The Immeasurable World
William Atkins revives the great British tradition of travel writing by recording his journeys to the earth’s most desolate, inspiring places: deserts.
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WINNER OF THE STANFORD DOLMAN TRAVEL WRITING AWARD 2019
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?
Travelling to five continents over three years, William Atkins discovers a realm that is as much internal as physical. From the contested borderlands of the USA to Australia’s nuclear test zones, via Nevada’s riotous Burning Man festival and the ancient monasteries of Egypt, he illuminates the people, history, nature and symbolism of these remarkable but often volatile places.
Sublime . . . William Atkins is one of the best makers of sentences around.
A treat for desert lovers . . . Atkins is a gifted and interesting writer, with a deft turn of phrase and an original mind. He uncovers the many guises of the desert with much imagination, insight and wit.
[A] rich and refreshing travelogue . . . Atkins is an unabashedly bookish guide, his text interspersed with snippets from writers and poets across the millennia . . . The cumulative effect of so much reading is an account of remarkable scope and depth . . . The Immeasurable World merits praise as a travel book of the first order. Atkins reminds a world shrunken by Google Earth that true discovery remains not only possible, but exhilarating . . . Ever alert and always engaging, [Atkins] has achieved that very rare feat: to see the world in a grain of sand.
Being a bit of a desert rat, I began The Immeasurable World with interest and finished enthralled and grievously enlightened. The strangeness and inhospitable nature of the world’s great deserts – and they are so variously singular – have not prevented humankind from assaulting and perverting their inconsolable beauties. William Atkins is an erudite writer with a wonderful wit and gaze and this is a new and exciting beast of a travel book.
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