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Underland: A Deep Time Journey (Paperback)

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Staff Reviews

RJ Julia Booksellers Signed First Edition Selection 

July 2019

Dear Surface Dweller,

Don’t worry, I’m also a surface dweller. All humans are surface dwellers. Whether you’re a hiker in the woods casually admiring nature or a climate scientist in a rain forest working hard to find solutions to Earth’s most pressing environmental problems, we tend to focus much of our attention on what’s on the surface of our glorious planet. Then again, we’ve also long been fascinated with what lies beyond the stars. The concept of colonizing another planet is no longer the stuff of science fiction. Heck, scientists snapped a photograph of a black hole a few months ago!

But there’s another world, a mostly ignored world, that deserves our attention: the world that lies beneath us.

From the first page, I knew that Robert Macfarlane’s Underland: A Deep Time Journey was one of those rare books that would change the way I see the world and our place in the universe. To truly understand where we've been, why we are where we are, and what our future holds, we must look for answers in the underland, Earth’s astonishingly complex subterranean world. From the shallow underland of tree roots and fungi to the miles-deep underland where scientists sit in laboratories carved out of massive salt deposits attempting to reveal the mysteries of dark matter in order to better understand the origin of our universe, we have much to learn about our planet’s history if we want to solve the most threatening existential issues of our time.  

In Underland, Macfarlane examines our relationship with the subterranean world through several lenses, including history, myth, literature, geology, astronomy, and climatology. But this book is much more than a panoramic exploration of a planet’s past and present—it is a truly breathtaking adventure story. Accompanied by all manner of explorers and scientists, Macfarlane journeys mind-bogglingly deep into the underland, encountering danger with each step (or leap) he takes. But he presses on, completely in awe of what the underland reveals to him about what’s happening in the cities, oceans, and mountains going about their business above him.

You’ll feel like you’re right alongside Macfarlane on his journey. His passion and excitement, which shines through on every page, will become your passion and excitement. Yes, it’s a science-y nonfiction book, but it’s painted with a novelist’s brush; I highly doubt you’ll find passages of such awe-inspiring beauty in any fiction book you read this year.  

You’ve never experienced anything like Underland before. And I guarantee that the next time you’re laying on the beach or working in your garden, your hands digging down into the cool earth, you’ll find yourself wondering what miraculous things are happening below you, down in the dark.


Brian Wraight

Store Manager

Wesleyan RJ Julia Bookstore


— Brian

June 2019 Indie Next List

“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

Summer 2020 Reading Group Indie Next List

“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

"Mesmerizing…Underland is a portal of light in dark times." —Terry Tempest Williams, New York Times Book Review

In Underland, Robert Macfarlane delivers an epic exploration of the Earth’s underworlds as they exist in myth, literature, memory, and the land itself. Traveling through the dizzying expanse of geologic time—from prehistoric art in Norwegian sea caves, to the blue depths of the Greenland ice cap, to a deep-sunk "hiding place" where nuclear waste will be stored for 100,000 years to come—Underland takes us on an extraordinary journey into our relationship with darkness, burial, and what lies beneath the surface of both place and mind.

Global in its geography and written with great lyricism, Underland speaks powerfully to our present moment. At once ancient and urgent, this is a book that will change the way you see the world.

About the Author

Robert Macfarlane’s prize-winning and best-selling books include Mountains of the Mind, The Old Ways, Landmarks, and, with Jackie Morris, The Lost Words. He lives in Cambridge, England, where he is a Fellow of the University of Cambridge.

Praise For…

Profound in every sense of the word.
— Richard Powers, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of The Overstory

An excellent book—fearless and subtle, empathic and strange.
— Dwight Garner - New York Times

Reading Macfarlane connects us to dazzling new worlds. It’s a connection that brings, more than anything else, joy.
— Barbara J. King - NPR

Remarkable…Underland may be [Macfarlane’s] masterpiece.

— Colin Thubron - New York Review of Books

One of the most ambitious works of narrative non-fiction of our age.
— William Dalrymple - Guardian

[Robert Macfarlane’s] writing is luminous, intense.…[B]rilliant notes from the underground.
— Huw Lewis-Jones - Nature

[Macfarlane] seems to metabolize landscape into lyrics as he walks.
— Rachel Riederer - Outside

Through this series of haunting descents, Macfarlane plumbs the strange and alarming ways we’ve changed the world and resurfaces with revelations about how to orient us to the future, weaving landscape and language together.
— Kate Yoder - Grist

The most impressive exercise of imagination and scholarship I’ve come across lately.…A reader never will forget this journey through geologic time.
— Tony Norman - Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

With Underland Macfarlane gives us a work of nature writing for the age—and for the ages. Its eloquent but urgent prose reveals our complex relationship with nature while pushing us to think more deeply about earth’s sublime underneath.

— Amy Brady - Gizmodo

Product Details
ISBN: 9780393358094
ISBN-10: 0393358097
Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company
Publication Date: August 18th, 2020
Pages: 496
Language: English