10 books like Nature Obscura

By Kelly Brenner,

Here are 10 books that authors have personally recommended if you like Nature Obscura. Shepherd is a community of 6,000+ authors sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Darwin Comes to Town

By Menno Schilthuizen,

Book cover of Darwin Comes to Town: How the Urban Jungle Drives Evolution

An evolutionary biologist and an excellent storyteller, Menno Schilthuizen gives a lively, upbeat survey of the myriad ways in which nonhuman life adapts to urban environments. Schilthuizen frames the city as one of nature’s many engineered environments: just as beetles evolved to live in anthills and whole-food webs rely on beaver-constructed wetlands, human cities provide homes for plant and animal life all over the world. This story goes far beyond peppered moths adapting to smog-stained trees. Schilthuizen delves into concepts like preadaptation and fragmentation to provide a nuanced and varied picture, allowing a more precise understanding of what is new in the Anthropocene and drawing connections between cities from Singapore to Paris.

Darwin Comes to Town

By Menno Schilthuizen,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Darwin Comes to Town as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

We are marching towards a future in which three-quarters of humans live in cities, more than half of the landmass of the planet is urbanized, and the rest is covered by farms,pasture, and plantations. Increasingly, as we become ever more city-centric, species and ecosystems crafted by millions of years of evolution teeter on the brink of extinction - or have already disappeared.

A growing band of 'urban ecologists' is beginning to realize that natural selection is not so easily stopped. They are finding that more and more plants and animals are adopting new ways of living in the seemingly hostile…


Seeing Trees

By Sonja Dümpelmann,

Book cover of Seeing Trees: A History of Street Trees in New York City and Berlin

Maples, magnolias, oaks, and ailanthus: from the native to the exotic, from the carefully cultivated to the weedy and unwanted, Dümpelmann tells the history of the trees that line our city streets in two complementary case studies. Beginning in the late nineteenth century, trees became yet another technology of urban planning, bent to human designs by tree surgeons, dendroscopes, and all manner of other fantastic inventions. Dümpelmann avoids the pathos of the solitary tree sandwiched between asphalt and concrete. Instead, her story is one of flourishing mutualism: as trees became urbanized, cities became naturalized. Urban trees tell very human stories of war and politics and peace, but also resist our control, and make the city a little bit wild. 

Seeing Trees

By Sonja Dümpelmann,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Seeing Trees as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A fascinating and beautifully illustrated volume that explains what street trees tell us about humanity's changing relationship with nature and the city

"A deep . . . dive into urban society's need for-and relationship with-trees that sought to return the natural world to the concrete jungle."-Adrian Higgins, Washington Post

Winner of the Foundation for Landscape Studies' 2019 John Brinckerhoff Jackson Prize

Today, cities around the globe are planting street trees to mitigate the effects of climate change. However, as landscape historian Sonja Dumpelmann explains, the planting of street trees in cities to serve specific functions is not a new phenomenon.…

The New Wilderness

By Diane Cook,

Book cover of The New Wilderness

This book changed my mind. 

Bea’s five-year-old daughter is frail and sickly, a victim of rampant air pollution. In an effort to save her, Bea and her family join an experimental program that requires them to live in the wild as nomadic hunters and gatherers. I must admit, I was initially drawn to the idea of trading the rat race for the wilderness. (No more alarm clocks! No more traffic jams!) But by the time I finished the book, that notion had lost its appeal. (No food pantries! No hospitals! Starvation! Death!) Exploring this intriguing but brutal scenario from the comfort of my living room is as close as I care to get!

The New Wilderness

By Diane Cook,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The New Wilderness as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'THE ENVIRONMENTAL NOVEL OF OUR TIMES.' Lemn Sissay, Booker Prize judge

From an acclaimed Guardian First Book Award finalist comes a debut novel 'brutal and beautiful in equal measure' (Emily St. John Mandel)

Longlisted for the DUBLIN Literary Award 2022

A Guardian Best Science Fiction Book of the Year

A 'Best Book of the Year 2020' according to BBC Culture * An Irish Times Best Debut Fiction of 2020

Bea's daughter, Agnes, is slowly wasting away, her lungs ravaged by the smog and pollution of the overpopulated metropolis they call home.

The only alternative is to build a life in…


Motor City Green

By Joseph Stanhope Cialdella,

Book cover of Motor City Green: A Century of Landscapes and Environmentalism in Detroit

Nature takes on different meanings in the landscape of the post-industrial city. On a city block in the middle of a shrinking city, the return of green space can signify abandonment, disinvestment, and decay instead of healing, flourishing, or balance. Cialdella brings much needed nuance and historical context to the place of nature in postindustrial Detroit, providing a wider range of stories about the ways in which gardens and green, from the wide expanse of Belle Isle to urban potato patches and backyard sunflowers, have helped connect communities to the city and each other. Nature in the city doesn’t replace people; it helps them flourish.

Motor City Green

By Joseph Stanhope Cialdella,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Motor City Green as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Motor City Green is a history of green spaces in metropolitan Detroit from the late nineteenth- to early twenty-first century. The book focuses primarily on the history of gardens and parks in the city of Detroit and its suburbs in southeast Michigan. Cialdella argues Detroit residents used green space to address problems created by the city's industrial rise and decline, and racial segregation and economic inequality. As the city's social landscape became increasingly uncontrollable, Detroiters turned to parks, gardens, yards, and other outdoor spaces to relieve the negative social and environmental consequences of industrial capitalism. Motor City Green looks to…

Our Better Nature

By Philip J. Dreyfus,

Book cover of Our Better Nature: Environment and the Making of San Francisco

Philip Dreyfus has written a fantastic one-stop ecological history of San Francisco that properly puts the city’s evolution into the natural systems on which it was built. Too many histories overlook the basic questions of water, topography, and climate and how human activity, that is work, has altered those over time. Dreyfus starts with an eloquent description of pre-contact life on the windy, foggy, sand-dune-covered peninsula, and methodically takes us through the sequences of urbanization, including the struggle over green spaces and parklands, water provision, and ultimately the surrounding bay itself. Few cities have benefited as much as San Francisco from the activism of previous generations that in our case, saved the bay, blocked freeway construction, and halted nuclear power.

Our Better Nature

By Philip J. Dreyfus,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Our Better Nature as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Few cities are so dramatically identified with their environment as San Francisco - the landscape of hills, the expansive bay, the engulfing fog, and even the deadly fault line shifting below. Yet most residents think of the city itself as separate from the natural environment on which it depends. In Our Better Nature, Philip J. Dreyfus recounts the history of San Francisco from Indian village to world-class metropolis, focusing on the interactions between the city and the land and on the generations of people who have transformed them both. Dreyfus examines the ways that San Franciscans remade the landscape to…

Resilient Cities

By Peter Newman, Timothy Beatley, Heather Boyer

Book cover of Resilient Cities: Overcoming Fossil Fuel Dependence

What does it mean to be a resilient city in the age of a changing climate and growing inequity? As urban populations grow, how do we create efficient transportation systems, access to healthy green space, and lower-carbon buildings for all citizens? Resilient Cities responds to these questions, revealing how resilient city characteristics have been achieved in communities around the world. A resilient city is one that uses renewable and distributed energy; has an efficient and regenerative metabolism; offers inclusive and healthy places; fosters biophilic and naturally adaptive systems; is invested in disaster preparedness; and is designed around efficient urban fabrics that allow for sustainable mobility. 

Resilient Cities

By Peter Newman, Timothy Beatley, Heather Boyer

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Resilient Cities as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

What does it mean to be a resilient city in the age of a changing climate and growing inequity? As urban populations grow, how do we create efficient transportation systems, access to healthy green space, and lower-carbon buildings for all citizens? Peter Newman, Timothy Beatley, and Heather Boyer respond to these questions in the revised and updated edition of Resilient Cities. Since the first edition was published in 2009, interest in resilience has surged, in part due to increasingly frequent and deadly natural disasters, and in part due to the contribution of our cities to climate change. The number of…

Urbanism in the Age of Climate Change

By Peter Calthorpe,

Book cover of Urbanism in the Age of Climate Change

“Our cities and towns have been on a high carbon diet—and our metropolitan regions have become obese,Peter Calthorpe states. Plying a generation of path-breaking work, he reveals how shifting to urbanism, “compact and walkable development,” can mitigate climate change and secure health and happiness. The metrics he presents are essential reading. Three types of neighborhoods—urban, compact, and sprawl—are assessed for their impact on land consumption, energy use, infrastructure, and utility cost, vehicle miles traveled, and greenhouse gas emissions. The information delivers a clear message: technology will not save us, but a lifestyle change will. It is “not radical,” Calthorpe writes, “but simply a shift from large lot single family homes” to the “streetcar suburbs” that once flourished in American cities. This seemingly simple solution is a vast undertaking, but the blueprint is fresh, and the next step requires, as Olmsted averred, “the best application of the arts of…

Urbanism in the Age of Climate Change

By Peter Calthorpe,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Urbanism in the Age of Climate Change as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From the beginning of his career, Peter Calthorpe has been a leading innovator in sustainable building projects, sustainable development, and walkable communities. A leader in the New Urbanism Movement, he is an important resource for solutions to current problems of urban sprawl, suburban isolation, and the related problems of outsized energy consumption and an outsized share of world emissions. According to 'Ecological Urbanism', relentless and thoughtless development have created a way of living that brings us to a point of reckoning regarding energy, climate change and the way we shape our communities. The answer to these crises is 'Sustainable Development',…

Green Metropolis

By David Owen,

Book cover of Green Metropolis: Why Living Smaller, Living Closer, and Driving Less Are the Keys to Sustainability

David Owen cares about cities and climate change, but the solution he suggests may seem counter-intuitive. At least it seemed so to me, until I began to look around at my own relatively sustainable city, Montreal. Owen argues that dense cities are really more environmentally friendly than spread out ones, and if we're going to get a handle on carbon emissions we are going to have to live closer together.  He doesn't advocate high rises all over as Le Corbusiier would, but a mixture of housing heights tied to effective public transportation. He presents workable ideas that can change the world. 

Green Metropolis

By David Owen,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Green Metropolis as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In this remarkable challenge to conventional thinking about the environment, David Owen argues that the greenest community in the United States is not Portland, Oregon, or Snowmass, Colorado, but New York, New York. Most Americans think of crowded cities as ecological nightmares, as wastelands of concrete and garbage and diesel fumes and traffic jams. Yet residents of compact urban centers, Owen shows, individually consume less oil, electricity, and water than other Americans. They live in smaller spaces, discard less trash, and, most important of all, spend far less time in automobiles. Residents of Manhattan- the most densely populated place in…

The Horse in the City

By Clay McShane, Joel Tarr,

Book cover of The Horse in the City: Living Machines in the Nineteenth Century

People don’t often think of horses as urban dwellers, but until the 1930s, American urban life depended on the thousands of horses who were residents, workers, commuters, and consumers. A banker in Boston encountered more horses than a cowboy in Colorado. Tarr and McShane describe urban horses as “living machines” used for mass transit, individual transportation, delivery, construction, manufacturing, and city services. The authors present a wealth of fascinating information and ideas about this relatively unknown aspect of history. The topical organization about how human urbanites obtained, used, supplied, doctored, managed, and maintained equine urbanites makes it easy for readers to dip into the sections of the book that catch their interest.

The Horse in the City

By Clay McShane, Joel Tarr,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Horse in the City as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The nineteenth century was the golden age of the horse. In urban America, the indispensable horse provided the power for not only vehicles that moved freight, transported passengers, and fought fires but also equipment in breweries, mills, foundries, and machine shops. Clay McShane and Joel A. Tarr, prominent scholars of American urban life, here explore the critical role that the horse played in the growing nineteenth-century metropolis. Using such diverse sources as veterinary manuals, stable periodicals, teamster magazines, city newspapers, and agricultural yearbooks, they examine how the horses were housed and fed and how workers bred, trained, marketed, and employed…

Animal Metropolis

By Joanna Dean (editor), Darcy Ingram (editor), Christabelle Sethna (editor)

Book cover of Animal Metropolis: Histories of Human-Animal Relations in Canada

This book is full of engaging and thoughtful essays focusing on the ways that human-animal histories have shaped so many aspects of life in Canada. From the horses on the streets of Montreal in the 19th century to more recent exploration of captive animals in Vancouver, this book presents an important range of topics that ask the reader to think differently about the histories, spaces, and species they may think they know. I also really appreciate that the University of Calgary Press has published an open access version of this book.

Animal Metropolis

By Joanna Dean (editor), Darcy Ingram (editor), Christabelle Sethna (editor)

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Animal Metropolis as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Animal Metropolis brings a Canadian perspective to the growing field of animal history, ranging across species and cities, from the beavers who engineered Stanley Park to the carthorses who shaped the city of Montreal. Some essays consider animals as spectacle: orca captivity in Vancouver, polar bear tourism in Churchill, Manitoba, fish on display in the Dominion Fisheries Museum, and the racialized memory of Jumbo the elephant in St. Thomas, Ontario. Others examine the bodily intimacies of shared urban spaces: the regulation of rabid dogs in Banff, the maternal politics of pure milk in Hamilton and the circulation of tetanus bacilli…

5 book lists we think you will like!

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