A Fascination with Isolated Places; the Attraction of a Beautiful Void

Atlas of Remote Islands: Fifty Islands I Have Never Set Foot on and Never Will by Judith Schalansky, translated from the German by Christine Lo

What is it about an atlas that I love so much? The colors, the names I've never heard, the ability to turn the page and get to a completely different part of the world. I can get from Portland to Florence, Oregon in a heartbeat, or Florence, Italy in a few seconds. How about a remote island, maybe in the South Pacific? Yes, please.

This sweet book is not your average atlas. It has a lovely size, easy to hold at just 143 pages, and not concussion inducing if you fall asleep while reading in bed. Each island has its own two-page spread, one page devoted to a single paragraph about its history, the facing page a map of the island itself. For those interested, the text is a style called MVB Sirenne which I thought just gorgeous, and I don't often notice that sort of thing.

Again, the key word here is remote. These islands are so far from most continents that they don't usually show up in an atlas, they're too small to bother placing in those wide expanses of blue ocean, I imagine. Some I've not heard of, many I have--not that I could tell you where they are, whether they're north or south of the equator, what ocean they're in, or anything at all about them, whether they're inhabited, whether they have fresh water, if pirates have frequented their jungles, or if cannibals still live there today. But now I've read all about them, and there are islands that meet all these fabulous descriptions.

I don't get many Sundays to myself these days, but this would be the perfect book for a long, casual, Sunday, favorite beverage at your side. For those of us who awake at 3:23 a.m. on a semi-regular basis (and I know you're out there), it is the perfect book to pick up and read at that dark and mysterious hour, and I loved every single minute of reading it.

P.S.  You know, Father's Day is just around the corner, and for a dad who loves to travel, or sail, for a dad who loves atlases or oceans, for a dad who longs for a quiet place--I think he may just love this book, too.