Field Notes from Urban Edgelands, Back Alleys and other Wild Places

A loving, deeply pleasurable, and sprawling investigation of place, community, personal history, and larger contexts. A Natural History of Empty Lots  has the shape and liveliness of something organic, as if it has grown out of the neglected, teeming hidden places of the landscape Brown knows so well. An incredible book.

Kelly Link, Pulitzer finalist, MacArthur Fellow, and award-winning author of The Book of Love

A Natural History of Empty Lotsis the best and most interesting book I’ve ever read about the spaces we often overlook. Christopher Brown comes to these places with a deep curiosity and understanding of both human and nonhuman history. An instant classic.

Jeff VanderMeer, New York Times bestselling author

Too often, what we call ‘nature writing’ is nostalgic for what never was. Thank goodness for Christopher Brown, who sees the wonder in what is and what might be. A Natural History of Empty Lots is the nature writing we need now.

Michelle Nijhuis, author of Beloved Beasts: Fighting for Life in an Age of Extinction

Instantly hypnotic, A Natural History of Empty Lots invites you to see the ‘waste’ spaces of the Anthropocene for what they are: a resource that contains more than itself. Christopher Brown is a complete and literate denizen of these zones. His calm, clever writing shows a real care for the natural world, and a real feel for the deep worth of the brownfield liminal.

M. John Harrison, Goldsmiths Prize-winning author of Wish I Was Here and Climbers

A Natural History of Empty Lots is a genre-defying work of nature writing, literary nonfiction, and memoir that explores what happens when nature and the city intersect. To do this, we must challenge our assumptions of nature itself.

During the real estate crash of the late 2000s, Christopher Brown purchased an empty lot in an industrial section of Austin, Texas. The property—a brownfield site bisected with an abandoned petroleum pipeline and littered with concrete debris and landfill trash—was an unlikely site for a home. Along with his son, Brown had explored similar empty lots around Austin, “ruined” spaces once used for agriculture and industry awaiting their redevelopment as Austin became a 21st century boom town. He discovered them to be teeming with natural activity, and embarked on a twenty-year project to live in and document such spaces. There, in our most damaged landscapes, he witnessed the remarkable resilience of wild nature, learned how easy it is to bring back the wild in our own backyards, and discovered that, by working to heal the wounds we have made on the Earth, we can also heal ourselves.

Beautifully written and philosophically hard-hitting, A Natural History of Empty Lots offers a new lens on human disruption and nature, offering a sense of hope among the edgelands.

Forthcoming September 2024 from Timber Press. For updates, sign up for the Field Notes newsletter or watch this space.

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