Unseen City: The Majesty of Pigeons, the Discreet Charm of Snails & Other Wonders of the Urban Wilderness

by Nathanael Johnson

About the Book

Unseen City was born from a single repeated question a young daughter had for her father as they walked around the San Francisco Bay Area: she would point at something and ask what it was. Her father, journalist Nathanael Johnson, would answer (“house,” “sky,” “tree,” “another tree”), but in doing so, he realized he didn’t know much beyond the basics. What type of tree was it? This opened his eyes to parts of the natural world so common in urban areas that they are practically invisible to most city dwellers. Johnson wanted to learn more about this “unseen city,” and what he found not only helped him answer his daughter’s questions, but it gave him a better appreciation for the environment he and his family live in.

About the Author

Journalist Nathanael Johnson has taught at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism and is a senior writer for Grist, an online publication focusing on nature and the environment. In 2013, he wrote All Natural, a journalistic exploration that seeks to figure out what works and what doesn’t in technological versus holistic health solutions. Originally from Northern California, he now resides in Berkeley with his wife and two children.

Related Events

Birdwatching at Huff Park

Saturday, June 23, 2018, 8:00 am
(Rain Date: Saturday, June 30)
Huff Park – 2399 Ball Ave NE – Park in the Aberdeen lot

Huff Park is a perfect place for bird lovers and a great place to learn about birding. Join the Grand Rapids Audubon Club for a 1–2 mile hike (around 90 minutes) to ease into the day with songs of birds greeting each other. Michigan’s year round residents will be joined by the song birds from the south, making a colorful morning. Dress for bugs and wear shoes that can get muddy. Bring binoculars if you can.

Bug’s Eye View

Saturday, June 30, 2018, 10:00 am, 11:30 am, 1:00 pm
Main Library – 111 Library St NE

Come experience the world of arthropods! Engage your inner entomologist as we explore the lifecycle of a cecropia moth, investigate live insects, and buzz around like pollinators. This fun and interactive workshop will show your young scientist how insects are unique in the animal kingdom. This family-friendly event lasts 50 minutes. Space is limited and available on a first-come, first-served basis.

Michigan Native Plants in Your Home Landscape

Tuesday, July 24, 2018, 7:00 pm
Main Library – 111 Library St NE

Learn how to transform your landscape into a beautiful haven using native Michigan plants. Give our pollinators room to grow, feed, and reproduce while developing a sense of place specific to West Michigan. Discover the native plants of Michigan and bring home a native seed activity.

Falcons and Chimney Swifts: An Urban Birdwalk

Thursday, August 2, 2018, 7:00 pm
(Rain Date: Monday, August 6)
Main Library – 111 Library St NE – meet on the front steps

Join the Grand Rapids Audubon Club for a walk around downtown to see birds that have found ways to thrive in heavily populated areas. We will be on the lookout for Chimney Swifts, which have learned how to roost in home’s chimneys and large smoke stacks, and Peregrine Falcons, that were introduced years ago atop McKay Tower as a way to control the pigeon population. Wear good walking shoes for this 90-minute walk.

If you like this book, you may also enjoy:

Lives of the Trees: An Uncommon History by Diana Wells

House Guests, House Pests: A Natural History of Animals in the Home by Richard Jones

The Dog by the Cradle, the Serpent Beneath: Some Paradoxes of Human-Animal Relationships by Erika Ritter

(there are more on a list somewhere)