The Deserts of California: A California Field Atlas

By Obi Kaufmann

A San Francisco Chronicle Bestseller!

From Obi Kaufmann, author-illustrator of the best-selling California Field Atlas, comes a grand adventure through time, geography, and ecology in California’s deserts. Of a piece with his richly illustrated books The Forests of California and The Coasts of California, this volume features hundreds of vivid watercolor maps and illustrations, blending art and science to breathtaking effect. Journeying through the Great Basin, Mojave, Colorado, and Sonoran Deserts, Kaufmann pays special attention to national and state parks and monuments, and to the dozens of wilderness areas that reveal the underappreciated natural abundance of California’s arid lands. From Joshua Tree to Death Valley, these deserts full of life, as Kaufmann evokes them, are perfect places for meditating on our future, and for imagining a California that might thrive beyond the age of climate breakdown. The Deserts of California is a canonical entry into the literature of the American deserts, uniquely colorful and celebratory, and abounding in hope and wonder.


"The author writes movingly about how knowing the desert might inform our futures and, as in his previous works, depicts nature with hundreds of gorgeous watercolors." Hannah Bae, San Francisco Chronicle
"Thoughtfully written and gorgeously illustrated in watercolor sketches by Obi Kaufmann, [The Deserts of California] is a reason for hope. The depth of its scholarship is a reason for awe. His latest book superbly delves into every aspect of the desert." Tracy Conrad, The Desert Sun
"Filled with enchanting watercolors and detailed descriptions, Kaufmann’s field atlases can stoke an urge to explore California’s landscapes up close. That’s particularly apparent in The Deserts of California, where so many of the details are hiding in plain sight." Liz Ohanesian, The Orange County Register
"Kaufmann the artist captures the deserts in hundreds of on-the-scene watercolor paintings. His deft hand and knowing eye convey not only wild beauty but some of the essence of his subjects. [...] His books don't need to be consumed cover to cover. They're designed to be dipped into and explored. They offer rich amounts of information, with varied but encompassing glimpses of the features he observes from place to place and how all the parts work together." Stephen Nett, The Press Democrat
"This is not your typical field guide. [...] It's chock-full of information about botany, wildlife, and other ecological aspects of California's deserts, put together in an accessible, visual way. This approach helps to encourage a love of place, which is often the first step toward wanting to protect and preserve it." Jamie Herndon, American Scientist
"Kaufmann offers hundreds of beautiful watercolor maps and illustrations of areas from Joshua Tree to Death Valley. The author meditates on how California can survive—and thrive—beyond the current climate crisis." Linda Lenhoff, Diablo Magazine
"Obi Kaufmann is back again with another marvelously researched and illustrated field guide to a California biome. Deserts of California is a must-have for any naturalist's library." The Booksmith, San Francisco, CA
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About the Author

Obi Kaufmann

Obi Kaufmann

Obi Kaufmann is the author of The California Field Atlas (2017, #1 San Francisco Chronicle Best Seller), The State of Water: Understanding California’s Most Precious Natural Resource (2019), and The Forests of California: A California Field Atlas (2020)The Coasts of California (2022), and The Deserts of California (2023) all published by Heyday. When he is not backpacking, you can find the painter-poet at home in the East Bay, posting trail paintings at his handle @coyotethunder on Instagram. His speaking tour dates are available at, and his essays are posted at

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the page above are "affiliate links." This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."


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