Book Review #3: The Sheltering Desert by Henno Martin

Some books invite themselves into our lives when we need them most. That’s why I’m never completely loyal to my to-read lists. Whenever I make a list, another book grabs my attention, and all other books are forgotten. That’s how Henno Martin’s The Sheltering Desert stole the spotlight from a dozen 2022 books when it first found its way onto my bookshelf. Deserts have a colossal place in my heart, and books depicting life in the desert will always be a part of my library and blog. My first book review post was about the Sahara Desert, after all. 

Photo by Joe McDaniel on Unsplash

I am not the only person infatuated with these desolate landscapes. Alain de Botton explains that the “sublime” applies to places like deserts because they threaten us and make us feel small; in fact, he says, “I set out for the desert as to be made to feel small” in The Art of Travel. Yet, as frightening as they may be, deserts also provide a place of refuge: that’s what Henno Martin and his friend Hermann Korn sought in the 1940s. 

What is the book about?

In 1935, Henno Martin left Germany with his friend and colleague Hermann Korn to do a geographical examination in Namibia, which was a German colony back then. When WW2 broke out, they decided not to be a part of it and escaped into the Namib Desert, where they resided for two and half years. This book depicts their ineffable hardships as two refugees with a dog in the desert. 

Why do I like it?

I have always wondered how humans can survive under the harshest circumstances. Martin and Korn morally rejected an atrocious war and stood against the government in a world where people were brainwashed into thinking wars could be justified. They chose the hardships the Namib Desert brought upon them over cruelty and injustice. 

The book has profound episodes where they discuss politics, life, and philosophy under the starry night sky with their dog Otto accompanying them. The Sheltering Desert is not only a memoir but also a saga about the human mind, which can prevail even in the most brutal conditions. 

What question does it raise for me?

“Joy in its simplest form probably means that man or animal is in full harmony with his or its surroundings,” says Henno to Hermann when they talk about feelings and what underpins them. What could possibly compel two human beings with jarring life experiences to philosophize while hungry and on their own? And, if they could still feel joy, what is it that people who “have it all” chase all their lives?

The Sheltering Desert was written in times I would never wish to be a part of, but I would love to be a part of the world they built together in the Namib Desert — timeless, primitive, and yet still somewhere that I could live as my natural self. 

You can read my other reviews here

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Comments (



  1. Mike and Kellye Hefner

    This sounds like an interesting book, Bama. Thanks for the review!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Bahanur

      Thank you 🙏 Nice to see you here 😊

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Shahbaz Ashraf

    The selection of this book for review shows your fascination with deserts. Your review is quite intriguing and has piqued my interest to read the book. You have thoughtfully reflected on the themes and ideas presented in the book. Your passion for the topics and desert adds depth to your review.
    Keep reviewing more books, Bahanur.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Bahanur

      Thank you, Shahbaz, for your lovely comment and support, as usual 😊 Yes! Deserts, as well as lonely beaches, fascinate me because their vastness makes everything else so trivial in life.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Shahbaz Ashraf

        My pleasure!

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Pooja G

    Sounds like an interesting read. I learnt about Namibia when it was under the Germans and so I find the basis of the book very intriguing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Bahanur

      I think you would like it if you are into memoirs of people who lived in that era. They have exciting discussions and revelations about life, all trying to survive in one of the most hostile environments.

      Liked by 1 person

Create a website or blog at

%d bloggers like this: