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Gobi: Tracking the Desert Hardcover – October 11, 1999


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press (October 11, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300076096
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300076097
  • Product Dimensions: 9.6 x 6.4 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,082,035 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

It's better to travel to Mongolia in summer than in winter. In summer the temperatures can hit 115 degrees Fahrenheit, but that's easier to survive than the -40 of January. Both are preferable to spring, though, when, John Man writes in this vivid story of wilderness adventure, "brutal cold gives way to sand-blasting gales that can flay exposed skin and strip the paint from a car."

Man has seen these Mongolian weathers up close, wandering around this vast country in search of its peculiar wildlife--a menagerie that includes rare wild camels and horses, mountain sheep, wolves, desert bears, and the elusive snow leopard. With the fall of Communism in the early 1990s, Man writes, Mongolia's economy had collapsed. Mongolians had responded, as always in times of stress, by leaving their cities and returning to the countryside to live off the land. In the late 1990s, with the economy improving, Mongolians were going back to their offices and shops, but with a new determination to protect the backcountry from the excesses of development that had ravaged neighboring China and Russia. As a result, the Mongolian government had taken an unusual step: not only would it encourage preservation by creating huge national parks and wilderness preserves, but it would also declare the entire, vast nation a special biosphere reserve, attracting both ecotourism and funding from international wildlife organizations.

The plan worked. And, Man is happy to report, Mongolia's wildlife seems to be thriving in a time when wild nature is in decline around the world. Armchair travelers and conservationists alike will find his book to be inspiring reading. --Gregory McNamee

From Publishers Weekly

British reporter Man has been obsessed with Mongolia's Gobi Desert since his boyhood, when he read of the exploits of American explorer/scientist Roy Chapman Andrews, who in 1922-1924 made one of the century's great paleontological finds by discovering dinosaur eggs and fossils at Flaming Cliffs (aka Bayan Zag). In an exhilarating blend of travel, history and adventure, the Gobi of Man's imaginationAall flat immensities and deathly extremesAgives way to a realm of austere beauty, with majestic snow-capped pinnacles, emerald oases, an exquisite interplay of reds, purples and ochres and a diversity of snow leopards, wolves, lightning-fast gazelles and endangered bears and horses. Highlights of his itinerary include Sacred Mother, a mountain revered by Buddhists, where he feels a sense of timelessness; the Great Gobi National Park, almost half the size of England; and the Singing Sands, an immense ridge of high dunes that vibrates and hums in the wind. A graceful and companionable travel writer, Man finds much to admire in the Mongolian people, including their intact tradition of mutual support, closeness to nature and rugged endurance in the face of enormous distances, sporadic roads, lack of water and erratic power supplies. Since Andrews's pioneering discoveries, reports Man, American, Polish, Russian and Mongol expeditions have yielded valuable clues to the evolution of early mammals, the extinction of dinosaurs and human origins. And the Gobi holds another surprise: a vast water table beneath its harsh surface, which now feeds thousands of wells and dozens of irrigation projects, could make the desert bloom. But the Mongolians may not be ready for such a transformation, surmises Man, as it would change their way of life and ecology. His book vividly captures both as they are, however, and it is enchanting. 12 b&w and seven color photos. (Oct.)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

More About the Author

JOHN MAN

I usually write non-fiction, mainly exploring interests in Asia and the history of written communication. So 'The Lion's Share', available only on Kindle, is something different - a new edition of a thriller written some 25 years ago when I wasn't sure what I wanted to focus on. It's about the 'real' - in quotes, i.e. fictional - fate of Haile Selassie, Emperor of Ethiopia.

Most of the time, I like to mix history, narrative and personal experience, exploring the places I write about. It brings things to life, and it's a reaction against an enclosed, secure, rural childhood in Kent. I did German and French at Oxford, and two postgraduate courses, History and Philosophy of Science at Oxford and Mongolian at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London (to join an expedition that never happened).

After working in journalism and publishing, I turned to writing, with occasional forays into film, TV and radio. A planned trilogy on three major revolutions in writing has resulted in two books, 'Alpha Beta' (on the alphabet) and 'The Gutenberg Revolution', both republished in 2009. The third, on the origin of writing, is on hold, because it depends on researching in Iraq. (On the fourth revolution, the Internet, many others can write far better than me).

My interest in Mongolia revived in 1996 when I spent a couple of months in the Gobi. 'Gobi: Tracking the Desert' was the first book on the region since the 1920's (those by the American explorer Roy Chapman Andrews). In Mongolia, everything leads back to Genghis. I followed. The result was 'Genghis Khan: Life, Death and Resurrection', now appearing in 20 languages. Luckily, there's more to Mongol studies than Genghis. 'Attila the Hun' and 'Kublai Khan' came next.

Another main theme in Asian history is the ancient and modern relationship between Mongolia and China. 'The Terracotta Army', published to in 2007, was followed by 'The Great Wall', which took me from Xinjiang to the Pacific. 'The Leadership Secrets of Genghis Khan' (combining history, character analysis and modern leadership theory) and 'Xanadu: Marco Polo and Europe's Discovery of the East' pretty much exhausted Inner Asian themes for me.

So recently I have become interested in Japan. For 'Samurai: The Last Warrior', I followed in the footsteps of Saigo Takamori, the real 'Last Samurai', published in February 2011. After that, more fiction, perhaps.

I live in north London, inspired by a strong and beautiful family - wife, children and grand-children.

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31 of 31 people found the following review helpful By John A. Kackley on May 22, 2000
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The author's somewhat standard travelogue visit to Mongolia is escalated to excellence through two key things: the detail he provides about a little-documented country, and the insight that bridges Western concepts of society and natural beauty with those of Mongolia.
It may help a great deal to be interested in Mongolia or Central Asia before you pick up this book, but if you have even the slightest interest in the area Man will draw you in completely. While at first you might consider reading the book to learn about Mongolia without going there, Man paints in this blank corner of most people'e world view so well that you wish for much more contact with the country and its people.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Raghuveer Parthasarathy on November 1, 2013
Format: Hardcover
In addition to being very well written, the book has a wonderful mix of history, science, and anthropology. Within its pages one finds expositions on the lives of snow leopards, musings on the challenges that nomadic hospitality faces when faced with modernity, and great descriptions of desert landscapes.
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