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Robert Macfarlane

11 December 2017

Robert Macfarlane is the author of a number of best-selling books including Landmarks, The Old Ways and The Lost Words (with Jackie Morris). His works on landscape have inspired a new wave of place-writing.

Robert Macfarlane

From the archive

About the author

Robert Macfarlane’s trilogy of books about landscape have put him at the forefront of the New Nature genre of writing in the UK.

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The first was Mountains of the Mind in 2003 - an examination of how mountains figure in history and the imagination. It won him the Guardian First Book Award, the Somerset Maugham Award, and the Sunday Times First Book Award.

The Wild Places followed four years later, which celebrated the genuine wildernesses still found in Britain. And in 2012 came the final book in the ‘trilogy’ The Old Ways, which saw the author tramping the ancient paths of our island, plus similar locations in Europe and the Middle East. It was nominated for The Samuel Johnson Award.

Born in Nottinghamshire, Macfarlane is a Fellow of Emmanuel College, Cambridge. He writes regularly on landscape, ecology and the environment for the broadsheets and has made TV films about Essex and the Cairngorms. In 2013 he also found time to act as Chairman of the Booker Prize, which was won by Eleanor Catton.

His 2015 book Landmarks is a celebration of topography and particular places. Places that give us words and language, and therefore remain living to us. It received a customary flood of brilliant reviews and was Radio 4’s Book of the Week in April 2015. Macfarlane collaborated with the electronic band Grasscut, who provided the music for the series.

Collaboration is a familiar habit for the author. He has worked with various other musicians including the Memory Band, Frank Turner and Johnny Flynn. And other artists such as photographer David Quentin, painter Stanley Donwood, and the film-maker Adam Scovell. Macfarlane lives with his family in Cambridge.

Duncan Minshull, BBC Readings Unit