Best Weller's Pick
Every other month the staff of Weller Book Works nominates and then votes on books we deem worthy of extra attention, our Best Weller's selection. We discount these books to you by 20% during the months for which they're chosen because we believe in them.
Reviewed by Frank Pester
In his sequel to The Old Ways Macfarlane takes us on an amazing journey into darkness, burial, and what lies beneath both place and mind. Divided into three chambers, like the chambers of a cave, he descends to worlds we can only imagine. Macfarlane’s prose captivates as he journeys to tight and wet places, to undersea Potash mines, ancient tombs, the eerie catacombs of Paris, and the intricate web of fungal communication between the roots of trees affectionately known as the “Wood Wide Web.” You might just add some of the places he visits to your bucket list.
By illuminating what these underground places mean to those living above, Macfarlane traces the ancient and also urgent effects of our footprint in the age of the Anthropocene. Terry Tempest Williams wrote in her New York Times Review,
Macfarlane reminds us of Walter Benjamin’s belief that one must “make some sign to the world one is leaving.” How, Macfarlane asks, do we reckon with the fact that “over a quarter of a million tons of high-level nuclear waste in need of final storage is presently thought to exist globally, with around 12,000 tons being added to the figure annually?” How do we communicate danger to future generations, how to let them know that these spent rods of uranium are not to be touched for tens of thousands of years? Robert Macfarlane asks us not only to consider but to face the haunting and crucial question: “Are we being good ancestors?
My favorite piece follows Macfarlane in his travels to the Epping Forest with Merlin Sheldrake, a plant scientist from Cambridge. Though they do not travel underground, they discuss the ways fungi provide communications between the fine root ends of trees. “We stop and lie down for a while on the woodland floor, on our backs, not speaking, watching the trees’ gentle movements in the breeze, and the light lacing and lancing from fifty feet or more above us.”