NATIONAL BESTSELLER * NAMED A BEST BOOK OF 2023 BY THE NEW YORK TIMES, NPR, TIME MAGAZINE & MORE
“Masterful . . . A book of inner journeys told through extraordinary exteriors . . . One of his very best.” —Washington Post
“Dazzling.” —Time Magazine, Best Books of 2023
From “one of the most soulful and perceptive writers of our time” (Brain Pickings): a journey through competing ideas of paradise to see how we can live more peacefully in an ever more divided and distracted world.
Paradise: that elusive place where the anxieties, struggles, and burdens of life fall away. Most of us dream of it, but each of us has very different ideas about where it is to be found. For some it can be enjoyed only after death; for others, it’s in our midst—or just across the ocean—if only we can find eyes to see it.
Traveling from Iran to North Korea, from the Dalai Lama’s Himalayas to the ghostly temples of Japan, Pico Iyer brings together a lifetime of explorations to upend our ideas of utopia and ask how we might find peace in the midst of difficulty and suffering. Does religion lead us back to Eden or only into constant contention? Why do so many seeming paradises turn into warzones? And does paradise exist only in the afterworld – or can it be found in the here and now?
For almost fifty years Iyer has been roaming the world, mixing a global soul’s delight in observing cultures with a pilgrim’s readiness to be transformed. In this culminating work, he brings together the outer world and the inner to offer us a surprising, original, often beautiful exploration of how we might come upon paradise in the midst of our very real lives.
About the Author
Pico Iyer is the acclaimed and bestselling author of more than a dozen books, translated into twenty-three languages. His journalism has appeared in Time, The New York Times, The New York Review of Books, the Financial Times, and more than 250 other periodicals worldwide. His TED talks have been viewed over eleven million times. He divides his time between Japan and a Benedictine hermitage in California.
Praise for The Half Known Life:
“Pico 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.” —New York Times bestselling author Krista Tippett
“In elegant and ecstatic prose, Pico Iyer uncovers our wonderful capacity for hope, wearing his erudition so lightly. I was revitalized by this book.” —New York Times bestselling author Katherine May
“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.” —PEN Award winner Yiyun Li
“In this brilliantly told Buddhist parable, Pico Iyer takes the reader from London to Santa Barbara, Jerusalem to Sri Lanka, Japan's Bridge of Heaven to Varanasi, exploring the insatiable human longing for Paradise while acutely observing—with irony, wit, and empathy—the paradoxes inherent in actual experience.” —New York Times bestselling author Dr. Elaine Pagels
“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.” —New York Times bestselling author Elizabeth Gilbert
“This book combines the wisdom of a lifelong traveler with the insights of a dazzling range of spiritual traditions, sparking our enthusiasm for more adventures: both around the world and inside the soul.” —Pulitzer Prize winner Benjamin Moser
“One of his very best… A work of spiritual evolution built around vivid, discernible images of real places by a master of description… A masterful merging of Iyer’s past and current concerns, a book of inner journeys told through extraordinary exteriors.” —Washington Post
“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
“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
“Mesmerizing… In Iyer's riveting anecdotes, a sudden intimacy with death brings one closer to glimpses of paradise.” – NPR “In Iyer’s hands, the search for paradise, the way out of the ego, doubles as an internal journey… This elliptical odyssey, graced with occasional notes of light, finds itself by dwelling in the shadows… His book has the soft ring of a classic Buddhist meditation strategy: In order to understand the emptiness of the ego, one must first find the self as it appears.” –New York Times Book Review
“Everywhere Pico Iyer travels his keen vision allows him to see both ravishing beauty and profound flaws… His wide-ranging quest is a useful reminder that the journey often is more absorbing than any destination… Pico Iyer elegantly recounts some of his exotic travels and reflects on the search for an elusive land of bliss.” —Shelf Awareness