Deserts: A Very Short Introduction

Overview

Deserts make up a third of the planet's land surface, but if you picture a desert, what comes to mind? A sandy wasteland? A drought-parched dust bowl? An alien landscape devoid of all life forms? In this marvelous Very Short Introduction, geographer and popular science writer Nick Middleton reveals that deserts are places of immense natural charm and rich biodiversity. Typified by drought and extremes of temperature, they can be harsh and hostile, but Middleton shows that many deserts are also spectacularly ...

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Deserts: A Very Short Introduction

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Overview

Deserts make up a third of the planet's land surface, but if you picture a desert, what comes to mind? A sandy wasteland? A drought-parched dust bowl? An alien landscape devoid of all life forms? In this marvelous Very Short Introduction, geographer and popular science writer Nick Middleton reveals that deserts are places of immense natural charm and rich biodiversity. Typified by drought and extremes of temperature, they can be harsh and hostile, but Middleton shows that many deserts are also spectacularly beautiful, and on occasion they can teem with life. The author highlights how each desert is unique, describing their frequently fantastic life forms, extraordinary scenery, and long history of ingenious human habitation. Written by a respected scientist who enjoys a wide following for his Going to Extremes television series on National Geographic, Deserts tells you everything you ever wanted to know about these extraordinary places and captures their importance in the working of our planet.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780199564309
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 12/20/2009
  • Series: Very Short Introductions Series
  • Pages: 144
  • Sales rank: 430,779
  • Product dimensions: 4.30 (w) x 6.80 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Nick Middleton teaches at Oxford University where he is a Fellow of St Anne's College. In addition to many scientific publications, he has written such popular books as The Last Disco in Outer Mongolia and Ice Tea and Elvis: A Saunter through the Southern States. In 2002, he won the Royal Geographical Society's Ness Award in recognition of widening the public enthusiasm for geography through his travel writing.

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted October 22, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Not as dry as you may think

    The first thing that comes to one's mind when thinking about deserts are the vast expenses of sandy dunes, with an occasional palm-tree oasis and a few hardy souls on camel backs traversing them. This romantic image has more than a grain of truth to it, but deserts are in fact very diverse geographical areas. This very short introduction aims to explore deserts and explain what makes them so unique and fascinating. Despite what one may think, deserts as geographical locations are not that easy to define. The prime characteristic of all the deserts is their incredible dryness, so aridity is used as the primary criterion for distinguishing deserts from other areas. Even so, it turns out that there is much more of continuity between deserts and non-deserts than one may think. However, the dryness criterion does distinguish the two of the World's most prominent deserts - the Sahara Desert and the Arabian Desert.

    The book's more interesting chapters deal with life and human presence in deserts. Deserts may not be the liveliest of places, but many life forms have managed to evolve strategies of survival suited for this extreme environment. Even more fascinating is the fact that humans have for millennia not only survived but actually thrived in deserts. According to this book, about one billion people live in deserts today. Another fascinating topic covered in this book (albeit very briefly) is the fact that three of the World's major religion - Judaism, Christianity and Islam - have their origins in deserts. There is probably a lot more that can be said about this fact, but it's probably better left for a stand-alone treatment.

    On the surface of it deserts may not be the most fascinating geographical location, and writing about them is not bound to elicit a lot of excitement, but they are unique places and this book does a very good job of introducing them to the general readership.

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