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Into Thick Air

Biking to the Bellybutton of Six Continents

List Price: $16.95

April 8, 2008 | Paperback | 6 x 9, 336 Pages | ISBN 9781578051410
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"I've followed Jim's reports of all of his hilarious and amazing jouneys, and I am happy to claim him as one of my favorite writers." —Barbara Kingsolver, author of The Poisonwood Bible

If you’re looking for high-altitude tales of frostbit bravery and perilous icefalls, keep looking. This is the story of what happens when a man goes down instead of up.

With plenty of sunscreen and a cold beer swaddled in his sleeping bag, writer and desert botanist Jim Malusa embarked on a series of “anti-expeditions” to “anti-summits,” bicycling alone to the lowest points on six continents. (A devoted desert man with a horror of snow and ice, he was happy to discover that Antarctica has no exposed terrain below sea level.)

His first trip took him to Lake Eyre in the arid heart of Australia. Next he followed Moses’ route from the valley of the Nile to the Jordanian shore of the Dead Sea, and then raced against winter through Russian farmlands, from Moscow to the Caspian Sea. He polished off the “pits” by pedaling across the Andes to Salina Grande in Argentine Patagonia, around tiny Djibouti in the Horn of Africa to Lac Assal, and, finally, through the southwestern United States to Death Valley.

With a scientist’s eye, Malusa considers the lives of thorny devils and jumping cactus. As a lone man, he is overfed by grandmothers, courted by ladies of the night at the Hotel Volgograd, invited into a mosque by Africa’s most feared tribe, served up Chilean barnacles and road-kill kangaroo, serenaded by toads and dingoes, pursued by sandstorms and hurricanes—yet Malusa keeps riding. His reward: the deep silence of the world’s great depressions.

A lyrical, large-hearted narrative of what happens when a friendly, perceptive American puts himself at the mercy of strange landscapes and their inhabitants, Into Thick Air is a reading experience of pure pleasure from one of the most talented and warmly funny new voices to come along in years.

JIM MALUSA has reported on many assignments for The Discovery Channel, including travels to Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines, the Atacama Desert in Chile, caves in Alaska, and Three Gorges Dam in China. He has also written for numerous magazines and newspapers, including Natural History, the Las Vegas Sun, and the Arizona Daily Star. With a Ph.D. in Biology from the University of Arizona, he conducts fieldwork on desert plants for the university and the National Park Service, when he is not traveling the world or writing about his adventures.


“I’ve followed Jim’s reports of all of his hilarious and amazing jouneys, and I am happy to claim him as one of my favorite writers.” —Barbara Kingsolver, author of The Poisonwood Bible

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