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Underland

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4.23  ·  Rating details ·  6,159 ratings  ·  1,201 reviews
From the best-selling, award-winning author of Landmarks and The Old Ways, a haunting voyage into the planet’s past and future.

Hailed as "the great nature writer of this generation" (Wall Street Journal), Robert Macfarlane is the celebrated author of books about the intersections of the human and the natural realms. In Underland, he delivers his masterpiece: an epic explor
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Hardcover, 496 pages
Published June 4th 2019 by W.W. Norton & Company (first published May 2nd 2019)
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Karen Radcliff I found that it worked just fine as a standalone. I didn't realize there was another book to which it might be considered a sequel, so thank you!
Kris I also toyed between the two. Both have pics. The hard copy would be a home library keeper...but, I chose e-book for price, high lighting and note ben…moreI also toyed between the two. Both have pics. The hard copy would be a home library keeper...but, I chose e-book for price, high lighting and note benefits. (less)

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Average rating 4.23  · 
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Fiona
Feb 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I’m a seasoned armchair traveler, used to shadowing journeys that I know I’ll never do myself. One of my BFFs is always telling me ‘never say never’ and perhaps she’s right, except when it comes to this book, Underland. Hand on heart, I will never follow in Robert Macfarlane’s footsteps underground. I’m too claustrophobic.

This book is many layered. A bridging theme to his many different journeys is our generation’s legacy to the future. In the words of Jonas Salk, “Are we being good ancestors?”
...more
Jenna
Jan 15, 2020 marked it as abandoned
Second time attempting this, second time DNF'ing. I cannot stand this author's style nor can I stand the way he jumps all over the place. I am in a slim minority here and most people love it.... alas, I cannot take another page. I thought for sure this time, when I'm so desperately needing some nonfiction and not much else is available, I would get into this. Page 70 and my skin is crawling and my mind is screaming NO MORE. This is not very scientific though the author nods his head at science a ...more
Diane S ☔
Mar 13, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nfr-2020
I will never again think of the world under my feet in quite the same way again. I new Chicago had an underground because I have been there and I had heard of the Parks catacombs, but had no clue about much in this book. Hidden ocesn,s, invisible cities, and people who make this type of exploration their lives quest. Plants and their symbiosis between other plants and with what lies under their feet. There is much included within this book, for me some more interesting than others.

I love the hum
...more
Melanie (Mel's Bookland Adventures)
I was wary of Underland at the beginning, as I normally reach for Macfarlane’s books when I cannot go exploring myself. Sort of a stand in adventure while bound to my desk for work or asthma keeping my indoors in winter. How would it work reading about him exploring terrain that I have absolutely no interest in exploring myself? Would I love it or would I be detached and disinterested?

Right from the beginning, I was greeted by the high level of writing. It is a bit like meeting up with an old fr
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Bianca
How does one even begin to review this book? I’m not even sure what to label it – it’s partly a travel/adventure book; it’s also a nature book, with lots of biology, geology, history, climate science and many other interesting things. From its first pages, it was obvious that McFarlane is a talented writer – in my view, he’s the best nature, landscape writer I’ve ever read. His descriptive language is incredibly evocative. He’s an excellent observer of his surroundings and pretty apt when it com ...more
Jerrie (redwritinghood)
Wonderful book! The writing is fantastic. It’s lovingly descriptive and deeply contemplative. The author explores the spaces deep within the Earth for what they say about the Earth’s long past and what it might mean for our future. His descriptions of exploring arctic ice and what the deepest levels may have locked within them was my favorite part. It makes me want to go there, even though I know I wouldn’t last 30 minutes in that weather.
Kathleen
Aug 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing
British nature writer Macfarlane has written an enthralling exploration of the Earth below us. He has structured the book around three uses that humans have had: “to shelter what is precious, to yield what is valuable, and to dispose of what is harmful”. Along the way, the reader gets to experience claustrophobia that flows from Macfarlane’s experiences like when he and a fellow spelunker enter a ruckle (an underground subsidence of boulders prone to shifting and toppling) in the Mendips, a quar ...more
Rebecca
This was a bit of a hodgepodge for me; that it’s exceptionally written goes without saying, but I’m not sure Macfarlane succeeds in bringing together all of his wildly different subterranean topics: mining, caving, burial chambers, the study of dark matter, radioactive waste, tree communication networks, Parisian catacombs, the mythical rivers of the underworld, prehistoric cave paintings, resistance to oil drilling, Greenland’s glaciers and Finland’s tunnels, and more. I felt crushed by the wei ...more
Hugh
Sep 12, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Robert Macfarlane is always interesting, and this is probably his best book since The Old Ways. His definition of underland is a loose one, encompassing woodland and glaciers as well as caves.

His journeys are personal and idiosyncratic, and there is plenty of speculation on deep time and how the anthropocene age might be viewed by whatever succeeds us in the long term future. Many historical themes are touched on, from primitive cave art in France and Norway to wartime atrocities in what is now
...more
Bradley
Mar 26, 2020 rated it liked it
This is a strange duck of a book. Especially if it is a spelunking duck with a penchant for science and poetry.

I want to say that it is a pretty interesting and diverse book on the concept of the underground, whether it is exploring deep caverns, crypts, deep dives, or mycelium networks in the forest. And it is! It's very, very interesting. Any kind of deep concept such as ice mining to discover the deep past, ways to put away nuclear waste products, catching rare nuclear particles... all of it
...more
Leah
Apr 19, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: factual, abandoned, 2019
Unfortunately, the author's style isn't working for me, so I'm abandoning the book at 30%. I find it shallow (ironically), full of poorly evidenced observations on the human relationship to underground spaces which don't stand up to much thought. I chose it because I'd been told his writing is gorgeous, but I'm afraid I'm not seeing that. The descriptions on the whole are pedestrian, and I am so tired of being told about him shimmying through almost impossible tunnels - it would appear one narro ...more
Nigel
In brief - Without question the best/most interesting Macfarlane book I have read. 4.5/5 and happily rounded up.

In full
I am a fan of Robert Macfarlane's work and have read a number of his books over the past few years. All the previous books I've read have been largely about life in the open. This one takes a very different direction and goes Underland. In common with previous books it looks at its subject in differing places, times and ways. The range of Underland topics that he manages to cov
...more
Lou
May 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Award-winning and bestselling author Robert Macfarlane is back with a stunning story of landscape, nature, people and place and the accompanying history. Mr Macfarlane captures your attention rapidly with the interesting, information-rich text describing places lots of people will have no knowledge of. The author manages the fine balance between introducing us to enough information so that we are intrigued and suitably engaged but not so much that you become bored and drift away. That's no easy ...more
Michael Finocchiaro
May 25, 2020 rated it really liked it
MacFarlane's book about the Underland is a great companion to similar books about trees and nature aboveground (The Overstory came to mind as I read it). It is a non-fiction book taking us on a series of underground journeys primarily in Europe but also in Greenland where we explore caves and learn about geology and speleology. In fact, the passages when he is going through impossibly claustrophobic places in no light were quite stressful to read. I feel that this is an important book which talk ...more
jeremy
May 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
one of the most compelling, vivid, thought-provoking, magnificent, and richly composed non-fiction books i've read in some time, robert macfarlane's underland: a deep time journey traverses the european continent, exploring subterranean locales both natural and man-made (and, er, man-caused). with his poetic command of language, keen observational gifts, and worldly perspective, macfarlane's writing is frequently breathtaking.

seamlessly blending scientific inquiry, nature writing, travelogue, ad
...more
Radiantflux
69th book for 2019.

Robert Macfarlane has rapidly become one of my favorite nature/travel writers.

In his latest book, he takes the reader on a series of seemingly disconnected trips to the "underworld"; going amongst other places spelunking to discover hidden rives in Italy and Central Europe; exploring glacial caves in Greenland; paleolithic sites in Scandinavia and England; particle detectors located deep underground in salt mines under the English channel; nuclear burial sites and urban explo
...more
Eric Anderson
Dec 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
It can be so easy to get caught in the here and now of life when most of it consists of a routine path between home and work. I’ve certainly found that where day after day I take the same trains while passing by the same trees and buildings. After a while I barely notice them because I’m so fixated on looking at my phone or a book. But reading Robert Macfarlane’s “Underland” gives a radically new perspective on time and space as he describes his various journeys to subterranean landscapes. From ...more
Krista
Jul 29, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, 2020
The same three tasks recur across cultures and epochs: to shelter what is precious, to yield what is valuable, and to dispose of what is harmful.
Shelter (memories, precious matter, messages, fragile lives).
Yield (information, wealth, metaphors, minerals, visions).
Dispose (waste, trauma, poison, secrets).
In the underland we have long placed that which we fear and wish to lose, and that which we love and wish to save.

Underland is the first book I’ve read by Robert Macfarlane – a celebrated Bri
...more
Dax
May 31, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I started out marking interesting facts with post-it notes, but I quickly realized that just about every page would require more than a couple of them, so I quickly gave that system up and enjoyed the ride.

'Underland' is a fascinating read; full of wonderful details and facts that were new to me. Macfarlane is an adventurous guy, and his trips detailed in this book actually had a physical impact on me as I read. The caving, the urban exploring, the glacial descent, the catacomb claustrophobia;
...more
Overbylass
May 09, 2019 rated it liked it
I've only read three books by the author so far and will try more over time .I try so hard to be team Macfarlane .The books are praised so highly that I want in on it all -but I always feel I'm not wanted. I feel excluded , that somehow the books know I was born working class , educated at a hideous Middlesbrough 80s comprehensive and then ,as a result, onto a mediocre 'college' for a degree. They seem to always tell me that this is not your world ...you'll never go to these places, with these c ...more
Connie G
"The same three tasks recur across cultures and epochs: to shelter what is precious, to yield what is valuable, and to dispose of what is harmful."

Robert Macfarlane takes us on a subterranean journey with the excitement of an adventurer, and the scientific eye of a naturalist. He has a sense of wonder and awe when he sees the beauty of nature. Macfarlane also weaves in stories from the occult, mythology and literature (such as Dante's "Inferno") to illustrate that people's fascination with the u
...more
Paul
Mankind has long looked to the heavens seeking fortune, inspiration and direction. Numerous cultures have all considered the underworld to be a place where a river carried the dead away from the surface, where death abounded, hell, hades and other places were thought to exist. It was somewhere to be avoided. Yet, people have worked underground for thousands of years, tracing and extracting the minerals and ores in the ground, However, it is not something that most people do on a regular basis in ...more
Fiona
I’m a seasoned armchair traveler, used to shadowing journeys that I know I’ll never do myself. One of my BFFs is always telling me ‘never say never’ and perhaps she’s right, except when it comes to this book, Underland. Hand on heart, I will never follow in Robert Macfarlane’s footsteps underground. I’m too claustrophobic.

This book is many layered. A bridging theme to his many different journeys is our generation’s legacy to the future. In the words of Jonas Salk, “Are we being good ancestors?”
...more
David Kenvyn
May 24, 2019 rated it liked it
I have to be honest. I bought this book because I was looking for something to read on a long train journey. The cover illustration is of interlocking branches over a sunset. Neither the title “Underland” nor the sub-title “A Deep Time Journey” gave any real indication of what the book was about. And there was a tagline about entering the Underland through the riven trunk of an old ash tree. Everything suggested that it was a fantasy novel, and that it would be a fun read on a very long train jo ...more
Trish
Mar 26, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is hard to rate or even describe.

My GR friend Paul gifted me a book by this author some time ago and until now I haven't found the time to tackle it. Then my constant buddy-reader found this (not knowing the author was already on my radar) and asked if we'd read it together now as the topic more or less fit with what we've read this month already.

Let me be clear from the start: the book is NOT bad. However, the book is exhausting.

It's not that I didn't understand what the author was saying
...more
Katie Long
Aug 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
MacFarlane lets us tag along as he explores the vast world beneath our feet (the catacombs of France, ancient cemeteries, mines where dark matter is studied, Bronze age Norwegian cave art, etc..) complete with the many engaging characters who inhabit and explore this world. His enthusiasm for the beauty of these parts of the earth, that so few of us will ever see, makes this a real pleasure.
Hank
Jan 31, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: tbr-clean-2020
This was unexpected. I went into this anticipating a science book complete with facts and a few conclusions based on those facts. What I got was a fascinating mix of science, John Muir poetical reflections on nature, arm chair adventure and evironmental activism.

Usually I complain about books I consider "all over the place" with topics that seem too far outside the main objective, but I sunk into Macfarlane's wanderings through caves, caves below cities, glaciers, oceans and everything else he
...more
Lee
Jun 01, 2019 rated it really liked it
An excellent continuation of MacFarlane’s mapping of both real and psycho-geographic spaces, this time sub-terranean. Adds wonderfully to what will ultimately be a completely unique interactive history. Hard to imagine what might be next but very much looking forward to it. Thanks to NetGalley for an advance reading copy, in exchange for an honest review.
Jamie
Jul 16, 2020 rated it liked it
I’m not sure what to make of this book. Based on the title I thought it was going to be about geology, but it is more a meditation on geology, and everything else that happens beneath the surface of the earth, such as mining, caving, ancient cave art, plant roots, catacombs, and nuclear waste storage facilities. It also ventures farther afield, sometimes going on tangents that are not really related to the book’s main theme, such as the author’s time with a Norwegian fisherman, and a hiking trip ...more
aPriL does feral sometimes
Robert Macfarlane, the author of 'Underland', is both a spelunker and a mountain climber - at least, if he wasn't before, he certainly is now. 'Underland' is the first book by Macfarlane I have read, but he has written others. His other Nature books were also about places, common tourist sites and not, but all above ground. This book concentrates on below ground places. Who knew there would be so much to see, visit and explore under the surface of Earth and under cities? Who knew people have bee ...more
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Non Fiction Book ...: Underland (March 1- April 30, 2020) 39 44 Apr 27, 2020 09:52AM  
Best books of 2019 - Australian Business Review 1 7 Dec 29, 2019 09:13PM  
The Lost Words: Side Read: Underland by Robert MacFarlane 4 7 Sep 02, 2019 01:21PM  

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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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