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

Nathanael Johnson. Rodale, $24.99 (256p) ISBN 978-1-62336-385-7
In this educational and fascinating volume, Johnson (All Natural), the food editor at Grist, encourages readers to decelerate their lives in order "to see the wonders around us." Johnson shines a spotlight on common creatures and mundane things, inspired by his young daughter Josephine's encounters with snails and ants, weeds and trees, in his Bay Area neighborhood and beyond. He brings childlike curiosity to the discussion and backs it up well with research. A chapter on gastropods, for example, includes descriptions of snails in his yard ("They appeared after rains, each about the size of a knuckle, waving its horns enthusiastically") while containing interesting information on snails in general: "They taste with their lower tentacles. They have no sense of hearing." Johnson's section on ants, which he considers "kind of amazing," proves similarly insightful. Though ants are usually dismissed as household pests, "they don't have bosses or leaders, or a corporate structure or hierarchy. They don't procrastinate. They don't need deadlines. There is no top-down organization." Johnson finds answers to rarely considered questions, and by giving ordinary phenomena in urban environments the attention they deserve, he helps to make them extraordinary. Agent: Nicole Tourtelot, DeFiore & Company. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 05/16/2016
Release date: 04/01/2016
Genre: Nonfiction
Ebook - 978-1-62336-386-4
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