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I am a New York-based writer, travel lover, and author of The Drive North and Destination Paranormal. I have several other books in the works, including fiction.

The Heart of the World

I was capitvated with this book the moment I saw the cover on a book stand at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. I was nearing the completion of another book, so I picked it up and threw it in my pack to read as soon as I returned to Denver. And then Ian Baker’s The Heart of the World: A Journey to Tibet’s Lost Paradise sat on my home bookshelf for a couple of years for a reason I can’t really explain. I picked it up a couple of weeks ago, at the start of my Christmas break, and was definitely pleased I made an investment so long ago.
The Heart of the World is about Buddhist scholar Ian Baker looking for the hidden lands, or beyul, in an area deep in the Himalayan Mountains. As a matter of fact, it’s so deep in the mountains that only a handful of people have ever penetrated its wilderness. Very few live there now, and even fewer have journeyed into the Tsangpo gorge and seen a hidden waterfall in an uncharted part of the canyon. This story is about Baker’s trips to the lands in southeastern Tibet and northern India, an area known as Pemako, and his search for the mystical waterfall.
In The Heart of the World, Baker recounts more than one trip to Tibet and excursion into the jungles surrounding the gorge. Each one builds on the others and leads to his goal, the search for the waterfall and Yangsang. And each one demonstrates just how difficult and forbidding this land is – it’s not often you have leaches raining down on you from above. It’s an incredible story and a very inspiring story of adventure that I fell in love with as I turned the first page.
I struggled with two things in The Heart of the World. The first was some of the Tibetan language. I found it difficult, as a Westerner, to keep track of the names, particularly since many of them I wasn’t even sure I was pronouncing correctly. I worked through it, though, and was able to keep everything together and sensible. The second was Baker’s repetitiveness of starting sentences with the word As. So many times he’d back into sentences, nearly every other paragraph it seemed, by saying “As I slept…”; “As we drove…”; “As we climbed…” It didn’t bother me at first, but it was so frequent that by the end of the book I was going bonkers over it.
I didn’t let these two minor issues keep me from loving the book. I found it to be an incredible personal story and adventure. Baker put so much of himself into The Heart of the World that it is difficult not to connect with him and relate to his story, despite it being an adventure that I could never undertake – I’d turn back at the leaches. I highly recommend this book for anyone looking to read about a fantastic journey, both physical and personal.
Note: The last journey Baker makes in The Heart of the World was also made into a film by National Geographic.

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