Nature Writing in Review: Underland

July 10, 2019 Uncategorized 15 ★★★★★

Nature Writing in Review: UnderlandTitle: Underland: A Deep Time Journey
Author: Robert Macfarlane

Summary: A beautiful, thought-provoking meditation on nature.

The only connection between sections of this book is that each has to do with things found underground. The author physically explores some incredible underground spaces. He simultaneously explores the way humans have interacted with the world beneath our feet and the sorts of meanings we’ve attached to what we find there.

This is some of the best nature writing I’ve ever read. The author’s style of descriptions really worked for me. His short, sentence fragments capture impressions and portions of scenes. I found this much easier to process than more holistic descriptions. It felt like I was really there with my gaze bouncing around the scene. His use of this technique occasionally felt repetitive, but it worked so well for me that I didn’t mind. I think the rapid fire of these sentences also made his experiences feel more immediate. I don’t think this style will be for everyone, but it was a perfect fit for me.

I liked the mix of historical information with the author’s own experiences. From the London underground to the interior of glaciers, he had some incredible adventures while writing this book! The author also used his exploration of nature to talk about more abstract concepts: love and community; what it means to be human and our relationship with nature; mortality and motivation. This made for a book that felt worth taking my time with, even though I typically struggle to slow myself down. I loved how much it made me think. It also brought a real sense of wonder and seriousness to the consideration of even common parts of nature. Reading it was a delightful experience.

15 Responses to “Nature Writing in Review: Underland”

  1. whatsnonfiction

    Oh I’m so happy to hear you liked this one so much, it’s been on my list for awhile. I’m especially intrigued because I also typically read quickly and struggle to slow down. That kind of book that really makes you want to is something special! I like your description of feeling like your gaze is bouncing around the scene. Makes me even more excited for this one, I’m going to have to bump it up my list 🙂

  2. louloureads

    This sounds wonderful. I love it when an author can mix their topic with their own experiences successfully, without detracting from the tone of the novel.

    • DoingDewey

      I enjoy that too! If an author can make something a memoir that deals with a significant topic or share their experience researching a book in a way that flows well with the rest and doesn’t feel forced, it can make for some of my favorite nonfiction writing. It can make me feel more of a personal connection to the topic.

  3. Brona

    I’ve been wondering about this book. It sounds like something I would like – you’ve confirmed that for me. Thank you

  4. Helen Murdoch

    What an interesting theme for a book. It reminds of a book I read years ago that was really fascianting. I don’t remember the exact title, but it was written by a guy who visited the hottest/coldest, highest/lowest, wettest/driest places on earth and got to know people who lived there.

    • DoingDewey

      Oh, that does sound interesting! I thought this author did a really good job using his theme to talk about interesting concepts and interesting parts of history 🙂

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