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4.25  ·  Rating details ·  1,615 ratings  ·  251 reviews


Landmarks is Robert Macfarlane's joyous meditation on words, landscape and the relationship between the two.

Words are grained into our landscapes, and landscapes are grained into our words. Landmarks is about the power of language to shape our sense of place. It is a field guide to the literature of nature, and a glossary

Kindle Edition, 337 pages
Published March 5th 2015 by Penguin
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4.25  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,615 ratings  ·  251 reviews

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Julie Christine
I rarely purchase books. I don't have the budget or the space; I'm not a collector of things. But every rare once in a while I come across a book so lovely and profound, one that speaks directly to the writer and poet in me, I know it is one I must have one my shelves. Landmarks is just such a book.

A collection of essays and reflections on place as well as a series of glossaries of geography, geology, topography, weather and all other possible aspects of the natural world, Landmarks is a gorgeo
My review of this just went up in the current issue of The Southeast Review! Such a gorgeous book:

Originally landed on my list thanks to one of the most beautiful articles I've read in a long time:
Jan 18, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A wonderful if idiosyncratic book on the language of landscape and nature.

Part of the book is a glossary of dialect, regional, slang, jargon and new coinages, organised by subject. These glossaries are lists of words and places where they are in use - linguists may note that the sources are rather selective.

The glossary sections are interspersed with essays that explain how this information was collected, and explore the worlds of some of Macfarlane's favourite nature writers - there is also a
Emma Sea
Wow. Amazing. What a lovely book, and one I will return to again and again. I must buy a dead tree copy to keep with my other reference books, for the numerous lists of terms relating to the landscape. And how beautiful that it concluded with children's experience of the land. Magical throughout.
This is a difficult book to clearly categorise. It is a book about the natural world, about language to describe that natural world, but is also about the writers and in some cases friends, that he has learnt so much from in his journeys around the UK, up mountains and on long walks.

As he writes about those authors, Nan Shepherd, Roger Deakin, Richard Mabey and Richard Skelton, seminal writers that have provided so much influence, through their work and books, it comes across that this is as muc
This new classic of nature writing zeroes in on the language we use to talk about our environment, both individual words – which Macfarlane celebrates in nine mini-glossaries alternating with the prose chapters – and the narratives we build around places, via discussions of the work of nature writers he admires, including John Muir, Barry Lopez, Nan Shepherd, J.A. Baker, and Roger Deakin (a personal friend for whom he served as literary executor).

The book is divided into rough geological categor
This book consists of chapters that focus on authors of nature writing. Both the authors’ books and their lives are reviewed. Interspersed between these chapters are glossary list of terms used to describe nature, land, water and weather. These words are Gaelic, Scottish, Welsh, Irish, Breton, English and Old English. The meaning and origin of each word is given. The words in the glossary lists are only loosely related to the subject of the previous chapter.

I have purchased both the beautiful h
Lyn Elliott
I can't go beyond Macfarlane's own words to say what his most recent book is about: 'the power of language - strong style, single words - to shape our sense of place. It is a field guide to literature I love, and it is a word-hoard of the astonishing lexis for landscape that exists in the compression of islands, rivers, strands, fells, lochs, cities, tons, carries, hedgerows, fields and edge lands uneasily known as the British Isles'.
Each chapter revolves around one world and one or two writers
Mary Ronan Drew
May 29, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Acorn, adder, ash, beech, bluebell, buttercup, catkin, conker, cowslip, cygnet, dandelion, fern, hazel, heather, heron, ivy, kingfisher, lark, mistletoe, nectar, newt, otter, pasture, and willow. The Oxford Junior Dictionary in 2008 dropped these words as no longer relevant to a modern-day childhood. Macfarlane would make us all familiar with those words and many more that describe the natural world. His book is a kind of annotated glossary and is beautifully written.
Paul Gallear
I wanted to like this book a lot more than I did. I have thoroughly enjoyed Robert MacFarlane's other works and this book combines two subject - language and nature - which I love reading about.

But it struck me as a series of book reviews, each followed by a list of words. The chapters were well written, passionate and beautiful, as you would expect from MacFarlane. The lists however were tedious to read through, with no notes on pronunciation to help with the Gaelic or Welsh words and no clue a
Sep 24, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016
For UK-based people who are interested in nature and wildlife, I think this is an important book. If English is not your native tongue or if you are not interested in the natural world, it is likely that you will not find this book so engaging or significant.

The main theme of the book is probably best described in this quote: "It is not, on the whole, that natural phenomena and entities themselves are disappearing; rather that there are fewer people able to name them, and that once they go unnam
Sam Worby
This is not the book about language and landscape I was hoping for.

I wanted something that evoked Holdstock. I got a series of university lectures, a reading list and a disappointing but pretty word hoard.

This book contains none of the layers, history, groundedness or dense sense of place I anticipated. It is oddly secondhand and distant.

In the sections where MacFarlane writes about other nature writers there feels like little new. In several chapters he revisits authors he has previously writt
This is a series of essays that combine nature, geography, weather, and the power of specificity with words. To that end, Macfarlane includes lists of words, most from various UK dialects, for land, weather and natural process. Most of the words are in danger of disappearing as man's connection with nature diminishes. As we continue to remove ourselves from nature, we begin to see/think in broad, bland strokes and lose both our perception of and the ability to talk about the natural world's intr ...more
Ancestral Gael
Why did I read it? When first published, several people recommended this book to me, and it was recommended more than once by some. I imagine those recommendations came because of my like of the natural world, and of language. I have no idea why, but I put it on my 'wish list' and then my 'to be read pile' but never actually started it; these decisions I now regret.

What's it about? With the Oxford Children's Dictionary removing words relating to nature, e.g. acorn, in favour of technological ter
Nick Swarbrick
May 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: re-read, lit-crit, nature
An utter stunner of a book: language and landscape intertwine, are at variance, illuminate each other...

Just for the record, I've just finished my third read now, following my love for Lost Words, and struck by the humour and word-play as much as anything. It is a rare writer who can tell his audience that the kestrel is also known as a "wind-f*cker" and still invite awe for how language can be specific about different types of hill or waterway.
Mar 27, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Bettie
From BBC Radio 4 - Book of the Week:
Robert Macfarlane visits some inspiring places, to meet the people and
'collect' the words that evoke the area. Abridged for radio by Penny
Mar 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Landmarks by Robert Macfarlane is a special book because it so beautifully and compellingly challenges us to confront our withered relations with nature, our inability to name the landforms, trees, birds, geology, and weather in which we are embedded, our loss of wonder.

Using spectacular famous and not so famous nature writers as examples, in combination with his own experiences and perceptions, Macfarlane probes one of Max Weber's key concepts (borrowed from Friedrich Schiller but greatly elabo
Richard Thomas
May 22, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: landscape
I found this to be an excellent book which describes writers who influenced the author in his own work and who left abiding work on landscape and nature, mainly in Britain but in a wider context too. I suppose there are two outstanding chapters for me which caused me to buy the book. One is on the book written by J A Baker - the Peregrine which is his quite uncanny ability to get into the life of the Peregrine Falcon in the Essex country between Chelmsford and the Dengie Hundred. The other is A ...more
Macfarlane intersperses essays on different kinds of landscape and the authors who loved them with glossaries that play various nuances on light, kinds of stone, textures of land. Lots of doors into wider worlds and a deeper sense of wonder.
Anthony Connolly
A remarkable case for place-consciousness; a call to be mindful of the way land in all its iteration marks us and our language. Written in sections on flatlands, edges, mountain, water, timber, rock, pebble, McFarland’s book revives our tactile connections to the scapes that open us up to transcendence. Filled with evocative writing and care about how we write the world alive, this is a book word-hoarders and nature-lovers will dog-ear, cherish and swear by. Stuffed with old words you’ll be dyin ...more
Feb 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If we were looking for a new bible to guide us in the 21st century, this book could very well suffice: two of the main principles are, as I would write them, see the unobserved and remember the forgotten. The third, crowning, one would add that limit of our language (vocabulary) is also the extent of the accuracy of our thoughts.
Yannick Schutz
I just finished this book... it leaves me with a strange feeling. I skipped the glossaries for the first read as I am non native speaker I wanted to read the « book »parts. The author is amazingly precise in the terms. The story of the people seen through the author eyes just makes me want to be outdoor and feel what they feel. See how they see. This book is a marvelous piece of art I will for sure read again in the future. All the references contained in this book just filled my « to read » lis ...more
J.S. Watts
Aug 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A brilliant book. Whilst non-fiction prose, it is really a poem to the land, and to words and ways of seeing, lost and almost lost, that linger around the edges of our landscapes.
Jenny Glover
Jun 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Magnificent, vision-changing. Review to come!
Michael Tweed
Dec 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
As a lifetime walker and nature lover I learned so much from this marvel of a book. A treasure to keep and refer too often.
Feb 26, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Landmarks is a book I probably thought about more before I read it than during, or after. It's a passionate defense of nature as well as the importance of reflecting nature in language. And who should be more impressed by such a book than someone who longs for nature but feels completely torn from it, someone who grew up in the modern city, in a country (the Netherlands) that has utterly domesticated its landscapes and wildlife – far more so than Britain has.

Last summer I went on a cycling trip
While reading this I found that fragments of a review kept popping in and out of my consciousness (the part that wasn't engaged in heavy uphill slogging), things like 'why can't I stop giving his books 4 stars?'; 'if he mentions Nan Shepherd again I'll spit'; 'these Gaelic words ought to have a pronunciation guide (or is there one and I've missed it?) because as it is they might as well all be btfsplk'; 'how do the word lists, which are rather cool in themselves, relate to much of what he's said ...more
David Clark
Apr 08, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Word Nerds, Readers, and Good Doctors
A Review of Landmarks by Robert Macfarlane
Previously published in The Occasional Reader and appeared in the Newsletter of the College of Mohs Micrographic Surgery

Robert Macfarlane’s book, Landmarks, is a rare book indeed. At first glance, Landmarks might seem a technical book due to the extensive glossaries of obscure and rarely used words. Perhaps, a book most suited to English-speaking nature writers. The author was spurred to recover rare words used to d
Jun 18, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I was looking forward to reading this book, which promised to look at language and landscape, about "the power of language to shape our sense of place". However it failed to evoke any feeling of landscape, and was a series of essays, largely about other writers on the natural world. These were followed by perfunctory and random lists of words from scattered parts of Britain, completely outwith any context or insight. These odd lists contain numerous Gaelic words too, not introduced as a complete ...more
Nicholas Kotar
Mar 29, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What a wonderful book. A rare book. One that I will not put back on my shelf, because I intend to peek into it again and again. This is a single-handed attempt not only to introduce new readers to a whole literature of the natural, but to encourage the reinvigoration of human interaction with nature, especially in language. The best part of this book are the glossaries--short dictionaries of regional words (some baffling, but many more luminescent) that describe nature in ways that "normal" Engl ...more
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What Robert MacFarlane book should I read first? 1 3 Oct 10, 2018 12:10PM  
  • Sightlines
  • The Living Mountain
  • Field Notes from a Hidden City: An Urban Nature Diary
  • Rising Ground: A Search for the Spirit of Place
  • Meadowland: The Private Life of an English Field
  • Notes From Walnut Tree Farm
  • Common Ground
  • Strands: A Year of Discoveries on the Beach
  • Sea Room: An Island Life in the Hebrides
  • The Moth Snowstorm: Nature and Joy
  • Rain: Four Walks in English Weather
  • Nature Cure
  • The Green Road Into The Trees: An Exploration of England
  • Home Ground: Language for an American Landscape
  • To the River: A Journey Beneath the Surface
  • Crow Country
  • Settled in the Wild: Notes from the Edge of Town
  • Weatherland: Writers & Artists Under English Skies
Robert Macfarlane is a British nature writer and literary critic.

Educated at Nottingham High School, Pembroke College, Cambridge and Magdalen College, Oxford, he is currently a Fellow of Emmanuel College, Cambridge, and teaches in the Faculty of English at Cambridge.
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“Before you become a writer you must first become a reader. Every hour spent reading is an hour spent learning to write;” 12 likes
“Books , like landscapes, leave their marks in us. (...) Certain books, though, like certain landscapes, stay with us even when we left them, changing not just our weathers but our climates.” 9 likes
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