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The Half Known Life


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One of our most perceptive travel writers embarks on an exploration of the world's holiest places and where we might find paradise on Earth.

About the Author

Pico Iyer is the author of fifteen books, translated into twenty-three languages. He has been a contributor for more than thirty years to the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Time and Harper’s Magazine, and has written for many more publications worldwide, including the New York Review of Books, Granta and the Financial Times. His four recent talks for TED have received more than ten million views. www.picoiyerjourneys.com


A luminous and absorbing book, and one that is good to think with
*Financial Times*

Nothing less than a guided tour of the human soul. Filled with hope, wisdom, and extraordinary tenderness, this is a book not only for the ages, but for our very specific, very troubled age. A masterpiece.
*Elizabeth Gilbert*

In elegant and ecstatic prose, Pico Iyer uncovers our wonderful capacity for hope, wearing his erudition so lightly. I was revitalised by this book
*Katherine May*

Iyer shares Graham Greene’s gift for the enthralling sentence, and can be a charming and perceptive companion . . . He reminds us that the key to good travel writing lies in the discrepancy between what you expect of a country and what you get. And at an even more primal level, he makes you want to go to the countries themselves

To step into The Half Known Life feels both a privilege and a necessity . . . Iyer is more than a guide or a compatriot in an unfamiliar land: in the inward journey to lucidity he is a companion of our own searching minds
*Yiyun Li*

I defy anyone to read this profound travelogue and not immediately start reading it again. If there is a "paradise of words", this is it
*John Keay*

A wise, immaculately written achievement that could only be contemplated after a lifetime of travel and reading and pondering. Reading The Half Known Life is to yield to the most invigorating and thought-provoking meditation.
*Nicholas Shakespeare*

Thoughtful . . . Iyer comes across as that finest of all personality types, the pragmatic idealist ... There’s a lovely patience in evidence here; he is calm, reasonable and curious
*Irish Independent*

Iyer has done the impossible with this book . . . This is a singular offering of magnetic story, deep thinking, truth telling and spiritual refreshment for our tumultuous young century
*Krista Tippett*

I really really enjoyed the book
*Frank Cottrell Boyce*

Even as Iyer takes you around the world, he remains a most faithful companion to the spirit of that ultimate journey into uncharted territories—our inner selves . . . The Half Known Life is a vigorous quest for the paradise within
*Los Angeles Review of Books*

Iyer's chronicle, which begins with an appreciation of the sophistication, beauty and culture of Iran, becomes a requiem for a world — and an existence — estranged from itself . . . His book has the ring of a classic Buddhist meditation strategy
*New York Times*

Thought-provoking . . . Iyer has an acutely observant eye for the telling detail and a delicious turn of phrase
*Country and Town House Magazine*

Reading Mr Iyer’s book in the depth of winter, in a troubled world, it’s heartening to think that paradise—or at least a glimpse of it—might be available from where we sit
*Wall Street Journal*

A masterful merging of Iyer’s past and current concerns, a book of inner journeys told through extraordinary exteriors
*Washington Post*

Iyer’s prose is elegant and never hurried as it roams like a travelling mind . . . He comes to his destinations with years of learned erudition and yet seemingly without expectations . . . It may be Iyer’s unique positioning that makes The Half Known Life so much of this moment, in a world reeling from a devastating pandemic as well as lasting divisons
*Japan Times*

Humming with wisdom and a profound appreciation of nature’s inherent contradictions, Pico Iyer’s meditation on paradise—where it is, what it means, if it can be found on Earth—is much more than a diary of his country-spanning travels. It’s a work of philosophy, probing the scientific and the spiritual to understand why the most beautiful places often become such sources of pain, and how paradise might be re-discovered
*Elle US*

Iyer’s smooth, intelligent yet elegant prose style makes this an enjoyable and often thought-provoking read
*New York Journal of Books*

Everywhere Pico Iyer travels his keen vision allows him to see both ravishing beauty and profound flaws
*Shelf Awareness*

From one of the most perceptive writers of our times, this one brings forth a lifetime of explorations to upend our ideas of utopia and ask how we might find peace in the midst of difficulty and suffering. Could there be anything better to pick at the start of the year?
*Harper’s Bazaar India*

Iyer flexes his remarkable skill of reading between the lines of passing conversations to extract profound meaning and draw connections between disparate places across the world . . . He does provide hours of thought-provoking meditations on what it means to speak of paradise
*New York Times*

Mesmering . . . riveting . . . revelatory . . . Iyer poetically depicts the otherworldly beauty of these places while trenchantly examining the paradox of utopia

Iyer is the loveliest of writers, a person whose prose is in harmony with the man himself: sharp-minded, witty, benevolent, wise, and never for a second ponderous or spiritually meretricious. To read Iyer, initially, is to entertain ourselves, and then, well, the rest is up to you
*Air Mail*

Iyer travels the globe—from Iran to Kashmir to Japan to Northern Ireland—to demystify how different communities perceive eternal happiness, and how their quest to achieve it manifests in the face of political, social, and environmental instability. The result is a lyrical, if paradoxical, meditation on a fervent pursuit for happiness that often feels out of reach
*TIME, The 100 Must-Read Books of 2023*

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