“Pocket Atlas of Remote Islands” by Judith Schalansky

Judith Schalansky’s award-winning 2010 book, Atlas of Remote Islands: Fifty Islands I Have Never Set Foot On and Never Will, has been described as an “imaginative atlas of the world’s loneliest places […] that will delight maplovers everywhere,” and that’s really the best way to put it, I think.

In it, Schalansky tells the compelling stories of fifty of the most remote islands on earth, complete with cartographic drawings, histories, and local lore. Reading this book is like taking a brief, fantastic trip around the world from the comfort of your home.

Here’s an excerpt from the preface (lovingly titled, “Paradise is an island. So is hell.”):

There is no untouched garden of Eden lying at the edges of this never-ending globe. Instead, human beings travelling far and wide have turned into the very monsters they chased off the maps.

It is, however, the most terrible events that have the greatest potential to tell a story, and islands make the perfect setting for htem. The absurdity of reality is lost on the large land masses, but here on the islands, it is writ large. An island offers a stage: everything that happens on it is practically forced to turn into a story, into a chamber piece in the middle of nowhere, into the stuff of literature. What is unique about these tales is that fact and fiction can no longer be separated: fact is fictionalized, and fiction is turned to fact.

The pocket edition — published a couple years after the original — takes the first book’s 7.5″ x 10.5″ x 0.6″ dimensions and brings them down to a more portable 4.5″ x 6.7″ x 0.8″. Keep it with you to peruse whenever you like, or gift it to an imaginative kid.

Whatever you choose to do with it, you can get the pocket edition on Amazon for $12.