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Underland

4.31  ·  Rating details ·  1,814 ratings  ·  376 reviews
An exploration of the Earth’s underworlds as they exist in myth, literature, memory, and the land itself.

In this sequel to The Old Ways, Macfarlane takes us on an journey into our relationship with darkness, burial, and what lies beneath the surface of both place and mind. Traveling through “deep time”—the dizzying expanses of geologic time that stretch away from th
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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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Dawn There is only one photo at the beginning of each chapter. More photos would have been appreciated, but photos of everything he mentions are easily…moreThere is only one photo at the beginning of each chapter. More photos would have been appreciated, but photos of everything he mentions are easily found online.(less)

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Average rating 4.31  · 
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 ·  1,814 ratings  ·  376 reviews


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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
...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 wi
...more
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
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
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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 the 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.
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
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, travelogu
...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
...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
Leah
Apr 19, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019, abandoned, factual
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
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.
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
...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.
Penny
Jun 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Definitely a 5 star read -absolutely brilliant and my book of 2019 so far.
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
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
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 not your world ...you'll never go to these places, with these cont ...more
Bruce Katz
Jul 08, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
I'm not sure how to adequately review a book like this, it is so unlike anything else I've read -- or that I can recall. I came upon it via an excerpt in the New Yorker. That piece consisted of Macfarlane's descent into the tunnels, caves, and subterranean galleries that lie beneath Paris. This chapter by itself was worth the price of admission. Macfarlane's book is primarily a travelogue of what lies beneath us -- not (or not primarily) from a geologist's perspective but through the eyes of a p ...more
Thom
Aug 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Poetic exploration of underground topics, following the authors physical exploration of many of them. Caves, catacombs under Paris, hidden rivers, urban exploration and nuclear containment vaults are just some of the many topics touched on in this wonderful work.

This is the first Macfarlane book I have read, and what a treat. He goes well beyond just describing the spaces - philosophy and history often come into play. The book has one small picture at the head of each chapter, and go
...more
Alex Sarll
Macfarlane's latest book is his weirdest and most magical, his most political, and definitely his darkest. Maybe also his best. It's a coming to terms with the Anthropocene that is aware of the issues with that term, and which at times feels like it would be more at home with Donna Haraway's alternate coinage of the Cthulhucene – not least when a melting glacier exposes something ancient and horrifying which for a moment resembles a black pyramid. Alan Garner gets a mention early on, but that's ...more
Adrian White
Jul 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I thought at first this suffered under the weight of philosophy and the search for a means of expressing what it is to be a human in this world. But once the author got in his stride (ha-ha!) I enjoyed this every bit as much as The Wild Places. And yes, it did make me wonder at what it is to be a human in this world - a world we seem intent on destroying.
Glen
Apr 22, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: firstreads, science
I won this book in a goodreads drawing.

A nature writer writes about caves and other underground topics. Spelunking seems fun, but dangerous, much like skydiving. Lots of ruminating and speculating.

Fascinating, but several times we see how science is not all about facts and figures and duplicating results, but rather about scientists, and their ideas and emotions.
Thebooktrail
BookTrail photo of Underland

Visit some of the locations - there's many underground!

I always enjoy the books Robert Macfarlane writes but this one is my favourite. Ever since I read Alice in Wonderland, I have wanted to go underground and see what’s beneath our feet. I read a lot about the underground in crime fiction but that’s another kind altogether so I was particularly keen to get stuck in with this.

Robert certainly has a nice and assured style to his writing that exudes his passion and love of what he’s writing about. He takes you with him
...more
Laura
Apr 28, 2019 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Bettie, Wanda
From BBC Radio 4 - Book of the week:
In his eagerly awaited new book, Robert Macfarlane muses on the worlds beneath our feet. Abridged for radio by Katrin Williams.

In this the Anthropocene Age, life underground is ecologically and delicately poised... And then he recalls a vivid cave journey in the Mendips, with his friend Sean - "The entry is awkward, a body-bending downwards wriggle before a drop..."

Read by the author

Producer Duncan Minshull


From BBC Radio 4 - Book of the week:
In his eagerly awaited new book, Robert Macfarlane muses on the worlds beneath our feet. Abridged for radio by Katrin Williams.

In this the Anthropocene Age, life underground is ecologically and delicately poised... And then he recalls a vivid cave journey in the Mendips, with his friend Sean - "The entry is awkward, a body-bending downwards wriggle before a drop..."

Read by the author

Producer Duncan Minshull


https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m000...
...more
Debbie Gascoyne
Sep 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Robert Macfarlane writes in the introduction to this quite extraordinary work that although we spend a lot of time gazing at and thinking about the sky, the stars, what's overhead, we seldom if ever think about the worlds below our feet. Macfarlane opens up those worlds, each chapter a meditation on a spaces in the underworld, from caves in the Mendips to a deep burial site for nuclear waste in Norway.

In the chapter “Invisible Cities,” about the Paris catacombs, he describes a work b
...more
Whitney Milam
Aug 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I am obsessed with this book, probably because I don't think I've ever read one that explores (with such depth and nuance and compassion and thematic resonance and gorgeous prose!) quite so many of my personal obsessions all at once. Climate change and the Anthropocene, mythology and folklore, urban exploration, Eastern European history, nuclear power, Mithraic mystery cults, and above all my life-long fascination with secret, subterranean places – it's all here and it's all tied together so beaut ...more
Nick Swarbrick
Inviting quotation and questions in every section, this is a jewel of a book, an amazing, beautiful, technical and inspiring travelogue in which the author invites us to explore historically significant sites under the surface of the Earth or places connected to that Under-Land.

I’ve finished it late at night and am deeply, deeply moved: just to say this was worth taking time over, weighing every scene from the oppressive catacombs of Paris to the cave paintings of Norway - and beyond
...more
Craig Werner
Aug 01, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: science, nature
Slightly disappointing, largely as a result of a mismatch between what I'd led to believe would be the focus of the book and what it actually is. I wanted something, literally, about the world underneath the surface of the earth. Macfarlane, who's a very good nature writer, delivered about 30% of that mixed with travel-oriented pieces and quite a bit about climate, which were fine but didn't say anything much I hadn't already encountered in Science or Nature, my go-to science magazines.
...more
Jenny
Aug 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A simply gorgeous book, filled with interesting facts, otherworldly locales, and a unique cast of "characters." Macfarlane's writing is some of the best I've read in its exactness and consideration. I learned so much from this book and felt like I was a traveling companion on his many journeys to the underland.

As an aside, the narrator is top notch and the sound editing is fantastic. Grab the audiobook if you get the chance. If you want to to escape from the drudgery of daily life an
...more
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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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“We are often more tender to the dead than to the living, though it is the living who need our tenderness most.” 7 likes
“Among the relics of the Anthropocene, therefore, will be the fallout of our atomic age, the crushed foundations of our cities, the spines of millions of intensively farmed ungulates, and the faint outlines of some of the billions of plastic bottles we produce each year – the strata that contain them precisely dateable with reference to the product-design archives of multinationals. Philip Larkin famously proposed that what will survive of us is love. Wrong. What will survive of us is plastic, swine bones and lead-207, the stable isotope at the end of the uranium-235 decay chain.” 6 likes
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