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4.28  ·  Rating details ·  2,773 ratings  ·  565 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
Hardcover, 496 pages
Published June 4th 2019 by W.W. Norton Company (first published May 2nd 2019)
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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…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 4.28  · 
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 ·  2,773 ratings  ·  565 reviews

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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?”
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
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 ...more
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 ...more
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 ...more
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
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.
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
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,
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
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?”
Apr 19, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: abandoned, factual, 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 ...more
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
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
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.
Robert Sheard
Nov 20, 2019 rated it really liked it
I found much of this book fascinating, yet disconcerting. (It's not easy for those of us who are a bit claustrophobic to hear about the caves, tunnels, and underwater rivers the explorers enter.) But I admit losing my drive to read on as the book progressed. Macfarlane's prose can be a bit "purple" and many of his descriptions are so lengthy, technical, and detailed that I wasn't at all able to picture the landscape he's describing. Some of that may be my lack of reference context, but I'm not ...more
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.
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'll never go to these places, with these ...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 ...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 ...more
Jun 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Definitely a 5 star read -absolutely brilliant and my book of 2019 so far.
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 ...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
Nov 29, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
I liked it. With no previous familiarity with Robert MacFarlane or any of his books, I picked this up inexpensively as an Audible daily special a few weeks ago. Often with an author who is new to me I will check out some Goodreads reviews, both good and bad, before buying, but in this case I was hooked by the title and publisher's summary.

Macfarlane clearly loves language as much as he loves nature. He plays with it, using adjectives as verbs and nouns as adjectives in an effort to communicate
Jan 16, 2020 added it
Shelves: nature, 2020
A rather odd hodgepodge of stories and places. I enjoyed the chapters that touched on ancient burials, the Paris catacombs, Norway's drilling issues, and the gorgeous imagery of glacial ice.
Joachim Stoop
Dec 23, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: out-in-2019
I loved the audiobook
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 google has the
Nov 22, 2019 rated it really liked it
This book was just full of memorable moments and informative bits of trivia that had me scanning through Google for more information. I want to list some of the moments but feel it would not be fair to do so, so I'll just mention one where the author is going to navigate a ruckle.

A ruckle is a group of boulders that have caved against one another, blocking a section of passage, but through the gaps of which a path might be just traced. Suckle are delicate, unpredictable structures. Without
Lauren James
If you've read The Quiet at the End of the World, you know I love deep, dark caves; buried, forgotten treasure; and the future of human artefacts. This is a non-fiction guide to all of these things. I wish this book had been published when I was writing it, because it would have been so useful! Beautiful writing and thoughtful, philosophical nature discussions.
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.
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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.” 12 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.” 8 likes
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