Underland: A Deep Time Journey



by Robert Macfarlane

Underland is an epic exploration of the Earth’s underworlds as they exist in myth, literature, memory and the land itself. At once ancient and urgent, this is a book that will change the way you see the world.

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From the internationally bestselling, prize-winning author of Landmarks, The Lost Words and The Old Ways

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. Travelling 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 between 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.

‘Dazzling’ Guardian

‘Heart-stopping’ Daily Telegraph

‘Mesmerizing’ Observer

‘Epic’ Financial Times

‘You’d be crazy not to read this book’ The Sunday Times

‘Marvellous… Neverending curiosity, generosity of spirit, erudition, bravery and clarity… This is a book well worth reading’ The Times

‘Extraordinary… at once learned and readable, thrilling and beautifully written’ Observer

‘Attentive, thoughtful, finely honed… I turned the last page with the unusual conviction of having been in the company of a fine writer who is – who must surely be – a good man’ Telegraph

‘Poetry, science, a healthy sense of the uncanny and a touch of the shamanic are the hallmarks of his writing… This is a journey that tells the story not just of nature but of human nature. And there is noone I would more gladly follow on it’ i

‘Startling and memorable, charting invisible and vanishing worlds. Macfarlane has made himself Orpheus, the poet who ventures down to the darkest depths and returns – frighteningly alone-to sing of what he has seen’ New Statesman

Additional information

Book Condition





488 pages


May 7, 2020 by Penguin
First published May 2, 2019


Nonfiction, History, Science, Travel


National Outdoor Book Award for Natural History Literature (2019),
Orwell Prize Nominee for Political Writing for Longlist (2020),
The Royal Society of Literature Ondaatje Prize Nominee for Shortlist (2020),
Goodreads Choice Award Nominee for Science & Technology (2019),
The Wainwright Prize for UK Nature Writing (2019)