Why the 'The Lost Words' is the perfect present for nature-lovers, book-lovers and wordsmiths.

A review of 'The Lost Words' by Robert Macfarlane and Jackie Morris.

'The Lost Worlds - A Spell Book' cover

I'm guessing, since you're on the blog for The Scottish Countryman | Inspired Falconry, that you might like birds and nature in general. You might even, like me, love words. If so, I think you'll love this book.

'The Lost Words' was a Christmas present, the combination of a carefully curated Amazon Wishlist and a thoughtful son. I think it was my most delightful present of the year. Fully titled 'The Lost Words - A Spell Book', this charming book for all ages combines a love of nature with some of nature's most evocative words. The result is utterly spell-binding.

A gift for book-lovers

Whilst the book is a treat to read and to ponder over, it's also a gorgeous physical object; it's a joy to hold, to turn the page, to just look at.

An old-fashioned and satisfyingly large picture book, the use of gold, both shiny and matte,  throughout 'The Lost Words' adds to its beauty and opulence. It's there for a reason, of course:

"It is told in gold - the gold of the goldfinches that flit through its pages in charms..."

Robert Macfarlane writes the mystical, magical words that float and fold around Jackie Morris's gorgeous images of Britain's nature, creating a mesmerising, transformative effect. It's a book to reflect on, to read out loud to others, to enjoy in a dozen ways and moods.

A present for nature-lovers

The book features as its subjects some of our most fabulous and recognisable flora and fauna, from the wren to the weasel, from the acorn to the bramble. Each is given space and impact through a prefacing chase of guess-me lettering across a glorious double-page painting. My favourite of these include the introductory image for the starling, with its letters balancing along power lines, and the dainty, whispery outline of the wren, with its call an evaporating song in the air. Stunning. They are all stunning. 

Part of the introductory image for the wren 

Part of the introductory image for the wren 


A treat for wordsmiths

After the introductory double-page image, you'll find a page with an elegently-crafted acrostic on the subject opposite a full-colour image to draw your eyes back again and again. The words are delicious. Poetic, fulsome and wonderfully descriptive, they are pleasing to the eye and ear and do indeed appear to conjure the spell the authors are calling for:

"You hold in your hands a spell book for conjuring back these lost words. ...it holds not poems but spells of many kinds that might just, by the old, strong magic of being spoken aloud, unfold dreams and songs, and summon lost words back into the mouth and the mind's eye."
The wren's acrostic with its rich onomatopoeia and perfect pacing

The wren's acrostic with its rich onomatopoeia and perfect pacing


Alongside each piece of writing, a masterful, sensual illustration with a sumptuous, textured background redolent of medieval manuscripts. I was particularly smitten by the gold shades that have been used to show off nature's colours to perfection.

Illustration for  Wren  in 'The Lost Words'

Illustration for Wren in 'The Lost Words'


'The Lost Words' is unfailingly uplifting for the reader; it'll make your heart sing and resurrect your fondest childhood memories of early wonder at nature. Perfect as a resource for teachers - both primary and secondary - there are some fantastic accompanying texts and wonderful exhibitions to inspire. See links below. 

In addition, it's also a great gift for a eco-warrior because some of the royalties from 'The Lost Words' will be donated to Action for Conservation, a charity that works with disadvantaged and socially-excluded children to inspire the next generation of conservationists. Their aim is to:

"...inspire today's young people to a long-term belief in the wonder of the natural world, which will shape their dreams and actions however their life turns out." - Action for Conservation

What's not to love?! Treat yourself or someone you know who loves words, birds and nature and buy this marvellous book of spells.

Back cover of 'The Lost Words'


  • Macfarlane, R and Morris, J: The Lost Words (2017) Hamish Hamilton



Have you read 'The Lost Words'? Or can you recommend another book about nature or birds to delight the senses? Please share in the comments below!