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August 25, 2022

Book Review: Nature Obscura

Author: Liz Clift

Do you live in a city and feel like you have to get out of the urban area to appreciate nature—or experience it at all?

Then Kelly Brenner’s Nature Obscura: A City’s Hidden Natural World (2020) might be the book for you. Brenner takes the reader on a journey through a major metropolitan area that is filled with wonder of the small things—and reminders to slow down and pay attention to the world around us, from hummingbirds and crows to moss to lichens to the insects that surround us. Brenner’s writing portrays each small bit of “urban nature” as beautiful, mysterious, and full of opportunities to be curious about the natural world, its connection to other aspects of urban nature, and its connection to us.

This book is fast-paced and engaging—and you might enjoy it if you have young children at home who have yet to have their wonder squished, or if you’re re-learning to engage your own sense of wonder. This is because Brenner is vulnerable about coming back to that sense of wonder, after having it squished—which is likely to make it all the more relatable. A quick content note for the particularly squeamish: Brenner talks about re-engaging wonder during a section about arachnids, for those of you that might feel some phobia in that department.

While this book is focused on the part of the country where Brenner lives (Seattle), you’ll be able to find urban nature wherever you live—if you slow down enough to look, and if you “put your eyes on” to see these smaller facets of the natural world that are so easy for so many of us to overlook because we are used to charismatic megafauna and majestic views.