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Soul of Nowhere Paperback – October 14, 2003

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Soul of Nowhere + The Secret Knowledge of Water : Discovering the Essence of the American Desert + The Animal Dialogues: Uncommon Encounters in the Wild
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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

From the labyrinthine slot canyons of Utah to the deserted island beaches in the Sea of Cortes, the arid lands of the Southwest speak to the acclaimed naturalist Childs. Possessing an extraordinary sense of harmony with these forbidding landscapes, Childs translates their primal voices into a taut and unsentimental narrative of exploration. Step by arduous step, readers follow Childs into the desert's severe mysteries, penetrating deep into regions once home to the cliff dwellers of Salado pre-history and the giants of Seri legend. His intrepid fellow adventurers--a maverick mathematician, a traumatized social worker, a pagan mechanic--mirror Craig's own fierce ardor for stark beauty and fearful silence. Like the ancient ones who inscribed the cliffs with enigmatic spirals, these modern invaders of the dry wilderness probe insatiably into its hidden secrets, fighting their way up sheer cliffs, enduring the unexpected snowstorm, crawling through treacherous mazes. But ultimately all merely human strivings yield to the stark monoliths, the startling waterfalls, and the bleak crevices of a timeless land that embraces and then overshadows all who fall under its spell. Bryce Christensen
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Review

Superb...meriting shelf space alongside the best of Edward Abbey, Mary Austin, and Frank Waters. -- Kirkus Reviews, July 1, 2002 --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Back Bay Books (October 14, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316735884
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316735889
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #703,325 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

44 of 49 people found the following review helpful By desert woman on February 3, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Craig Childs' writng is lyrical, personal, dramatic. He lives a life I wish I'd known I wanted to live when I was able to do so. Every one of his books is in my library. Last year I gave at least a half-dozen copies of 'The Secret Knowledge of Water' to friends and family. I look forward with keen anticipation to vicariously participating in his next set of adventures.

So what happened this time? Craig finds and reveals to his readers what it is that he searches for out there in the desert wilderness. Maybe I didn't like so much introspection. I know more about his friends and their private lives than I want to know. And (I don't want to sound prudish...everything has its place) I really don't want to know the color of his wife Regan Choi's various body parts.
That said, I must also say that I think it would be impossible to read anything by this author that does not inspire and impress. He is a gifted, very gifted, writer. And he is a crazy-man explorer of the wild places that are left in this world.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on February 14, 2003
Format: Hardcover
I heard about this book on NPR and living in the area decided to read it. I have read several books about this area and the desert, in general and this is one of the best. Up there with Edward Abbey's books, but nowhere near as acidic. I have not yet read Child's other books, but he gives a great insight into the vastness of this area, both phyiscally and mentally. From someone who came to this area from back east, I recommend this book to anyone who would wonder why people would want to come to this area to live and work.
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful By P. Bergh on April 7, 2003
Format: Hardcover
I read a lot of outdoor books, and I have to say this is one of the best that I have read in ages. Craig Childs lives, breaths, eats "wild." He writes with a clarity that makes me feel like I am alongside him -- and with a passion that is contagious. I am already planning a trip to visit some of the places he writes about. In the meantime, I'll nurse my desires by trying some of his other books.
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22 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Kurt Harding VINE VOICE on August 6, 2004
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I have a long-standing interest in the desert, having lived there for years and having done some explorations of my own. But never did I dream of taking the kind of trips Craig Childs recounts in his books. After reading The Secret Knowledge of Water, I eagerly dove into Soul of Nowhere expecting more spellbinding tales of survival on the margins of life.
When I finished, I felt a little disappointed. Yes, there are some harrowing tales but there is also a little too much new-age prose and speculation for my taste. And I agree with the reviewer who complained of too much personal information.
Still, Soul of Nowhere is overall an enjoyable read. My favorite chapters are Passage, Labrynth, and Island. It is in these three chapters that Childs' storytelling comes alive. Emotion leaps off the page, the reader feels at one with the narrator as he traverses this wild and dangerous country. Since I have hiked in some of this same country, albeit on marked trails, I could very nearly feel the trembling fear Childs felt when he lost momentum climbing the sandstone arch or when the rock crumbled beneath his boots as he decended the old Anasazi passage into the Grand Canyon, or when he found himself nearly lost in a thicket of cactus in the searing mid-day heat as his every avenue of escape seemed blocked.
Childs has a definite talent for painting a life-like picture with his words, but he also has a talent for obscuring that picture with a lot of pseudo-intellectual mumbo-jumbo that gives the reader the impression that he is just trying too hard to write a "serious" book.
Despite those drawbacks, Childs' otherworldly escapades are like a magnet to the adventurous spirit. I look forward to reading more of his work because he sure does seem to have an interesting lifestyle.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By call me The Avi on August 14, 2007
Format: Paperback
Like other reviewers, my first exposure to Craig Childs was through his book The Secret Knowledge of Water, which is excellent. Soul of Nowhere doesn't move me as much as Secret Knowledge, but it's still a great read.

The first book focused on his adventures looking for water sources in deserts of the southwest. In this book, the focus is more on finding archaeological relics in the deep desert. In some cases it's ruins, in others jars or petroglyphs. One can sense his desire to find evidence of and connect with long vanished people of the desert.

I thought the inclusion of the other people was interesting. It places Childs in a social context - we encounter others who share his passion, and they're memorable characters. Other reviewers have said that Childs shares way too much here - it may not be to their taste, but it's not necessarily a bad thing. In any event, he shares some fascinating stories with us. I will definitely be reading more of his books.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Annabelle Reeve on July 9, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I loved this book not so much because of the difficulties and delights Childs experienced in the wild but because of the journey of his spirit as he bonded with the wild places. I've read many books of true adventure written by people who were brave and sensitive and articulate, but this book goes far beyond anything I've come across. It speaks to my soul, so evocative, so intense that I feel I have journeyed with him. It's almost frightening to be drawn so far into the mind of another human being I don't even know. He is undoubtedly brave as a lion in his explorations, but his true bravery is revealed in the opening and dissection of his own soul. His eloquent words describe the feelings I could not articulate for myself in my travels in the southwest deserts. Now I know why I went back to them time after time.
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