Best of 2017 – Atlas of Remote Islands

When I was a kid I loved to sit in our basement and read about things like breeds of dogs or cats, or the 10 wonders of the ancient world in those child encyclopedias. This year, the book Atlas of Remote Islands, by Judith Schalansky, took me back to those days.

Subheaded Fifty Islands I have Never Set Foot On and Never Will, it is a tour through time of the smallest, most minuscule places on the planet — many of them uninhabitable, although people have tried… The adventurer in me gets carried away in the stories of these places: how they were discovered, when they were settled, who died, who survived, and under what horrific conditions. Almost all of them were colonial finds, as who else would have the time and money to visit a place that serves little purpose other than staking a claim for posterity? These are desperate places, where one must bring supplies or die. Make clothing from bird feathers; sustain on turtles and shellfish, or turn cannibal, or go mad, or sail with regularity to the mainland — if there’s one close enough — to keep a settlement afloat. Remote Island

I will never see any of these islands. But my imagination starts to sprint with their tales.


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