Asia takes readers on a journey of discovery, from the contested lands of the Middle East, through the distant regions of Siberia, to the island nations of the Far East. The birthplace of many of the earliest human civilizations, the continent of Asia covers more than one-third of Earth's total land area and is home to almost two-thirds of the world's people, including hundreds of distinct ethnic groups. It also has the world's highest mountain range, some of its longest rivers, and beautiful but endangered wildlife. Fast becoming one of the world's most powerful economic regions, Asia includes Japan, home of the world's second-largest economy. Although the continent has many opportunities ahead, it must also face continuing conflict in the oil-rich Middle East and the challenges of the world's poorest countries, where life for many is a daily struggle against disease and malnutrition.