The Dreamt Land

Chasing Water and Dust Across California
By: Mark Arax
Narrated by: Mark Arax
Length: 25 hrs and 32 mins
Categories: History, Americas
4.8 out of 5 stars (104 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

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.

©2019 Mark Arax (P)2019 Random House Audio

Critic Reviews

"There’s a new history of water use in California that’s fantastic. It’s called The Dreamt Land. It’s like John McPhee-level writing. It’s really worth it for the writing alone." (Linda Ronstadt)

"A mesmerizing new book that examines the nation’s most populous state through the prism of its most valuable resource: water. Call author Mark Arax, an award-winning journalist, historian and native son of the Central Valley, a Steinbeck for the 21st century." (Andy Kroll, Rolling Stone)

"The Dreamt Land is Arax’s grand history of California water, beginning before Spanish arrival and following the trail of man-made decisions that exacerbate the present.... Everyone can go back to pretending the land has been tamed as the fields and orchards once again expand. The Dreamt Land leaves us with the question: When the next dry spell comes, will we have gone too far?" (Gregory Barber, Wired)

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Damn Near Perfect!

"The Dreamt Land" is almost perfect. It takes a pretty mundane topic, agriculture in California's Central Valley, and weaves fascinating story full of memorable character in language that is often poetic. It is an ode to a simpler time in California, but it recognizes that in reality those halcyon days ended with the Gold Rush. The audio version might even be better than the print version because of Arax's reading. Normally, I believe authors make a mistake when they do not turn over the reading to trained voice actors, but Arax is the exception that proves the rule. His reading actually adds to the text, because he verbally underlines the most important passages and brings out a deeper layer of meaning and emotion. Just brilliant!

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Spectacular book, beautifully written

Mark Arax does an amazing job weaving the history of the California Central Valley, its agriculture and the water that makes it possible, and the overreach and often shady dealing involved in getting that water. He illustrates the major developments with the stories of key families and places that shows their motivation and struggles in the context of their times. A fascinating history written with an often almost poetic turn of phrase that reflects his love and sadness for the Valley.

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The folly of California water management

What began as apocalyptic grew into engrossing story of the folly agribusiness in the Central Valley supported by corruption negligence and incompetence of those trusted stewards of California’s most valuable resource- water

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Get the printed book

This book is great and I believe I would had enjoyed it even more in its printed version. It has a lot of numbers and names, so I think seeing them would have helped me to remember some more of those.

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Very repetitive with reiteration of numerous details

The author described the same scenarios over and over again and cover the same ground repeatedly -eventually it became quite boring

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If you read only book on Calif water, read this!

If I were still teaching California water law, this would be the 'textbook' I'd use!

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Fascinating

Everything you never knew you should know about California's water systems delivered as a riveting drama and cautionary tale, deftly narrated by the author.