Macfarlane is already the best nature & landscape writer of this generation, but Underland is far and away his masterwork to date. He chronicles an amazing series of underground adventures: a harrowing caving experience beneath innocuous Somerset, England; visiting humanity’s folly in a nuclear waste site far underground; spending a night traveling the vast Paris catacombs; discovering underground rivers and mountainous black sand dunes beneath the Italian Alps. Yet his experiences making his way to the incredible cave of Kollhellaren in Norway - alone - and watching 100,000 year old “deep time” ice calve from a Greenland glacier due to human-caused climate change are of the most stunning, vivid pieces of narrative nonfiction I have ever read. All of which begs the question (first posed by Jonas Salk) “Are we being good ancestors?” All of this wonder at the amazing worlds beneath our feet leads us to ask whether we are being good stewards of the earth - no surprise that we’re probably not. But the more awareness generated and awe inspired by prose as gorgeous and eloquent as Macfarlane’s is all the better, especially for future generations. -seth— Seth
“I don’t think there is a square mile of ground on this planet where Robert Macfarlane couldn’t dig up a new, wondrous story. Underland continues the tradition of profound storytelling, reflection, and, quite simply, gorgeous writing we have come to expect from him. Macfarlane’s ventures into the underworlds of our planet, both mythical and literal, may amount to his finest work yet, and not just because these are the places that have captivated me most throughout my life. I feel fortunate to be living at the same time as him, knowing that as long as he is writing, there is something to look forward to.”
— Chris La Tray, Fact & Fiction Downtown, Missoula, MT
“A study of the cultural, geological, and psychological call of the world beneath. From ancient cave paintings to the language of trees, from the catacombs of Paris to the burial mounds of nuclear power plants, McFarlane leads us on a bounding but intimate journey through our past and into our future.”
— Ben Kemper, Rediscovered Books, Boise, ID
National Bestseller • New York Times “100 Notable Books of the Year” • NPR “Favorite Books of 2019” • Guardian “100 Best Books of the 21st Century” • Winner of the National Outdoor Book Award
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 exploration of the Earth’s underworlds as they exist in myth, literature, memory, and the land itself.
In this highly anticipated sequel to his international bestseller The Old Ways, Macfarlane takes us on an extraordinary 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 the present—he moves from the birth of the universe to a post-human future, from the prehistoric art of Norwegian sea caves to the blue depths of the Greenland ice cap, from Bronze Age funeral chambers to the catacomb labyrinth below Paris, and from the underground fungal networks through which trees communicate to a deep-sunk “hiding place” where nuclear waste will be stored for 100,000 years to come. Woven through Macfarlane’s own travels are the unforgettable stories of descents into the underland made across history by explorers, artists, cavers, divers, mourners, dreamers, and murderers, all of whom have been drawn for different reasons to seek what Cormac McCarthy calls “the awful darkness within the world.”
Global in its geography and written with great lyricism and power, Underland speaks powerfully to our present moment. Taking a deep-time view of our planet, Macfarlane here asks a vital and unsettling question: “Are we being good ancestors to the future Earth?” Underland marks a new turn in Macfarlane’s long-term mapping of the relations of landscape and the human heart. From its remarkable opening pages to its deeply moving conclusion, it is a journey into wonder, loss, fear, and hope. At once ancient and urgent, this is a book that will change the way you see the world.