10 books like Underland

By Robert Macfarlane,

Here are 10 books that authors have personally recommended if you like Underland. Shepherd is a community of 9,000+ authors sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of The Not-Quite States of America: Dispatches from the Territories and Other Far-Flung Outposts of the USA

Walt Goodridge Author Of There's Something About Saipan! A Visitor’s Guide To Fantastic Facts, Tantalizing Trivia, Startling Statistics, Dramatic Diaries and Hair-raising History From America’s Most Colorful Island Territory!

From the list on life on Saipan.

Who am I?

I discovered Saipan, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, on one December night in 2005 through my friend, Ken, who had visited the island for business and raved about his experience. Two months later, I was on an 8,000-mile, one-way flight to escape the NY rat race and live out my dream life in this tropical Pacific paradise! It's been one of the best decisions of my life! I've since fallen in love with the lifestyle, people, culture, and history of the islands. These authors are people I've met or have seen around the island. Their books offer a unique peek inside life on the islands of this little-known US commonwealth!

Walt's book list on life on Saipan

Discover why each book is one of Walt's favorite books.

Why did Walt love this book?

Author Doug Mack took the time to visit and immerse himself in various communities in the US' "not quite states:" American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI), and the U.S. Virgin Islands. I know because I was one of the people who showed him around and shared my own story when he visited Saipan, CNMI. When I received my copy of the book several months later, I was as captivated by the stories of the expats and "locals" in the other outposts as I was by those here on Saipan. Doug's attention to detail, respect of local norms and inquiring mind makes for a great read. The Not-Quite States of America offers on-the-ground insight you won't get from any text book on the territories.

By Doug Mack,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Not-Quite States of America as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Everyone knows that America is 50 states and... some other stuff. The U.S. territories-American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, the Northern Mariana Islands, and the U.S. Virgin Islands-and their 4 million people are little known and often forgotten, so Doug Mack set out on a 30,000-mile journey to learn about them. How did they come to be part of the United States? What are they like today? And why aren't they states? Deeply researched and richly reported, The Not-Quite States of America is an entertaining and unprecedented account of the territories' crucial yet overlooked place in the American story.


American Nations

By Colin Woodard,

Book cover of American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America

Mark Stein Author Of How the States Got Their Shapes

From the list on boundaries.

Who am I?

As a teenager, I wondered why my state, Maryland, didn’t include Delaware. Later, at the University of Wisconsin, I wondered why its northeastern peninsula was part of Michigan. Then I started wondering about boring borders -- why Colorado’s and Wyoming’s lines are where they are and not a mile or so so this way or that? I ended up writing How the States Got Their Shapes, followed by The People Behind the Borderlines.

Mark's book list on boundaries

Discover why each book is one of Mark's favorite books.

Why did Mark love this book?

Some of our state lines were cultural borders. The Colony of Massachusetts was founded by and for Puritans; Maryland was created for Catholics; Pennsylvania for Quakers. That process continued after the Revolution, regardless of state (or later-to-become state) lines. Colin Woodard’s book explores the founding of such cultural regions and reveals how those not-on-the-map lines influence our differing views to this day.

By Colin Woodard,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked American Nations as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

* A New Republic Best Book of the Year * The Globalist Top Books of the Year * Winner of the Maine Literary Award for Non-fiction *

Particularly relevant in understanding who voted for who in this presidential election year, this is an endlessly fascinating look at American regionalism and the eleven "nations" that continue to shape North America

According to award-winning journalist and historian Colin Woodard, North America is made up of eleven distinct nations, each with its own unique historical roots. In American Nations he takes readers on a journey through the history of our fractured continent, offering…


Nature's Metropolis

By William Cronon,

Book cover of Nature's Metropolis: Chicago and the Great West

Jake Bittle Author Of The Great Displacement: Climate Change and the Next American Migration

From the list on modern society’s relationship with nature.

Who am I?

My name is Jake Bittle, and I’m a staff writer at the environmental magazine Grist, where I cover climate change and energy. I’m also the author of The Great Displacement: Climate Change and the Next American Migration, published by Simon & Schuster. In that book I try to explore how human beings interact with nature, and how we try to control nature by building a systematic and inflexible society. This is a theme that has always captivated me, ever since I moved as a teenager to a Florida subdivision built on the edge of a swamp, and it’s something I’m always on the lookout for in fiction as well as nonfiction.

Jake's book list on modern society’s relationship with nature

Discover why each book is one of Jake's favorite books.

Why did Jake love this book?

A book that forever changed how I viewed the United States, this seminal work of history showed how the expansion of the railroads helped make Chicago into the center of nationwide commodity trade.

The rise of Chicago as a mercantile capital had a profound effect on the ecology of the surrounding countryside: prairie grass was cut up and replaced with endless fields of corn and wheat, old forests in Wisconsin were felled down to their stumps, and buffalo were eradicated to create room for cows to graze.

By William Cronon,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked Nature's Metropolis as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In this groundbreaking work, William Cronon gives us an environmental perspective on the history of nineteenth-century America. By exploring the ecological and economic changes that made Chicago America's most dynamic city and the Great West its hinterland, Mr. Cronon opens a new window onto our national past. This is the story of city and country becoming ever more tightly bound in a system so powerful that it reshaped the American landscape and transformed American culture. The world that emerged is our own.

Winner of the Chicago Tribune Heartland Prize


Book cover of Cessions of Land by Indian Tribes to the United States

Mark Stein Author Of How the States Got Their Shapes

From the list on boundaries.

Who am I?

As a teenager, I wondered why my state, Maryland, didn’t include Delaware. Later, at the University of Wisconsin, I wondered why its northeastern peninsula was part of Michigan. Then I started wondering about boring borders -- why Colorado’s and Wyoming’s lines are where they are and not a mile or so so this way or that? I ended up writing How the States Got Their Shapes, followed by The People Behind the Borderlines.

Mark's book list on boundaries

Discover why each book is one of Mark's favorite books.

Why did Mark love this book?

This book is not so much one to read, being more of an atlas. And atlases are expensive. Except this one. It’s free! Published by the U.S. Government in 1899 but still available online, it’s an extraordinary collection of Native American borders that got changed...and changed...and changed. It is history in the raw, from back in that time. More importantly, it is history we all need to know, if we are to know who we are as a nation today.

By Charles C. Royce,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Cessions of Land by Indian Tribes to the United States as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

HardPress Classic Books Series


Fast Food Nation

By Eric Schlosser,

Book cover of Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal

A. Whitney Sanford Author Of Living Sustainably: What Intentional Communities Can Teach Us about Democracy, Simplicity, and Nonviolence

From the list on the industrialization of and fight for the future of food.

Who am I?

I became fascinated by the intersection of food, sustainable agriculture, and culture when I moved to Iowa. I had long been an environmentalist, but moving to the land of big corn forced me to rethink food production. I wrote a book that explored agricultural narratives in India (Growing Stores from India) and developed a class on Religion and Food. I then became curious about how people and communities translate their values of sustainability into practice. For example, how do you decide what to eat, and who gets to decide? These books helped me think about links between food, sustainability, and culture and the power to decide what to eat.

A. Whitney's book list on the industrialization of and fight for the future of food

Discover why each book is one of A. Whitney's favorite books.

Why did A. Whitney love this book?

In Fast Food Nation, journalist Eric Schlosser traces the growth of fast food across the US and shows how franchises have standardized both agricultural and social life in the process.

As the demand for McDonalds’ fries and hamburgers soared, for example, farmers adapted potato and meat production to strict new specifications. Similarly, fast food franchises reshaped labor practices in the process.

Schlosser’s book was the first to reveal the extent to which fast food changed environmental, social, and health landscapes in the US. And, more important, we see how much fast food—which promises choice—has instead reduced agricultural biodiversity and food choice in the process. 

By Eric Schlosser,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked Fast Food Nation as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Now the subject of a film by Richard Linklater, Eric Schlosser's explosive bestseller Fast Food Nation: What the All-American Meal is Doing to the World tells the story of our love affair with fast food.

Britain eats more fast food than any other country in Europe. It looks good, tastes good, and it's cheap. But the real cost never appears on the menu.

Eric Schlosser visits the lab that re-creates the smell of strawberries; examines the safety records of abattoirs; reveals why the fries really taste so good and what lurks between the sesame buns - and shows how fast…


Assembling California

By John McPhee,

Book cover of Assembling California

Toni Dwiggins Author Of Quicksilver

From the list on badass geology books.

Who am I?

I’m a mystery-writing geology buff who came across a textbook on forensic geology, and was hooked. Here was the perfect fit for my stories--using earth evidence to solve crimes. My characters go from the lab to the field, reading the rock to track the evidence to its source. Along the way, they’ve developed a passion for protecting the environment. I’ve hiked the same trails, skied the same mountains, run the same river, and kayaked the same sea as my characters--although I don’t get into the trouble that they do. My books have hit a number of bestseller lists, including USA Today.

Toni's book list on badass geology books

Discover why each book is one of Toni's favorite books.

Why did Toni love this book?

This book is an enthralling field trip through my home state. McPhee--in company with a larger-than-life California geologist--takes apart and puts together the wildly varying regions of the state. He roams the coast, the mountains, the valleys, the rivers, the cities, and even puts the reader into the cataclysm of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. What more could a reader want? Well, staggeringly good writing and lively wit. Done.

“It is said that if a cow lies down in California, a seismologist will know it.” John McPhee.

By John McPhee,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Assembling California as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

At various times in a span of fifteen years, John McPhee made geological field surveys in the company of Eldridge Moores, a tectonicist at the University of California at Davis. The result of these trips is Assembling California, a cross-section in human and geologic time, from Donner Pass in the Sierra Nevada through the golden foothills of the Mother Lode and across the Great Central Valley to the wine country of the Coast Ranges, the rock of San Francisco, and the San Andreas family of faults. The two disparate time scales occasionally intersect―in the gold disruptions of the nineteenth century…


The Fifth Season

By N. K. Jemisin,

Book cover of The Fifth Season

Diana Fedorak Author Of Children of Alpheios

From the list on sci-fi and fantasy featuring incredible mothers.

Who am I?

I’m a mother of two children and was raised in a noisy family of four. It was my kids who reawakened my instinct to write again and follow through on my projects. Motherhood is such a fundamental part of my life and for most women I know. It’s mundane yet transformative in the sense it brings out your inner lioness in a way you don’t anticipate. When I think about some of my favorite literary characters, they would be unrecognizable if they weren’t mothers. With that in mind, I hope readers find a lovely story for their moms on Mother’s Day.

Diana's book list on sci-fi and fantasy featuring incredible mothers

Discover why each book is one of Diana's favorite books.

Why did Diana love this book?

This Hugo Award-winning novel has one of the most original stories I’ve read that revolves around a remarkable mother, Essun.

While Essun pretends to be ordinary, she is an orogene, a race of humans with the ability to significantly alter her environment. As a result, the orogenes are wretched exiles, feared by society and trapped in a governing system that seeks to control them.

I was immediately taken with Essun’s emotional journey as the story opens with the loss of her child. She wants to live a quiet life with her family but is pursued by officials who cannot allow her to go free.

The story really tapped into the most primal aspects of motherhood. Ultimately, it’s motherhood that strengthens Essun’s power as she unleashes it with devastating effectiveness. 

By N. K. Jemisin,

Why should I read it?

21 authors picked The Fifth Season as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

At the end of the world, a woman must hide her secret power and find her kidnapped daughter in this "intricate and extraordinary" Hugo Award winning novel of power, oppression, and revolution. (The New York Times)

This is the way the world ends. . .for the last time.

It starts with the great red rift across the heart of the world's sole continent, spewing ash that blots out the sun. It starts with death, with a murdered son and a missing daughter. It starts with betrayal, and long dormant wounds rising up to fester.

This is the Stillness, a land…


Cadillac Desert

By Marc Reisner,

Book cover of Cadillac Desert: The American West and Its Disappearing Water

Laurie Marr Wasmund Author Of My Heart Lies Here

From the list on why the American West always will be the "Wild West”.

Who am I?

Raised in the American West, I have watched the explosive growth in Colorado with dismay. In my lifetime, metro Denver has grown from a population of about 500,000 people to more than 5.5 million. The Colorado of large ranches and wide, open spaces is disappearing. I have named my publishing company “lost ranch books,” in honor of the ranch where I grew up, which was sold and developed with cookie-cutter houses. I’ve now set out to recapture historic Colorado by writing about it. My award-winning books center on Colorado’s and the American West’s history, for not only is it fascinating and, often, troubling, but it still resonates today.

Laurie's book list on why the American West always will be the "Wild West”

Discover why each book is one of Laurie's favorite books.

Why did Laurie love this book?

Water, water everywhere—but not in the American West. I first read Reisner’s book soon after its publication in 1986, when it presented a haunting, frightening future for the western United States that is being realized today. The book reveals the inadequacy of the management of water in the western states that began as soon as there was settlement, and it takes an especially hard look at the treaties surrounding the Colorado River, which has all but disappeared in the past few years, causing panic at the Hoover Dam and in Las Vegas, Arizona, and Mexico. Reisner amply demonstrates why major cities should not be built in semi-arid and arid climes—and still, the western states’ populations continue to explode. 

By Marc Reisner,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked Cadillac Desert as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"The definitive work on the West's water crisis." --Newsweek

The story of the American West is the story of a relentless quest for a precious resource: water. It is a tale of rivers diverted and dammed, of political corruption and intrigue, of billion-dollar battles over water rights, of ecological and economic disaster. In his landmark book, Cadillac Desert, Marc Reisner writes of the earliest settlers, lured by the promise of paradise, and of the ruthless tactics employed by Los Angeles politicians and business interests to ensure the city's growth. He documents the bitter rivalry between two government giants, the Bureau…


The Emerald Mile

By Kevin Fedarko,

Book cover of The Emerald Mile: The Epic Story of the Fastest Ride in History Through the Heart of the Grand Canyon

Becky Lomax Author Of Moon USA National Parks: The Complete Guide to All 63 Parks

From the list on US national parks from science to thrillers.

Who am I?

I grew up hiking and camping with my family in the national parks of Washington. Isn’t that what everyone did in summer? Later, I learned how wrong I was. That most people had never seen a glacier, stood on a mountaintop, walked through a rainforest, gazed at the size of a grizzly, skied past erupting geysers, or rafted a rushing river. These experiences have shaped who I am. I return to the haunts of national parks, from deserts to mountains and remote islands, because they wow me and feed my soul. 

Becky's book list on US national parks from science to thrillers

Discover why each book is one of Becky's favorite books.

Why did Becky love this book?

After I backpacked the Inner Canyon and Tonto Trail for 10 days in Grand Canyon, I longed for a book like this: one that would wrap the massive creation of the Grand Canyon into a compelling story and explore the depth of human connection. Fedarko adeptly weaves in history, geology, environmental concerns, wildlife, flora, Indigenous culture, and climate around a thrilling dory adventure on the Colorado River—so much so that you feel you really know the park. To pair reading it with hiking or boating into the inner canyon yields an immersive experience where you can see, touch, and breathe much of what he describes. This book is always my first recommendation for anyone headed to Grand Canyon, and I’ll re-read it again during my next Grand Canyon visit.

By Kevin Fedarko,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked The Emerald Mile as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From one of Outside magazine’s “Literary All-Stars” comes the thrilling true tale of the fastest boat ride ever, down the entire length of the Colorado River and through the Grand Canyon, during the legendary flood of 1983.

In the spring of 1983, massive flooding along the length of the Colorado River confronted a team of engineers at the Glen Canyon Dam with an unprecedented emergency that may have resulted in the most catastrophic dam failure in history. In the midst of this crisis, the decision to launch a small wooden dory named “The Emerald Mile” at the head of the…


Cod

By Mark Kurlansky,

Book cover of Cod: A Biography of the Fish That Changed the World

Susan Freinkel Author Of Plastic: A Toxic Love Story

From the list on important things hiding in plain sight.

Who am I?

I’ve been writing about science and the environment for over 20 years, but always I find myself gravitating to the non-sciency, non-naturey part of stories. My favorite part of my first book, on the American chestnut, was about how people in Appalachia loved and relied on this tree that was largely killed off in the early twentieth century. For Plastic: A Toxic Love Story, I was as fascinated by the cultural and psychological effects of plastic as its environmental and health impacts. One of the things I’ve learned is that some of the most powerful things shaping our lives – for better or worse – are ones we don’t notice or see. 

Susan's book list on important things hiding in plain sight

Discover why each book is one of Susan's favorite books.

Why did Susan love this book?

The North Atlantic between Iceland and Canada once teemed with cod. That rich fishery is what lured Europeans across the Atlantic in the first place, starting with the Vikings. And salt curing of the fish – a method perfected by medieval Basque whalers is what made those long voyages possible. By the mid-sixteenth century, 60 percent of all fish eaten in Europe was cod. It soon would be a staple of new world diets – and one of the pleasures of the book are the cod recipes across the centuries. Above all, I appreciate how Kurlansky makes us care about this fish, whose numbers are now dwindling. As he writes, “the cod is on the wrong end of this 1,000-year fishing spree.” 

By Mark Kurlansky,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Cod as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'Who would ever think that a book on cod would make a compulsive read? And yet this is precisely what Kurlansky has done' Express on Sunday

The Cod. Wars have been fought over it, revolutions have been triggered by it, national diets have been based on it, economies and livelihoods have depended on it. To the millions it has sustained, it has been a treasure more precious that gold. This book spans 1,000 years and four continents. From the Vikings to Clarence Birdseye, Mark Kurlansky introduces the explorers, merchants, writers, chefs and fisherman, whose lives have been interwoven with this…


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