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Book - 2016
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"Explores the landscape of the British Isles through its ancient place names, interspersed with biographical essays on some of the author's favorite writers who have paid close attention to the natural world."--Provided by publisher.
Publisher: London : Penguin Books, 2016
ISBN: 9780241967874
0241967872
Branch Call Number: 914.1048 MACFARLANE
Characteristics: x, 434 pages : illustrations ; 20 cm

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JCLChrisK Aug 08, 2018

This book is what Macfarlane calls a "word-hoard." It is his attempt to preserve the many, particular, local words the inhabitants of the British Isles have used to name their environment. It is his attempt to preserve a deep knowing of that environment through the power of language. It is his attempt to personalize nature, to give it a face with poetry, so we might better have meaningful, tangible relationships with it.

The core of the book is a collection of glossaries of British words that have been used to describe the natural world, divided into various topics: Flatlands, Uplands, Waterlands, Coastlands, Underlands, Northlands, Edgelands, Earthlands, and Woodlands. Each is further subdivided into categories, like words for "flowing water," for "mists, fogs, shadows," for "peat, turf and earth," and so on. These lists are fascinating in and of themselves. I'm quite excited to know there is a name for something I've observed on the Kansas plains, that of "shadows cast on the moorland by clouds moving across the sky on a bright and windy day" (rionnach maoim - Gaelic), for instance. They can be enough on their own.

Preceding each glossary is a related essay. The introductory ones lay forth his purpose. A final one concludes with the language of children at play in nature. The bulk are a mixture of personal experience, reflection, and analysis of other nature writers that have inspired Macfarlane's nature thoughts, language, and experiences--source material for the glossaries, if you will. It was these that I found the least enthralling aspect of the book; while glad to know of the writers and their works, I itched for the immediacy of interacting with them directly rather than channeled through Macfarlane. It was his use of language, the result of their influence, that was most fully a joy to read. Between his ability to experience the natural world and his ability to write about it, I think I want to be him.

This is a most unusual, beautiful, and extraordinary book.

w
wmcleod
Jan 29, 2018

I loved the language, etymology and stories behind how he discovered them. What a quiet trek through place and their word's placed within it.

sundanced Jul 07, 2017

A fantastic book that examines the power of language in developing an understanding and love for our natural world.

e
empbee
Sep 26, 2016

A well written book about nature, landscape, language and literature in Great Britain.
Their connection is uniquely observed.

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