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Field Notes From a Hidden City: An Urban Nature Diary [Paperback]

Esther Woolfson
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
RRP: 8.99
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Book Description

6 Feb 2014
Against the background of austere and beautiful Aberdeen, Woolfson observes the seasons, the streets and the quiet places of her city over the course of a year. She considers the geographic, atmospheric and environmental elements which bring diverse life forms together in close proximity, and in absorbing prose writes of the animals among us: the birds, the rats and squirrels, the spiders and the insects. Her close examination of the natural world leads her to question our prevailing attitudes to urban and non-urban wildlife, and to look again at the values we place on the lives of individual species.

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Field Notes From a Hidden City: An Urban Nature Diary + Corvus: A Life with Birds
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  • Corvus: A Life with Birds 6.29


Product details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Granta Books (6 Feb 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1847082769
  • ISBN-13: 978-1847082763
  • Product Dimensions: 15 x 21 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 109,295 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Review

"A likeably quirky book ... Woolfson writes vividly about all things feathered ... Woolfson deserves only praise for bringing her hidden city - and our hidden prejudices - so enjoyably to light." --Sunday Telegraph

"In Field Notes, Woolfson turns her beady eye to the muddled and fascinating ecology of her hometown of Aberdeen ... The Aberdeen she unearths is a beguiling city ... Though her hidden city extends back through time, it's the living inhabitants that capture the larger part of Woolfson's attention and enthusiasm. There's nothing mystical about her enthusiasm for spiders, worms, shrews and foxes, but rather a kind of bustling curiosity about their strange and purposeful lives ... It can only be hoped that books like this play a part in making us both notice and value the lovely creatures we stand to lose, before the wild portions of our cities have been entirely swept and tidied and paved out of existence." --Observer

"The joy of this book is that it teaches us to observe afresh and to live peaceably with every species no matter how slimy." --Daily Telegraph

"This is a beautiful book, a meditation and an investigation, a contemplation of our uncaring attitude to wild animals. Part autobiography, it is shot through with the solitude and wisdom of older age, as Woolfson pursues her scientific studies alone."-The Times

"Woolfson is a thoughtful diarist, using events as jumping-off points for digressions into scientific information or passionate argument ... The elegance of her writing is superbly matched by Granta s stylish, exemplary production. The fine paper and beautiful illustrations make it a book that any urban dweller wanting a guide to nature within city walls will cherish."-Daily Mail

"This is an illuminating, humane and informative companion, throughout the seasons, in the great tradition of the finest nature writing even, and especially in, the grey granite grip of a northern winter."-Scotland on Sunday

"Woolfson changed our minds about rooks and crows with her memoir Corvus and now her new book is going to change our minds about other species, specifically those that have moved into the cities and made their home among the glass and the concrete" --Sunday Herald

"This is a reflective work that isn t quite as gentle as it might seem [it] underlines the fact that if we don t appreciate the value of nature under our noses, we may change it irrevocably." --Metro

'The ordinary is revealed as extraordinary' ***** --Daily Telegraph

'Woolfson charts with thought, compassion, and no little expertise, the coming and goings of those who share our city space' **** --Independent on Sunday

'She is an expert nature-watcher, and describes superbly the subtle variations of flora and fauna even in the heart of a granite-built city. This is a beautifully written celebration of nature' --Sunday Times

'This is more than a list of flora and fauna. It's also an examination of how much we value what's around us and the sort of decisions we make. It is this level of thought and empathy that distinguishes the book' --'Must Read', Daily Mail

'This is a beautiful book' --The Times

'A beautifully-written and thoughtful account... written in carefully-crafted prose' --NFU Countryside

About the Author

ESTHER WOOLFSON was brought up in Glasgow and studied Chinese at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Edinburgh University. Her acclaimed short stories have appeared in many anthologies and have been read on Radio 4. She is the author of Corvus: A Life with Birds, which is also published by Granta Books. She has won prizes for her nature writing and received a Scottish Arts Council Travel Grant and a Writer's Bursary.

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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
4.5 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Esther Woolfson is a marvelous author 5 Jun 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Another gem from Esther Woolfson. We really enjoyed reading Corvus and I recommended the book to family and friends. As soon As Field Notes From A Hidden City was published, we got it so that we would see Aberdeen through Esther Woolfson's eyes. Her writing and insight, her powers of observation, love and understanding of nature make this not only an enjoyable, but important book.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Cadence of the Seasons 9 April 2013
Format:Hardcover
In order to write his nature diary, Thoreau lived as a hermit in the woods. Esther Woolfson has written hers, while living with her family in the Scottish city of Aberdeen. This contrast shows how our perspective on nature has changed over the last two centuries or so. We no longer think of nature as a place but, rather, as a dimension of experience, usually present yet very easy to ignore. For this reason, Woolfson's Field Notes of a Hidden City is even more profoundly introspective than Thoreau's Walden. Woolfson looks at manifestations of the natural world in an urban setting, such as squirrels, mice, pigeons, crows, and granite in terms of personal experience, science, and history. Like Walden, Field Notes is organized according to the seasons, which, like the rest of nature, must now be rediscovered. The rhythms of the year seem to be present in the wonderfully steady cadences of her prose.

Full disclosure. I am a friend of Esther Woolfson. Does that make me biased? Maybe, but I would have written much the same thing if that were not the case.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great read 9 Dec 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This is a beautiful book and a absolute treat to read. It is every bit as good as 'Corvus', Esther Woolfson's previous book, and has been written with the same humour, wisdom and insight. It taught me a lot and made me feel that I am not alone in liking and admiring pigeons, rats, grey squirrel, herring gulls and slugs.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely brilliant book 28 July 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Love it all, it's a perfect book for anyone interested in wildlife of all sorts. I'm happy that she still spoke about Chicken and Bardie. I hope she writes more books, they are to be treasured - I even feel differently about slugs now!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars lovely book 12 April 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Delighted with this --it is very different. I'll be buying more for Christmas presents!!
Any one from North East Scotland will particularly enjoy this wee jem!
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5.0 out of 5 stars A fresh look at town life for animals and birds. 30 Jun 2014
By rae
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Ms Woolfson's books are a delight, opening up so many hidden joys of our wildlife...I recommend her to all my friends...and do so again now.
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By dainty
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The wildlife featured was limited and did not cover a lot of the unusual things found in Aberdeen. What annoyed me so much was the portrayal of Aberdeen as a cold,wet,miserable city.II lived there for 33years and found it to be a most beautiful city. Yes,it can be cold but the wonderful days of glorious sunshine are many,especially after snow and frost. The long summer days are wonderful,the strength of the sun in such a clean atmosphere is amazing and the sunsets are amongst the best in the world.The Granite City sparkles and is unique in the UK.The author has obviously picked a bad year but we get those throughout UK occasionally.
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2.0 out of 5 stars Rather disappointed 20 Jun 2014
By Jo Mac
Format:Paperback
I am rather disappointed by this book. There is more philosophy and quotes from other writers than I would like in what I thought was a wildlife book. The first quarter of the book seems to be a very long winded lament about snow, I have no memories of quite the endless winter and snow that is described.
Not at all what I expected, could not recommend it.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
GOOD
Published 13 days ago by JASON MORGAN
5.0 out of 5 stars Eye-opener
This is an excellent book for anyone interested in wildlife, and is a real eye-opener on the survival of the many different species that live alongside humans in our cities. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Heather Clarke
5.0 out of 5 stars Secret City
What a wonderful insight into the secret life of a city's wild inhabitants - beautifully written, elegant prose and stunning word pictures that leave images in your mind... Read more
Published 9 months ago by Ah Mak
5.0 out of 5 stars Well written and atmospheric
Very enjoyable read. I enjoyed the way it drifted through the seasons full of atmosphere and every in every chapter I learnt something I didn't already know
Published 11 months ago by roger
5.0 out of 5 stars Stimulating and enjoyable
I would recommend this to anyone who really cares about our relationship to the natural world, a good antidote to the kind sloppy sentimentality that characterises a lot of... Read more
Published 15 months ago by p d g rossiter
4.0 out of 5 stars A book with a conscience
A calming read at the end of a crazy day at work. Lovely. Not something I would have usually chosen.
A different point of view.
Published 15 months ago by val clarke
4.0 out of 5 stars CHARMING STUFF
Though I much preferred her more animal-based 'Corvid' book, this is full of nice dreamy descriptions of her Aberdeen area which almost makes that dull town seem enchanting. Read more
Published 15 months ago by abi21gail
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