The California Field Atlas by Obi Kaufmann has been referred to as a ‘love letter to California.’ Perhaps this is not quite enough. This book is an unabashed, outspoken love letter written by someone who knows the nooks and crannies of this spectacularly diverse state and has the visual and scientific vocabulary to articulate California’s ecology.
The California Field Atlas provides a mix of geology, biology and natural history presented both factually and through beautifully expressive watercolors, calligraphy and prose—a rare view that is both humanistic and optimistic.
What it does not provide are directions, specific travel maps or any sort of guide reference. This book is for exceptional not mundane observations and as such, offers an inspirational and uniquely quirky travel companion.
If you have ever wandered into a place and wondered about how it came to be just like it is—trees, biology, landform, etc.— then perhaps The California Field Atlas might be your reference to better understand and appreciate California’s natural splendor.
The Deluxe Edition, released in November 2020, has a durable hard bound cover with gold foil seal and ribbon bookmark. Filled with maps, scientific insights and comparative county by county data, Kaufmann gives the reader much more than lovely images to absorb. Grappling with the climate crisis may best be done from an appreciative understanding of place, with a look over our shoulder to the past and a sobering concept of what science indicates for our future. Kaufmann provides both perspectives.
It goes to reason, that we protect what we love, and we love what we understand, and yes, we understand what we are taught. Obi Kaufmann’s hybrid form of art and science, co-opted under the title ‘field atlas’ surely helps us both better understand and love the rare and relatively fragile place that is California.
His publisher describes that
for Kaufmann, the epic narrative of the California backcountry holds enough art, science, mythology, and language for a hundred field atlases to come.
at HeyDay Books or your local bookseller.