2023 Award Winner
“Robert Macfarlane is an inspired explorer of natural, cultural, and literary landscapes. Whether taking us across the Inylchek glacier in Kyrgyzstan, into a city buried beneath the streets of Paris, or along a country lane in Scotland, Macfarlane conveys the exhilaration of venturing into the unknown, which is always, somehow, just around the corner.
In prose as pure and flowing as a mountain stream, he draws on history, science, mythology, biography, and his own travels to interrogate the forces that shape human relationships to place. Macfarlane’s words evoke a panoply of emotions — from awe and wonder to exultation and trepidation, as we walk alongside him — gently drawing us into new ways of seeing and imagining. The result is a body of immersive nonfiction that proves the world is more complicated and mysterious, more fraught and beautiful, the longer we look at it.” —2023 Weston International Award Jury
Robert Macfarlane writes about humans, landscapes, and the living world. His six nonfiction books, published over the past twenty years — from Mountains of the Mind: A History of a Fascination (2003) through to the acclaimed Underland: A Deep Time Journey (2019) — place him at the forefront of contemporary writers seeking new ways of illuminating and communicating the complex, urgent questions of relations between people and nature. A mountaineer and literary archaeologist, a deeply read cultural historian, and an acute, compassionate observer of human and more-than-human experiences of the climate emergency, Macfarlane explores both heights and depths in his books and essays, using eloquent, dazzling prose and offering calm but trenchant insights to unfold, vivify, and clarify.
Macfarlane’s books — which also include The Wild Places (2007), The Old Ways (2012), Landmarks (2015), and The Gifts of Reading (2016) — have been translated into thirty languages, won prizes around the world, and been widely adapted for music, film, television, radio, and theatre. He has also written films including River (2022) and Mountain (2017), both narrated by Willem Dafoe, and collaborated with artists including Olafur Eliasson and Johnny Flynn. With the artist Jackie Morris he co-created the internationally bestselling books of nature poetry and art, The Lost Words (2017) and The Lost Spells (2020). As a lyricist, he has written songs and albums with musicians including Cosmo Sheldrake, Karine Polwart, and Johnny Flynn, with whom he released an album, Lost In The Cedar Wood, in 2021. He is a Fellow of Emmanuel College and a Professor of Literature and Environmental Humanities at the University of Cambridge. In 2017 the American Academy of Arts and Letters awarded him the EM Forster Prize for Literature. His current book project, forthcoming in 2025, is entitled Is a River Alive?, and — Macfarlane has said — is “about the lives and deaths of rivers, the global Rights of Nature movement, and the new-old idea that the world is far more alive than is allowed.”
Discussing the Anthropocene, Macfarlane told an interviewer: “It is impossible now to write from outwith a context of damage, decline, and injustice. The trouble needs to be clearly seen, and organized against up and down the levels, from local to global.” But — the 2023 Weston International Award winner added — “keeping hope, love, wonder, and the belief in possible betterment in view” is equally part of the work of us all.
Body of work
Body of work
Committee & Jury
International Advisory Committee
A committee of three distinguished nonfiction writers create a longlist of authors for consideration by the jury. The committee is appointed for a three-year term.
A jury of five distinguished Canadian nonfiction authors read works by the longlisted candidates to select a prize winner. This jury is convened annually.
For the inaugural prize in 2023, the jurors are:
The Weston International Award Presents: An Evening with Robert Macfarlane
On September 18 at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto, the Weston International Award will celebrate one of the most essential and admired global literary voices of our age.
The Hilary and Galen Weston Foundation
The Hilary and Galen Weston Foundation contributes to charities whose bold ideas shape a better future for everyone.
The Foundation has made a multi-year funding commitment to Writers’ Trust of Canada to elevate and embolden nonfiction writers at home and abroad.