Robert Macfarlane wins The 2019 Wainwright Golden Beer Book Prize with his epic exploration of the Earth’s underworld.
15th August 2019
Underland by Robert Macfarlane has today been announced as the winner of the Wainwright Golden Beer Book Prize, which celebrates the best books about nature, travel and the outdoors.
Underland is Robert Macfarlane’s 8th book; an extraordinary voyage into our relationship with darkness, burial and our planet’s past and future.
The announcement and presentation of the £5000 prize was made by BBC Countryfile presenter Ellie Harrison at the National Trust Theatre at BBC Countryfile Live in Castle Howard, Yorkshire. The prize-giving took place at the end of a public event celebrating nature writing alongside the Wainwright Golden Beer Book Prize 2019 shortlist.
The 2019 winner comments: “I’m deeply glad that Underland has won The Wainwright Golden Beer Book Prize for 2019 — and that it shared a shortlist with these exceptional books. This year’s Prize speaks of the fear and hope that characterise our relations with the natural world in today’s crisis-contexts of climate breakdown, species loss and habitat degradation. The work celebrated by the 2019 Prize fuses politics, ethics, pragmatism and poetry — and shows a centuries-old tradition of literature flexing and responding to contemporary pressures. Alfred Wainwright’s Guides to the Lakes were among the first books to lead me up into the mountains; I’m honoured now to win the Wainwright Golden Beer Book Prize for Underland, an exploration of our planet’s deep time pasts and precarious futures, told through our ancient, urgent relationship with its underworlds.”
The judges felt this was a truly worthy winner – a passionate book which celebrates the natural world in a way that will enthuse and delight nature lovers and book lovers alike. Underland is a unique plea that demonstrates the urgent need for us all to lessen the impact of human life on the natural world.
Chair of judges Julia Bradbury comments: “I am absolutely delighted that Underland has won the Wainwright Golden Beer Book Prize; Robert has been shortlisted for the prize four times now, so, it feels right that this book, which we all considered to be his best book, has finally won. He writes in a beautiful, lyrical style and this book is a claustrophobic thriller of sorts. He takes his subject, and excavates it comprehensively.”
As usual, the judging panel struggled to hone down the selection to just one book from such a strong long list but, also wanted to give special commendation to Wilding by Isabella Tree; “an important experiment of handing her farm at Knepp back to nature. It provides a shocking vision of what we’ve done to the earth.”
Robert Macfarlane is a prize-winning writer of multiple books focused on nature and the countryside. Three of his previous books have been shortlisted for the Wainwright Golden Beer Book Prize: The Lost Words (with Jackie Morris) in 2018, Landmarks in 2016 & The Old Ways in 2014.
Now in its sixth year, the shortlist for the Wainwright Golden Beer Book Prize 2019 demonstrates the ongoing strength and diversity at the centre of this revived and popular genre, with books covering wider social, environmental and personal issues. Previous winners include: The Seabird’s Cry, by Adam Nicolson (2018), The Outrun by Amy Liptrot (2016) & Meadowland by John Lewis-Stempel (2014).
Joining Underland & Wilding on the shortlist, a number of books reflect on the positive impacts wild places can have on our physical and mental wellbeing, from Kate Humble, who shows the power and peace to be found in the simple act of walking in Thinking On My Feet, to Luke Turner’s Out Of The Woods which reveals the shelter and solace the natural world can offer. Meanwhile Julia Blackburn and Juliet Blaxland explore changing landscapes and our place within them. In the spellbinding Time Song, Julia Blackburn goes in search of truths in the sunken land that once connected Britain to the European mainland, while Juliet Blaxland details a year living life on the front line of environmental change in The Easternmost House. Finally, another previously nominated writer, Mark Cocker, exposes the devastating affects we have had on the wild world in Our Place; a rallying cry for change before it is too late.
The Wainwright Golden Beer Book Prize celebrates the books which most successfully reflect the ethos of renowned nature writer Alfred Wainwright’s work, to inspire readers to explore the outdoors, and to nurture a respect for the natural world.
Sitting alongside Julia on the judging panel for the 2019 prize were: Waterstones non-fiction buyer Clement Knox; National Trust publisher Katie Bond; publisher at Unbound and joint-host of the popular podcast Backlisted, John Mitchinson; David Lindo, otherwise known as The Urban Birder; and Anna Arnell, creative partner for agency And Rising.
The prize is sponsored by Marston, who produce Wainwright Golden Beer and supported by partners: White Lion Publishing, publisher of the Wainwright Guides, the Wainwright estate & the National Trust.
The winner receives a cheque for £5000, a keg of Wainwright Golden Beer, and a full set of the latest Wainwright pictorial walking guides.
For more information about the prize
or to request an interview with Robert Macfarlane, please contact
Luke at Agile Ideas: