Recommended by Simon MacDonald (Writer/director/performer/lecturer at Highlands College)

LANDMARKS by Robert Macfarlane (2015)

This is a story about words from a writer I am becoming quietly obsessed with. Published in 2015, I came to it late – it was given to me as a gift recently – and I have only just been able to begin reading it in earnest. What a treat.

Macfarlane is described as a ‘word-hoarder’ and the book details his collection of lost and/or forgotten words from the natural world. Having searched the length and breadth of the British Isles for nigh on a decade, he details such exquisite descriptions for ‘things’ based on place and origin. So, for example, ‘icicle’ is, at one and the same time, ‘aquabob’ in Kent, ‘clinkerbell’ and ‘daggler’ in Wessex, ‘cancervell’ in Exmoor, ‘ickle’ in Yorkshire, ‘tankle’ in Durham and ‘shuckle’ in Cumbria – just beautiful. The work became particularly important for Macfarlane when he discovered, to his horror, that the Oxford Junior Dictionary had culled such words as ‘acorn’, ‘bluebell’, ‘conker’ and ‘dandelion’ from its latest edition and replaced them with such ‘modern-strosities’ (my word, my emphasis) as ‘attachment’, ‘broadband’, ‘chatroom’ and ‘voice-mail’.

Now I do realise that this makes me sound like someone terminally stuck in the past and, as a lecturer in English, I am only too aware of the need to embrace growth and development in language. All I’m saying is that Macfarlane’s book has given me a much-needed reminder of the intrinsic beauty and precision of words. It’s a terrific book to dip in and out of.




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