The Immeasurable World by William Atkins
Journeys in Desert Places

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The prose can become directionless, as if spun blindfold on a desert plain and then released, but is also very often gorgeous.


For all the desert's dreamlike beauty, to travel here was not just to pitch yourself into oblivion: it was to grind away at yourself until nothing was left. It was to aspire to the condition of sand. One third of the earth's land surface is desert, much of it desolate and inhospitable. What is it about this harsh environment that has captivated humankind throughout history? From the prophets of the Bible to Marco Polo, Lawrence of Arabia to Gertrude Bell, travellers have often seen deserts as cursed places to be avoided, or crossed as quickly as possible. But for those whose call deserts home, the 'hideous blanks' described by explorers are rich in resources and significance. Travelling to five continents over three years, visiting deserts both iconic and little-known, William Atkins discovers a realm that is as much internal as physical. His journey takes him to the Arabian Peninsula's Empty Quarter and Australia's nuclear-test grounds; the dry Aral Sea of Kazakhstan and 'sand seas' of China's volatile north-west; the contested borderlands of Arizona and the riotous Burning Man festival in Nevada's Black Rock Desert; and the ancient monasteries of Egypt's Eastern Desert. Along the way, Atkins illuminates the people, history, topography, and symbolism of these remarkable but often troubled places. Reviving the illustrious British tradition of travel writing, The Immeasurable World is destined to become a classic of desert literature.

About William Atkins

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William Atkins grew up in rural Hampshire, where he spent his childhood exploring the tract of moorland on his doorstep. After studying photography and art history, he went on to work in poetry and art publishing, before becoming Editorial Director at Pan Macmillan UK, where he edited and published prize-winning fiction. He now works as a freelance editor and consultant, and spends his time exploring Britain's moorlands. He lives in north London.
Published July 24, 2018 by Doubleday. 368 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, History, Nature & Wildlife, Travel, Action & Adventure, Science & Math, Education & Reference. Non-fiction
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Reviewed by Gavin Francis on Jun 09 2018

The prose can become directionless, as if spun blindfold on a desert plain and then released, but is also very often gorgeous.

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