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Paradise Lust: Searching for the Garden of Eden Hardcover – August 2, 2011

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Grove Press; First Printing edition (August 2, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802119808
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802119803
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,156,149 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


Praise for Paradise Lust

"A pleasure. Wilensky-Lanford tackles her subject with an appealing mix of serious research and tongue-in-cheek humor. Neither too academic nor too whimsical, the storytelling in Paradise Lust is often irresistible." — The New York Times

"Dense, absorbing… [Wilensky-Lanford's] interest in her subject is deep, her narrative is expertly layered, and her interpretations of the seekers’ motives are more than convincing." — Wall Street Journal

"An entertaining history… a thoroughly researched and engaging examination of faith's role in our lives. This is Wilensky-Lanford's first book, and it bodes well for her of-this-world future." — Cleveland Plain Dealer

"Paradise Lust takes us on a fascinating journey - and one that sheds much light on the meaning of biblical literalism. I won't tell you whether or not she finds Eden, but she did find a great topic." — A.J. Jacobs, author of The Year of Living Biblically

"A gloriously researched, pluckily written historical and anecdotal assay of humankind’s age-old quixotic quest for the exact location of the Biblical garden." — Elle

"Witty and exhaustively researched” — Associated Press

"Succeeds in doing what the best one-subject historical studies do, which is to reframe history, freshening up long-familiar events… a celebration of the surprisingly peaceful co-existence of… radically different theories." -San Francisco Chronicle

"Eden’s dream fades, theories are debunked, but new ones sprout as this most original of stories remains timeless." —The New York Journal of Books

"If you want dramatic pronouncements about the latitude and longitude of the Garden of Eden, you’ll have to look elsewhere… But if you’re looking for a sly and entertaining account of the ongoing search for paradise, Paradise Lust is it." —

"[A] smart social history which covers theories both crackpot and credible.” — More Magazine

"Part adventure story, part historical narrative, Wilensky-Lanford spins the history of explorers who searched for the Garden’s precise earthly coordinates… Quick-witted and quirky… Wilensky-Lanford isn't satisfied with asking only "where," she also deftly explores "why?"… meditating not so much on the Garden, but on humanity's first steps from it.” — Publishers Weekly

"A spirited chase through history, geography and religion… Wilensky-Lanford has certainly done her homework… A lively journey." — Kirkus Reviews

"In the thought-provoking Paradise Lust, author Brook Wilensky-Lanford explores why this Biblical paradise still fascinates so many… A sly and entertaining account." —

"Scholarly and smart, yet accessible and fun with just the right amount of wit, Paradise Lust is original, impressively researched, and hard to put down."— David Farley, author of An Irreverent Curiosity

"Humorous, meticulously researched and detailed. … an all-around good read." —RagMag

"This charming exploration of the enduring place in the Western imagination held by the story of our Edenic origins is all about the searchers, not the search."—Macleans

"One of the most enduring and mysterious places in the Bible, the Garden of Eden has fascinated people around the world since ancient times. Those who believe that it is a real place are … a diverse and prominent group of personalities that Brook Wilensky-Lanford describes in her lively new book. … The desire to put Eden on the map is a timeless quest to discover our origins, all told in charming detail." —The Daily Beast, a “Daily Beast Must Read”

“A charming, century-spanning journey about the search for the Garden of Eden… This is truly a fascinating read.”—Carol Ann Strahl, Buffalo Rising

More About the Author

Brook Wilensky-Lanford grew up on Mount Desert Island, Maine, studied religion at Wesleyan University, and received her M.F.A. in Nonfiction Writing from Columbia University. Her book reviews and essays have appeared in The Boston Globe, The San Francisco Chronicle, Lapham's Quarterly; and her book, Paradise Lust, the true story of people who are looking for the Garden of Eden on earth, is now available in paperback. An editor of the online religion magazine Killing the Buddha, Brook lives in Jersey City, New Jersey. Learn more at

Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Judith Toronchuk on July 20, 2012
Format: Hardcover
In this witty narrative Wilensky-Linford details the folly of literalism. In the beginning God created the Garden of Eden perhaps somewhere in the Persian Gulf, or maybe at the North Pole, or underneath Cincinnati. We meet a variety of characters, some sincere and theologically savvy, others less so, as they search for a literal Eden. Paradise Lust explores the irrational things educated intelligent people can literally choose to believe. A wider question is why the literal geography of Genesis 1-3 is so important to so many.

Wilensky-Linford, a freelance editor and essayist, artfully ties together disciplines as diverse as history, archaeology, religion, science, politics while exploring eccentric personalities.

The book's major contribution might be to provoke thought on how a few verses from Genesis can be used to support such disparate and sometimes absurd interpretations. Some exegetists wrote solely to promote their unique theological perspective while others wanted to promote their home locality. Some were out for fame, some more clearly for fortune.

My attention was caught at the outset by William Warren, first president of Boston University, professor of theology, and Methodist minister. Published in 1895 and enduring eleven printings. Paradise Found: The Cradle of the Race at the North Pole, rested on 500 scholarly sources. Warren recognized that Eden was destroyed by the deluge, and so placed it in a desolate region inaccessible due to changing climate. His theory at least furthered the cause of science by capturing public interest in funding Arctic exploration. He was not deterred by the resulting reports indicating the Arctic was devoid of Edenic qualities.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By BLehner on August 7, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Who hasn't heard about the ventures of mankind to find the place that went down in history as Garden of Eden. Paradise Lust: Searching For The Garden Of Eden presents a comprehensive overview of theories on where this elusive place might have been and how people have been literally lusting after the answer to this question.
So where was Eden? The North Pole? Ohio? China? Or Mesopotamia after all? Brook Wilensky-Lanford goes on a modern quest which is both informative and at the same time wonderfully entertaining, a fascinating journey that is at the same time smart and full of wit, a perfect combination of being well researched and told in a conversational style that will make this book fun for every reader interested in the subject.
With a focus on both famous, and sometimes not so famous, seekers that tried to unravel the mystery of the exact position of the Garden of Eden, the reader meets William Warren and Friedrich Delitzsch, among many others, and in the end Brook also comes to her very own conclusion on where Eden might have been and her answer might be surprising.
And maybe we should also look at it from this side - paradise isn't paradise until it's lost. What would happen if we truly found it? Would we be overjoyed? Or merely disappointed?
In short: A wonderful guide book on the age old quest to find the Garden of Eden!

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the book review program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255 : "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."
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8 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Sunny Daly on August 2, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
In the beginning, Paradise Lust seems a light-hearted jaunt through a set of biographies and portraitures of men who have sought to locate the Garden of Eden (literally!) on today's map of the world. Wilesky-Lanford's cast of characters is a motley crew - and she clearly enjoys exposing the little insanities that drive each of them to the quest. But these tales, together, tell a much deeper story: the Garden of Eden, she says, "has always been located both in the original past and in the idealized future" (92). Taking Darwin's Origin of Species as her starting point, Wilensky-Lanford cleverly manages to both pit literal Christianity against evolution and allow them to co-exist: "Those who looked for Eden . . . would have to answer at least two questions: not only where was Eden, but, more important, what was Eden?" (xviii).

The nuances of the many Edens she finds are delightful and insightful and move the book from a read for idle curiosity to a self-reflective history of our origins. One Eden is the silent revolution from hunting and gathering to farming - "the moment where humans began to control their environment, instead of being controlled by it. What bigger transition could there be? All of human history depends on that first person who realized: I can do this myself . . . ." (240). Another Eden is simply a new take on an old Babylonian myth. But "if the story of the Fall wasn't original, how could it be sacred?" And of course, Eve's role in why we left the Garden of Eden is always on trial. In one history, Wilensky-Lanford discovers that God "wanted Eve to eat from the Tree of Knowledge" because the serpent - aka the welfare-state - "wanted to keep Eve . . . barefoot and pregnant, forever.
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