Many of the world’s forests are not primeval; forest restoration aims to reverse alterations caused by human use. Forest restoration (including reforestation and forest rehabilitation) is widely researched and practiced around the globe. A review of recent literature reveals some common themes concerning forest restoration motivations and methods. In some parts of the world, forest restoration aims mainly to re-establish trees required for timber or fuelwood; such work emphasizes the propagation, establishment and growth of trees, and equates with the traditional discipline of silviculture. Elsewhere, a recent focus on biocentric values adopts the goal of supporting full complements of indigenous trees and other species. Such ecosystem-based restoration approaches consider natural templates and a wide array of attributes and processes, but there remains an emphasis on trees and plant species composition. Efforts to restore natural processes such as nutrient cycling, succession, and natural disturbances seem limited, except for the use of fire, which has seen widespread adoption in some regions. The inherent challenges in restoring “naturalness” include high temporal and spatial heterogeneity in forest conditions and natural disturbances, the long history of human influence on forests in many regions of the world, and uncertainty about future climate and disturbance regimes. Although fixed templates may be inappropriate, we still have a reasonably clear idea of the incremental steps required to make forests more natural. Because most locations can support many alternative configurations of natural vegetation, the restoration of forest naturalness necessarily involves the setting of priorities and strategic directions in the context of human values and objectives, as informed by our best understanding of ecosystem structure and function now and in the future.