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Underground: A Human History of the Worlds Beneath Our Feet

3.81  ·  Rating details ·  1,692 ratings  ·  298 reviews
A panoramic investigation of the subterranean landscape, from sacred caves and derelict subway stations to nuclear bunkers and ancient underground cities—an exploration of the history, science, architecture, and mythology of the worlds beneath our feet.

When Will Hunt was sixteen years old, he discovered an abandoned tunnel that ran beneath his house in Providence, Rhode Is

Hardcover, 288 pages
Published January 29th 2019 by Spiegel & Grau
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Julie No, it didn't discuss the underground railroad. But I did wonder if an American named Symmes influenced the underground railroad. The author wrote of …moreNo, it didn't discuss the underground railroad. But I did wonder if an American named Symmes influenced the underground railroad. The author wrote of a man from 1818 named John Cleves Symmes who declared his intent to lead a voyage to the interior of the earth to prove that it was hollow and habitable. In the end, Symmes was considered a loon who wasted his life chasing fairy tales of underground lands. But before that he sparked the imagination of many. It seems likely it sparked the imagination of the man that sparked the world’s imagination, the author of Alice in Wonderland. There is little doubt that tales from the likes of Jules Verne, HG Welles, and Frank Baum were sparked from Symmes too. (less)

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Will Hunt
Jan 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  (Review from the author)
To be fair, I wrote this book ;)
Feb 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
Will Hunt spent time in the N.Y. underground, the subway tunnels. Revs did as well. Revs was a graffiti artist who spent many years using N.Y. City as a canvas. He became famous, but not in a way that made him money. Then Revs took a ladder, paints, and other tools of his trade into the subway tunnels at night when no one was watching. He picked out the most obscure sections, tose filled with darkness, to begin writing his book. With a paint roller and yellow or white paint, he made large book p ...more
Nick Borrelli
Oct 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Very cool book about the unique world of our subterranean landscape. Whether it be subway systems, mines, catacombs, underground tunnels, etc.... This is a fascinating world tour penned by an urban explorer who documents the amazing underground world that exists and that we rarely even notice or think about. A quick read but a very fun one that I found entertaining and enlightening. Definitely pick this one up when it comes out in January of 2019.
Feb 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2019, 2015
Imagine yourself on an afternoon hike, stooping to push aside branches blocking a walk that meandered off the beaten path, and upon removing the pile of debris feeling the breath of a world beneath you coming from a small obscure opening in the ground. It takes a certain type of person to venture into this opening.

Interesting and well-researched; more philosophical than I expected. Author Will Hunt, I discovered, is equal parts thrill-seeker, philosopher, and academic. The mythology and other pi
Jun 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
This was a deeply profound book. It was also a love letter from the author to tunnels and caves and all else that lurks under our feet. The author is obsessed to put it mildly, but thank goodness because it’s only through obsessed people that we learn things.

The author descends where few have or ever will to report back on what is down there. What he finds is strange and beautiful and mysterious. What he finds is our history and our religion. What he finds is each of us, whether we know it or n
Jill Hutchinson
Aug 02, 2020 rated it really liked it
This little book is amazing as it mixes several aspects of the author's adventures caving all over the world. As a young teenager he found a tunnel in his back yard which he explored and became an obsessive adventurer of the underground world.

He started with the world below the streets of NYC which hold many secrets; graffiti, concealed and disused stations, people who are a culture of their own who live in the darkness, and much more. He then moved on to Paris and the famous catacombs that cris
Apr 13, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
And this is why it is inadvisable to take recommendations from Overdrive, I guess, because I'm sure this book would be great for someone, but it was a resounding meh for me.

The book is part travelogue, part philosophical meandering, and here's the thing: I am always here for travel stories, but you have to earn your wittering on about the human psyche and the universal urge and blah blah numinous liminal holy blah. You also have to keep the ratio of actual narrative to things you think about whe
Dec 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Underground is one of the most poetic, breathtaking and ambitious books I have read in a long time. Hunt offers a delightful and unexpected journey, a fantastic expedition full of discoveries, surprising facts and wonderful anecdotes. He is a clever and tenacious explorer, who places himself as an illuminating guide through the most secretive and curious places in a world I never suspected could exist. It is a boundary-breaking tale set between past legends and rituals, secret tunnels alive righ ...more
Flint Bill
Dec 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing
One of the best works of non-fiction I've read in a while. Elegantly written, meticulously researched. Hunt went everywhere for this book! So many discoveries to be made about the world's caves, catacombs, mines, sewers and other holes in the ground. And it's beautifully illustrated. Recommend a hundred times over. ...more
R Littlefield
This non-fiction work starts off as a personal, memoir exploration of the author's preoccupation with subterranean worlds and expands into a much broader investigation, which ultimately explores the very roots of human spirituality. A unique and poetic and illuminating read. ...more
Nicolaus Stengl
Feb 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
“Underground: A Human History of the Worlds Beneath Our Feet” is an extraordinarily well-researched book about the cavernous realm just beneath us. Will Hunt is our Virgil, guiding us into and through the subterranean world, and enthusing this tour with erudition, vitality, and an explorer’s yearning to explore our world and our place in it.

Will Hunt’s writing masterfully evokes W.G. Sebald; he mixes travelogue, biography, autobiography, history, science, documentary, and literary criticism. An
Nov 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I requested this book thinking it would be about something entirely different and was pleasantly surprised by what i found. This book travels (literally) into many different types of underground and goes into the historical, religious, and artistic aspects of each. Very engaging writing style and well edited, i thought this book was wonderful.

I received a free review copy odd this book in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
Feb 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This books combines basically all of my favorite things: travel, exploration, photography, graffiti, archaeology, anthropology....with a splash of philosophy. The author is present in the narrative but not irritatingly so. The book feels personal without feeling autobiographical. I want to read a full book on just about every chapter - the mythology and consistent fascination with the underground throughout human history is truly fascinating.
Out of the Bex
Feb 06, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A love letter to a lost world.

Will Hunt chronicles his search for meaning in the oft undiscovered world beneath our feet with a work that is part travel journal, part anthropological study. Hunt writes of his numerous explorations underground from the catacombs of Paris and the vast tunnels of NYC, to untouched caves in South America and Australia—and everything in between. His thoughtful commentary remarks on the discoveries of some of history’s greatest minds juxtaposed with that of the common
May 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
I just want to be in a hole in the ground

Fascinating and entertaining, with some truly beautiful prose, especially toward the end. Extensively researched and engaging. I'll know I'll be revisiting this for inspiration down the line.
Dec 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This book was absolutely fantastic. Hunt is a fantastic writer, who manages to make his trips to these various places both scary and charming, and does an excellent job of conveying the importance and fascination of the history surrounding it all. I learned so many things I didn't know before, and want to spew these facts at everyone I know, which I consider a mark of greatness in nonfiction. Definitely read.

Thanks Edelweiss for an e-arc! It gets 5 glowing stars.
Jan 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites

Beneath my feet lies a 300 million-year-old petrified rainforest– the second largest in the world. Pictures of it can be seen here. It’s incredible to imagine that this snowy countryside was once a tropical rainforest and that its remains are now buried deep below where I stand today. Scientific proof of what once was. Do you ever wonder about what used to be? Do you wonder about what can’t be seen.

Will Hunt’s curiosity about the unknown began the summer h
Tyler Ruggles
Jan 31, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A remarkable book: beautifully written, deeply researched, full of fresh and bold ideas. Bought a copy for everyone in my family!
This is the kind of quirky book that I love--lots of history, geography, geology, literature, psychology, religion, all tied to a single idea: underground spaces, natural and man-made, and how they've been used over the millennia. I'd never consider going caving myself--I'm way too claustrophobic--but I enjoy reading about the pleasures and all that is to be found. Hunt recounts his research into these spaces from ancient caves to disused subway tunnels and offers an amazing array of facts (or p ...more
Tyler Ruggles
Jan 31, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Remarkable book: beautifully written, deeply researched, full of fresh and bold ideas. Bought a copy for everyone in my family!
Mar 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Who woulda thunk that you'd get a lesson on Native American origin mythology and the latest theory of evolution from an astrophysicist who keeps up with microbiology while being taken on a virtual tour of an abandoned gold mine?

Who woulda expected to learn about placating the old Mondongs by walking the red marlu's songline to the Wilgie Mia? And also learn the importance of ochre?

Who woulda figured that Will Hunt would get lost in the Parisian catacombs with two lovely women and write about it
Elizabeth A.G.
Mar 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing
What an interesting, well-written book that brings the reader into subterranean worlds around the globe. This book is part memoir, part history, part philosophy, & mythology that expands our terrestrial lives into the world below. Wonderful!
Jun 20, 2019 rated it really liked it
I just want Will Hunt to invite me to explore some of his favorite underground haunts. This book was riveting not only because of the places and characters we meet, but also the writing style.
Mar 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book, I can't recommend it enough. First of all, it is beautifully written - Will Hunt is an Author, in the truest sense of the word. Second, it is much more than just an exploration of underground spaces around the world - an abandoned train tunnel in my own city of Providence, the catacombs in Paris, prehistoric caves in Europe, sewers and old subway stations in NYC, and whole underground cities in Turkey. It is an examination of what it means to be human. Journeying into the unkn ...more
Jul 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I loved this – the writing is beautiful and I dog-eared so many pages to refer back to. As a claustrophobe I will never, ever understand the desire to go deep underground – I honestly can't think of anything worse. But Will Hunt does a great job of exploring the push-pull of desire and fear that draws people underground, both now and throughout history. ...more
John Machata
Jul 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Erudite, odd exploration of the world little known to most of us. Wonderful story teller. Worth reading for anyone interested in human existence.
Feb 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Will Hunt writes about being underground so well that I actually experienced a touch of claustrophobia reading this book. It's a terrific read: one very individual lifelong interest in what lies beneath our cities, fields, farms, mountains, and deserts. Hunt goes caving and lives with the dark in numerous places and with complete respect for the cultures into whose caves he ventures.I loved learning about how cave spirits are universal, that the worship of cave deities is common, that caves have ...more
Naomi Youngstein
Feb 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
What an interesting and unusual book! I appreciated the visuals and thought that the chapter on the French bison was particularly compelling.
Jan 19, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Underground delves into a subject that most of us never think about. What is going on underground? This book explores that question in fascinating ways. Subways, tunnels, and many places we know nothing about. People live and die underground. It is its own culture. I recommend this book for everyone. It's a good idea to know what is going on underground. Thanks to NetGalley for an arc in exchange for an honest review. ...more
Tessy Consentino
Feb 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
What a fascinating book!
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NPR Book Club: Book for February 2019-Underground 1 16 Feb 01, 2019 02:45PM  
Book for February 2019-Underground 1 3 Feb 01, 2019 02:43PM  

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Will Hunt’s writing, photography, and audio storytelling have appeared in The Economist, The Paris Review Daily, The Atavist, The Guardian, Discover, Audible Originals, and Outside, among other places. A recipient of grants and fellowships from the Thomas J. Watson Foundation, the New York Foundation for the Arts, the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, and the MacDowell Colony, he is currently a visi ...more

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“The underground teaches us to respect mystery. We live in a world obsessed with illumination, where we blaze our floodlights over every secret, strive to reveal every furrow, to root out every last trace of darkness, as though it were a kind of vermin. In our connection to subterranean space, we ease our suspicion of the unknown, and recognize that not everything should be revealed, not all the time. The underground helps us accept that there will always be lacunae, always blind spots. It reminds us that we are disorderly, irrational creatures, susceptible to magical thinking and flights of dreaming and bouts of lostness, and that these are our greatest gifts. The underground reminds us of what our ancestors always knew, that there is forever power and beauty in the unspoken and unseen.” 1 likes
“We’d emerged in one of the main cataphile haunts, a cavernous chamber with sand-packed floors and high ceilings supported by thick limestone columns. Every surface—every inch of the wall, of the pillars, and much of the rocky ceiling—was covered in paintings. In the darkness, the paintings were subdued and shadowy, but under the beam of a flashlight, they blazed. The centerpiece was a replica of Hokusai’s Great Wave off Kanagawa, with the curling wave of frothy blues and whites. Spread throughout the room were stone-cut tables, rough-hewn benches and chairs. At the center of the chamber was a giant sculpture of a man with arms raised to the ceiling, like a subterranean Atlas, holding up the city. “This is like—” Benoit paused, apparently searching for a recognizable analogy “—the Times Square of the catacombs.” On weekend nights, he explained, La Plage and certain other voluminous chambers in the catacombs filled with revelers.” 0 likes
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