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Landmarks by Robert Macfarlane
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Landmarks (2015)

by Robert Macfarlane

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Showing 4 of 4
While the writing was rich, I had difficulty connecting to it. I'm so enmeshed in my urban and American landscape that the sheer UK-ness was daunting, not enough handholds to grab onto. The glossary parts were wonderful, but without pronunciations and definitions full of things I've never seen, I could not roll these new words on my tongue and enjoy them, and so they were more a source of frustration than of fascination. Perhaps there will be another time for this book. No rating as I only got 25% through.
  kbellwether | Apr 16, 2018 |
Why did I read it? When first published, several people recommended this book to me, and it was recommended more than once by some. I imagine those recommendations came because of my like of the natural world, and of language. I have no idea why, but I put it on my 'wish list' and then my 'to be read pile' but never actually started it; these decisions I now regret.

What's it about? With the Oxford Children's Dictionary removing words relating to nature, e.g. acorn, in favour of technological terms, Robert Macfarlane explores the United Kingdom in search of those words to describe, and connect us to the natural world. Connection. That is the key to this book. In a time, and place which seems to breed disconnection, this book seeks to reunite us with a deep love for landscape, and language.

What did I like? Every single word, and most especially the glossaries. Rich in words and landscape, there is so much to enjoy, and explore in this book. I listened to the audio book, which is rather nicely done. I did query a few of the Gaelic pronunciations - being a learner of the language, not a native speaker, I may not completely comprehend the dialectal nuances. I am very pleased I opted to purchase the Kindle edition, too, so I can explore those glossaries at my leisure.

Oh, the joy I found in this book: learning new words for phenomenon I had no idea might even exist; remembering 'childish' the way children use language to describe their surroundings; and discovering new Gaelic words I wanted to include in my (ever-expanding) vocabulary.

The narrator, Roy McMillan, did a splendid job. I'm afraid I have no idea of the name of other gentleman whose voice was used to read out various words, but his voice gave luscious contrast to Mr McMillan's smooth tones.

What didn't I like? I could find no fault with this book. I find fault with myself for not reading it sooner.

Would I recommend it? Yes! Yes! Yes! Not necessarily the audio version though - not because it is not well read, but because once you've read the book, I'm pretty sure you'll want to keep it to hand to pore over the word glossaries, and then add to your own. ( )
3 vote Sile | Feb 16, 2018 |
For those who love language and landscape (particularly the British landscape), Robert Macfarlane's Landmarks is essential reading.

The book opens as follows:

"This is a book about the power of language - strong style, single words - to shape our sense of place. It is a field guide to literature I love, and it is a word-hoard of the astonishing lexis for landscape that exists in the comprision of islands, strands, fells, lochs, cities, towns, corries, hedgerows, fields and edgelands uneasily known as Britain and Ireland."

That is certainly a rich and intriguing premise, made even more powerful by a disturbing shift in language that is underway. Macfarlane explains how words concerning nature have been culled from the Oxford Junior Dictionary as no longer relevant to modern-day childhood, and replaced by words of technology and the virtual world. The deletions include acorn, buttercup, dandelion, heather, lark, nectar, newt, willow; some of the new words introduced are blog, broadband, bullet-point, chatroom. Macfarlane sees where this trend could lead, as younger generations drift towards an ensconced indoors from the vast and varied outdoors; and he is sounding the alarm so that we do not lose the wonder and magic of our nuanced language of the natural world.

This book works so well on so many levels as to be dizzying in its scope, execution, and scholarship; a single reading is not nearly sufficient to grasp all within. At one level, it is an ode to the majesty and precision of our language, with words passed down through generations and gathered from disparate towns and regions to describe remarkably specific land features. Landmarks also functions as a wonderful sampler of great and truly evocative nature writing, and will inevitably spark the reader to seek out many of the writers referenced, such as Nan Shepherd, Roger Deakin, J.A. Baker, Barry Lopez, and John Muir. And it should also be noted that Macfarlane too, another master nature writer, writes with great verve throughout.

Interspersed between chapters are selected glossaries, chosen from the multitude of words Macfarlane has collected, each devoted to a particular facet of the landscape, such as flatlands, uplands, coastlands, and northlands.

And there a sublime bonus in the 2016 paperback edition: an added section entitled "Gifts". In response to the original 2015 publication, thousands of readers from around the world, clearly touched and moved by Landmarks, sent Macfarlane additional words and place-terms either remembered or still in use in their little corner of the British Isles or the world at large.

Landmarks is a singular masterpiece: enchanting and inspiring. ( )
2 vote ghr4 | Apr 26, 2017 |
In his previous books Robert Macfarlane has declared his love of walking, swimming, sailing and climbing on remote areas, and the sense of belonging that such areas evoke. In this book he turns more to the lexicon of landscape, and the multiplicity of dialect terms for different aspects of the natural world, and bemoans erosion of these terms from the common consciousness.

He writes with an enthusiasm that occasionally supersedes syntax and clearly feels to sense that prepositions are the wrong words to end sentences with [ha!]. He does, however, achieve great clarity with his central message. The natural world, and the physical landmarks that identify our respective localities are part of our common inheritance, but so too are the dialect terms that describe them. Each chapter is followed by a glossary of terms from different regions, reaching across several centuries.

He also writes at length and with deep sadness about the rapid diminution of children's access to the landscape. When he was a child, one in two children reported playing in the countryside, though that figure is now just one in ten. Most children now only play in their house, their garden and, possibly, their street. That certainly resonated with me. Growing up in North Leicestershire, in the summer holidays my friends and I would wander or cycle miles from home, spending out time playing in the woods, clambering over farm machinery or pushing each other into streams or beds of nettles (well, we were simple folk and very easily amused). I couldn't say with any honesty that we went out specifically to look for rare birds or that we yearned to tick off different species of tree, but we knew that they were there, and derived great enjoyment from what the landscape had to offer. It is a sad loss for today's children that that avenue of fun is no longer available, or at least no longer generally pursued. (Well, perhaps they might get by without being pushed into a bed of nettles …)

Generally well written, Macfarlane's zest shows through, and it is difficult not to share his passion. The book is beautifully produced, too. ( )
3 vote Eyejaybee | May 17, 2015 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0241146534, Hardcover)

Landmarks is Robert Macfarlane's joyous meditation on words, landscape and the relationship between the two. Words are grained into our landscapes, and landscapes are grained into our words. Landmarks is about the power of language to shape our sense of place. It is a field guide to the literature of nature, and a glossary containing thousands of remarkable words used in England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales to describe land, nature and weather. Travelling from Cumbria to the Cairngorms, and exploring the landscapes of Roger Deakin, J. A. Baker, Nan Shepherd and others, Robert Macfarlane shows that language, well used, is a keen way of knowing landscape, and a vital means of coming to love it. Praise for The Old Ways: "A magnificent meditation on walking and writing. An astonishingly haunted book' Adam Nicolson, Daily Telegraph 'Sets the imagination tingling ...like reading a prose Odyssey sprinkled with imagist poems". (John Carey, Sunday Times). "A wonderful book. He has a poet's eye and a prose style that will make many a novelist burn with envy". (John Banville, Observer). Robert Macfarlane won the Guardian First Book Award, the Somerset Maugham Award, and the Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year Award for his first book, Mountains of the Mind. His second, The Wild Places, won three prizes and was adapted for the BBC. The Old Ways was joint winner of the Dolman Travel Book of the Year Award, and shortlisted for the Samuel Johnson Prize and eight other awards. He is a Fellow of Emmanuel College, Cambridge.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:25:20 -0400)

Landmarks is Robert Macfarlane's joyous meditation on words, landscape and the relationship between the two. Words are grained into our landscapes, and landscapes are grained into our words. Landmarks is about the power of language to shape our sense of place. It is a field guide to the literature of nature, and a glossary containing thousands of remarkable words used in England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales to describe land, nature and weather. Travelling from Cumbria to the Cairngorms, and exploring the landscapes of Roger Deakin, J. A. Baker, Nan Shepherd and others, Robert Macfarlane shows that language, well used, is a keen way of knowing landscape, and a vital means of coming to love it. Praise for The Old Ways: "A magnificent meditation on walking and writing. An astonishingly haunted book' Adam Nicolson, Daily Telegraph 'Sets the imagination tingling ...like reading a prose Odyssey sprinkled with imagist poems". (John Carey, Sunday Times). "A wonderful book. He has a poet's eye and a prose style that will make many a novelist burn with envy". (John Banville, Observer). Robert Macfarlane won the Guardian First Book Award, the Somerset Maugham Award, and the Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year Award for his first book, Mountains of the Mind. His second, The Wild Places, won three prizes and was adapted for the BBC. The Old Ways was joint winner of the Dolman Travel Book of the Year Award, and shortlisted for the Samuel Johnson Prize and eight other awards. He is a Fellow of Emmanuel College, Cambridge.… (more)

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