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Publisher Description

A vivid, searching journey into California's capture of water and soil—the epic story of a people's defiance of nature and the wonders, and ruin, it has wrought

Mark Arax is from a family of Central Valley farmers, a writer with deep ties to the land who has watched the battles over water intensify even as California lurches from drought to flood and back again. In The Dreamt Land, he travels the state to explore the one-of-a-kind distribution system, built in the 1940s, '50s and '60s, that is straining to keep up with California's relentless growth.

The Dreamt Land weaves reportage, history and memoir to confront the "Golden State" myth in riveting fashion. No other chronicler of the West has so deeply delved into the empires of agriculture that drink so much of the water. The nation's biggest farmers—the nut king, grape king and citrus queen—tell their story here for the first time.

Arax, the native son, is persistent and tough as he treks from desert to delta, mountain to valley. What he finds is hard earned, awe-inspiring, tragic and revelatory. In the end, his compassion for the land becomes an elegy to the dream that created California and now threatens to undo it.

Science & Nature
May 21
Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Penguin Random House LLC

Customer Reviews

SDWill ,

Without Water

Reading “The Dreamt Land” is nothing short of a phenomenal experience. I learned more relevant California history in this one book than in all my years of education combined. The narrative is personal and accessible. In contrast to the subject, this reading is anything but dry. It shares a lot in common with the best detective novels where you can’t wait to see what’s uncovered next. This book should be required reading for everyone currently living within California’s borders as well as anyone relocating here. And while the reader (and occasionally the author) inevitably find much that is deeply disturbing throughout the narrative, I also found optimism in finally being able to grasp the magnitude of the challenge before US. Our changing climate continuously requires each of us to reconsider our living choices and, to do so, we must be well informed if those choices are to bring about positive results. I will be thinking about “The Dreamt Land” every time I fill a glass of water, flush a toilet, water my garden, etc.. Life as we know it does not exist without water, maybe it’s time we acknowledged that fact and behaved accordingly.

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