Book of the Week: Vivid depictions of subterranean


By Robert Macfarlane

(Non-fiction, 496 pages, 2019)



There are few fears as universal as darkness and claustrophobia. Few concepts as alien as the geological timescale of the Earth. Few experiences as life changing as placing your palm against a hand-print older than your language. Robert Macfarlane, a renowned naturalist, explorer, and author, wrote Underland as a bridge between our shared myths of the subterranean and the places that inspire them. Travelling across the world, Macfarlane explores a river that appears and disappears through Europe and the adventurers who raft through the darkness, learns the emerging science of buried fungal networks that connect trees into a thriving forest economy, and witnesses the steps humans are taking to bury our most dangerous waste for longer than humanity may survive. Woven through his stunning descriptions, Macfarlane brings the reader in touch with both the human experience of these places and with the completely alien lives of earth and rock and ice, and how they evolve and flow at a speed that is stationary to human eyes but is as turbulent and destructive as a tidal wave from the perspective of a planet.

Underland leaves its readers seeing the world no longer as a canvas upon which live has painted a tapestry, but as a roiling sea of action and reaction and depth that life has been warped, consumed, destroyed, and protected by since time immemorial. If you want a read to change the way you journey through a forest or commune with a river stone, Underland is that book.

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Aidan Sonia-Bolduc

Author: Insider Staff

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