NATURE OBSCURA: A City’s Hidden Natural World is out now from Mountaineers Books.

Order now on IndieBound, Powells, Third Place Books, Amazon, Barnes & Noble or Book Depository in Europe. 


With wonder and a sense of humor, Nature Obscura author Kelly Brenner aims to help us rediscover our connection to the natural world that is just outside our front door — we just need to know where to look.

Through explorations of a rich and varied urban landscape, Brenner reveals the complex micro-habitats and surprising nature found in the middle of a city. In her hometown of Seattle, which has plowed down hills, cut through the land to connect fresh- and saltwater, and paved over much of the rest, she exposes a diverse range of strange and unknown creatures. From shore to wetland, forest to neighborhood park, and graveyard to backyard, Brenner uncovers how our land alterations have impacted nature, for good and bad, through the wildlife and plants that live alongside us, often unseen. These stories meld together, in the same way our ecosystems, species, and human history are interconnected across the urban environment.

Press Release

Publishers Weekly Review

Booklist Review

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“Gorgeously written and deeply felt, with rigorous research and information at its core.”

—Jeff VanderMeer, author of Dead Astronauts

“A warm-hearted meditation on the natural wonders that we city dwellers overlook every day,
such as the western pondhawk (a dragonfly), licorice ferns, and the charming
Anna’s hummingbird, her heart beating 1,250 times a minute—and the perhaps less
charming ant-decapitating fly and, yes, Fuligo septima, a.k.a., dog-vomit slime mold . . .
Once you read this book you’ll step more carefully, to avoid damaging the
myriad tiny worlds that add color and texture to our world.”

—Erik Larson, author of The Splendid and the Vile

“With observant eyes and beautiful prose, Kelly Brenner draws us all into the hidden depths of
the urban wilderness. Hummingbirds, dragonflies, ferns, and even slime molds come to vibrant
life alongside stories of the humans who keep watch over the nature that surrounds us. Nature
Obscura inspires everyday wonder, adventure, and wisdom about our changing earth.”

—Lyanda Lynn Haupt, author of Mozart’s Starling and Crow Planet

Nature Obscura reveals the living city through delightful encounters with natural
neighbors we all ought to know. An attentive, fun, and thoroughly engaging guide,
Kelly Brenner will help you become a better naturalist every day.”

—Robert Michael Pyle, author of Magdalena Mountain

“Drawing upon her astonishing fine ability to notice, and find both fascination and
enjoyment in, things that are all-too-easily missed in the daily hurly-burly of the
modern world – mosses, ferns, crows, muskrats, slime-molds (especially slime-molds) –
Ms. Brenner uses her exquisite command of the English language to guide her readers along
on a tour of the wonders to be found in the natural world that is not far-off and exotic, but close,
easily accessible, and remarkably (for lack of a better word) cozy.”

John Riutta, The Well-Read Naturalist

“Impeccably researched and written, Brenner’s smart debut is ideal for those with a deep interest in nature.”

Publishers Weekly

“Readers will be both mesmerized by the surprising poetry of Brenner’s prose and excited to
follow her example and discover nature’s marvels in their own surroundings. ”


“Naturalist Brenner writes an absorbing set of observations of the natural world found in urban environments. She looks for spiders in basements and collects moths from street lamps. From there, she brings lichens home from the park and searches for slime molds on rotting wood. The narrative continues as the author gathers moss from the shingles on her roof and then collects tardigrades from the moss, describing not just where to look for urban species, but also their fascinating traits and behaviors. Notably, Brenner examines how resilience and adaptation allow species to thrive in cities and change the environment they live in, and how they influence the community (and us) to adapt to them. From crows to flies to fungi, Brenner’s work shows how little we know about and how rarely we see the species that surround us. VERDICT Though focused on Brenner’s hometown of Seattle, this unofficial guide to finding wildlife in unexpected areas is wide ranging and companionable. Also included are tips and resources for budding urban naturalists.”

Library Journal

Copyright 2020 Kelly Brenner | All Rights Reserved