Staff Pick

Jamie is generally described as a poet and a nature writer, but these categories only begin to convey her remarkable range. The twelve keenly observed and graceful—yet tensile—essays of this collection take us around the world, from the Arctic to Scotland to China during the Tiananmen uprising, and through time from today to the Neolithic era 5,000 years ago. The collection’s two longest pieces explore archeological sites in Quinhagak, Alaska, and Westray, an island off the Scottish coast, reflecting on change and continuity in both local and global contexts. While some technical aspects of the digs are similar, more striking are the contrasts: few of the Scots would go back to the short and difficult life of those distant days, but for the Yu’pik, the excavations are vital to their daily lives, providing one of the few tangible sources for the culture the Europeans nearly destroyed. For Jamie, the sheer proximity of the past is exhilarating and sobering. It teaches her—as the Indigenous people themselves do—the importance of “noticing” her surroundings, and it sparks some of her most sensitive reflections on the meaning of our earthly existence. So add philosopher to her list of titles, and read her book—as she listened to the Yu’pik’s talk—not for the sake of “information,” though there’s plenty here on native ways, landscapes, and more, but for its ways of “coming at a subject sideways,” that is, beautifully and memorably.

Surfacing Cover Image
$17.00
ISBN: 9780143134459
Availability: In Stock—Click for Locations
Published: Penguin Books - September 24th, 2019

Staff Pick

Robert Macfarlane’s Underland (W.W. Norton, $27.95) is profound in all senses of the word. In it he explores the “deep time” of caves, glaciers, and burial chambers as well as reflecting on the meaning of our most ancient myths and primal dreams. It’s no accident that the title rhymes with Wonderland: here are wonders galore, from the magnificent geological formations of limestone and karst to the earliest human art in Lascaux and Chauvet to the myriad surprises waiting in the Paris catacombs. Here also is the wonder of Macfarlane’s prose; rhythmic, dramatic, and fluent in the rich vocabulary of geology, glaciology, and their emotional analogs, Macfarlane is spellbinding as he describes the look, feel, and sound of extreme cold; the amazing variety of blues in a Greenland glacier; and the remarkable life cycle of stone, which, seen in deep time, “folds as strata, gouts as lava, floats as plates, shifts as shingles.” But if the underland is where we store “that which we love and wish to save,” it’s also where we hope to unburden ourselves of “that which we fear.” Macfarlane found as many nightmares as wonders in his travels, and the anthrax spores released by melting permafrost and tons of radioactive nuclear waste also threaten those of us who stay safely on the surface.

Underland: A Deep Time Journey Cover Image
$27.95
ISBN: 9780393242140
Availability: Not On Our Shelves—Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: W. W. Norton & Company - June 4th, 2019

Staff Pick

Macfarlane’s new book is profound in all senses of the word. In it he explores the “deep time” of caves, glaciers, and burial chambers as well as reflecting on the meaning of our most ancient myths and primal dreams. It’s no accident that the title rhymes with Wonderland: here are wonders galore, from the magnificent geological formations of limestone and karst to the earliest human art in Lascaux and Chauvet to the myriad surprises waiting in the Paris catacombs. Here also is the wonder of Macfarlane’s prose; rhythmic, dramatic, and fluent in the rich vocabulary of geology, glaciology, and their emotional analogs, Macfarlane is spellbinding as he describes the look, feel, and sound of extreme cold; the amazing variety of blues in a Greenland glacier; and the remarkable life cycle of stone, which, seen in deep time, “folds as strata, gouts as lava, floats as plates, shifts as shingles.” But if the underland is where we store “that which we love and wish to save,” it’s also where we hope to unburden ourselves of “that which we fear.” Macfarlane found as many nightmares as wonders in his travels; his accounts of underground avalanches and impossibly narrow stone gorges are chilling. But the greater dangers he uncovered—from anthrax spores released by melting permafrost to tons of radioactive nuclear waste—also threaten those of us who stay safely on the surface. Grappling with these and other symptoms of the Anthropocene, Macfarlane bumps up against the very limits of language. “The idea of the Anthropocene repeatedly strikes us dumb,” he admits. But by linking our destabilized present and uncertain, post-human future to our roots in the deepest past, be believes we might be able to find “a language of grief and…a language of hope” that will help us survive.

Underland: A Deep Time Journey Cover Image
$27.95
ISBN: 9780393242140
Availability: Not On Our Shelves—Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: W. W. Norton & Company - June 4th, 2019

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