A land of enormous proportions, countless secrets, and incredible history, Central Asia was the heart of the great Mongol empire of Tamerlane and scene of Stalin's cruelest deportations. A remote and fascinating region in a constant state of transition—never more so than since the collapse of the Soviet Union—it encompasses terrain as diverse as the Kazakh steppes, the Karakum desert, and the Pamir mountains. In The Lost Heart of Asia, acclaimed, bestselling travel writer Colin Thubron carries readers on an extraordinary journey through this little understood, rarely visited, yet increasingly important corner of the world.
Central Asia was mostly off limits to foreigners during the Soviet years, and while officials are still uncertain about how to deal with a backpack-wearing solo traveler, the locals Thubron meets are not. Thubron finds the heart of Asia in the hearts of its people, swimming in a sea of tea, vodka, and hospitality. From the oldest-known Quran to a deserted Soviet naval base on the shores of a high mountain lake 1,500 miles from the ocean (used to test torpedoes far from spying eyes), Thubron's writing echoes the melancholy emptiness of the wide spaces he passes through. The Lost Heart of Asia is a rare meeting of a marvelous writer and a mysterious land. --Ken Peavler