future.

I am honoured…

BBC World Service interviews coming up

Thursday, 17 August 2017

Earlier this year I travelled to the tropical house at the Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew, where ethnobotanical researcher and writer Anna Lewington interviewed me about two fig trees with amazing stories.

The BBC World Service will broadcast her two-part radio programme this month, starting tomorrow (18 August) with the story of the Buddha’s tree of enlightenment (Ficus religiosa). Next week’s…

Author event - Science in the Pub - 7 June 2017

Thursday, 1 June 2017

Some of the best ideas are the simplest ones. Like Science in the Pub. It brings people together in the informal setting of a London boozer to hear about and discuss interesting scientific topics.

On Wednesday 7th June I'll be joining the crew to talk about the weird biology that explains why fig trees are so important to ecology, to culture and to the future of life on earth. The talk will be…

Good news

Thursday, 1 December 2016

Dear supporters

It has been an eventful month for the book you brought into the world. Here's a quick update and a request.

You know the book as Ladders to Heaven but in North America, where it has found a new publisher, it is called Gods, Wasps and Stranglers. That edition went on sale on 15 November.

It recently featured on a public radio show in the United States, whose host Mike McGrath…

Advance praise for Ladders to Heaven

Thursday, 29 September 2016

Some advance praise for Ladders to Heaven from Annie Proulx, Deborah Blum, Sy Montgomery, Fred Pearce, Simran Sethi and Thomas Lovejoy...

“Surprising, engrossing, disturbing, and promising, [Ladders to Heaven] combines masterful storytelling and spellbinding science. This is a beautifully-written and important book about trees that have shaped human destiny.”

—Sy Montgomery, author of The Soul…

10 things you need to know about banyan trees

Tuesday, 6 September 2016

The splendid banyan trees I met today in a park in Honolulu, Hawaii prompted me to share some things I learned while researching my new book about how fig trees have shaped our world, influenced culture and can help us protect life on Earth. Here are ten nuggets:

  1. The banyan (Ficus benghalensis) is one of more than 750 species of fig trees, each of which is pollinated only by its own species…

True or false? Figs contain dead wasps

Thursday, 25 August 2016

On a moonlit night in southern Africa a reproductive race is about to begin. The stakes are high but so are the risks. Most of the competitors will be dead or doomed by dawn. The starting line is a solitary fig tree whose gnarled form towers over a small stream. Figs hang in clumps from its branches like a plague of green boils. Tonight they erupt with life.

An insect emerges from a hole…

The book is here. The wait is over (nearly).

Sunday, 7 August 2016

Here it is... the first ever photo of the first physical copies of my book.

I saw these on Friday and I am delighted with how they look and feel. I owe huge thanks to the more than 300 friends and strangers who bought a copy in advance and so made this book possible. Your copies will be arriving with you soon. The official publication date is 8 September. The book will be available in shops and…

The humbling history of the tiny wasps that upset a Jurassic Park narrative

Tuesday, 7 June 2016

Here's a story about fig trees and their wasps that never made it into the book. I first published it in 2013 and am sharing it again here while we wait for the book to be born.


It’s the land that time forgot, a remote island whose strange life forms have survived in splendid isolation since the time of the dinosaurs. Or is it? Because while biologists have long thought this, geologists…

Preview of cover art and back-of-book blurb

Tuesday, 24 May 2016

Here’s a preview of the book’s cover and the text that will appear on the back.

The publication date is 8 September 2016, but anyone pre-ordering a copy through Unbound will get their book before it reaches the shops, as soon as it is ready. Anyone who orders their book by midnight (UK time) on 2 June 2016 will be listed as a patron in the back of every edition.


All 20 illustrations unveiled. Prints and postcards available to supporters.

Monday, 23 May 2016

I'm pleased to unveil the final 20 illustrations that will appear in Ladders to Heaven. Below the image, you can read each picture's caption. Supporters can order prints or postcards along with their copy of the book (here).

Each picture is made up of thousands upon thousands of tiny little dots. Each picture therefore took hours upon hours to complete. With the pictures finally finished, the book…

Chapter-by-chapter preview

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Here's an outline of what will be in each of the book's chapters. There's a 10th chapter that I haven't mentioned yet. That's a secret for now.

Chapter 1: Trees of Life, Trees of Knowledge

I will show you how fig trees inspired the co-founder of the theory of evolution, how they feature in the creation myths of diverse religions and cultures, and how these two facts are connected.

Ladders to Heaven: Sneak preview of the chapters

Friday, 10 April 2015

Hello again

It is time for a quick update.

Ladders to Heaven is now 57% funded!  I want to say a BIG thank-you to all you for your support so far. Please do continue to spread the word. The sooner we reach 100%, the sooner the book will be born.

In the meantime, here's a sneak preview of the chapters (as they currently stand).

Chapter 1: Trees of Life, Trees of Knowledge

I will show you…

Ladders to Heaven: Thanks to supporters and an update on progress

Thursday, 12 March 2015

Hello everyone

I want to say a big thank you to everyone who has pledged support for my book so far. The campaign began just one week ago and already 90 of you have pledged.

I am so very grateful to you all. You have pledged from Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Guatemala, India, Thailand, the Philippines, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, the UK and US.

The book is now 27% funded. It will…

Publication date: September 2017
126% funded
375 backers