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Islandia

4.33  ·  Rating details ·  468 Ratings  ·  97 Reviews
On his death, Austin Tappan Wright left the world a wholly unsuspected legacy. Among this distinguished legal scholar's papers were thousands of pages devoted to a staggering feat of literary creation - a detailed history of an imagined country complete with geography, genealogy, representations from its literature, language and culture. In a monumental labor of love Wrigh ...more
Paperback, 944 pages
Published May 1st 1971 by Berkley Books (first published January 1st 1942)
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Terry
Jan 16, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: People who want to immerse themselves in a new world
Recommended to Terry by: Richard Derus
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Richard Derus
Jan 16, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Well-loved books from my past

Rating: 5 very nostalgic stars out of five

The Book Report: John Lang, Harvard '10, meets Dorn...that's all, just Dorn, a red-skinned Islandian noble, during their college years. Lang likes the quiet, self-possessed man, and Dorn likes Lang's accepting nature. Friendship blossoms, Dorn spends holidays with Lang at his tart spinster aunt's farm doing hard labor and teaching Lang Islandian.

Graduation comes, Dorn goes, and Lang has no real idea what the hell to do with h
...more
Terry
I'm not sure if there's much I can add to my original spoilerific review of Austin Tappan Wright's _Islandia_, but I can confirm on a re-read that this behemoth is well worth the effort. This is one of those books that really is an experience. It manages to be incredibly immersive due to the detailed world building done by the author, along with his ability to paint a vivid picture of his imagined country through beautiful prose. Despite this the story and experiences of our protagonist, John La ...more
Terry
This is my third reading of this rather large tome in four years and I can honestly say that it is still one of my all-time favourites. Despite its high page count that more than earns it the designation ‘kitten-squisher’ I don’t find this book to be a slog at all and always find myself fully immersed in the vibrant world that Wright created. It’s one of those books that I find myself eagerly looking forward to opening again when I’ve had to set it down in order to attend to some of the more mun ...more
Otis Chandler
Feb 06, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Otis by: Tim
Shelves: fantasy, utopian
An epic book - loved it, and wish I had found it before now. It does start a bit slow, but then really picks up. It's the story of a young man in 1905ish who graduates from Harvard and then is sent by his rich uncle to be the consul to the made up country of Islandia, which is closed to trade with the outside world.

Islandia is described so clearly you could almost believe it wasn't a made up country. You can feel it's beauty, it's pureness, and it's culure, coming through the pages.

Many of us we
...more
Arwen
Aug 21, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone
Shelves: comfortbooks
It's a slow book, Islandia, but it is such a fiercely imagined world, with so many insights into human nature, that you feel like you're learning secrets about life as you read. My dad bugged me to read it for years, and I finally did on a rickety train crossing mountains in Corsica, which looked not terribly different from my picture of Islandia.

It's a utopian novel written for private use in the early part of the last century. After the author died, his daughter pared it down from the thousan
...more
Tim
Dec 29, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone
Shelves: favorite
I read this book when I was in high school, and have read it again many times since. It has entranced me each time.

It was written in the 30's by Austin Tappan Wright, a Boston lawyer, purely for his own entertainment. After his untimely death, it was turned into a publishable novel by his daughter, and became a bestseller in the mid-40s.

It describes the adventures of John Lang, who befriended a foreigner from a strange land while an undergraduate at Harvard, and later became the American consul
...more
Linda Robinson
Jun 10, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Austin Tappan Wright was killed in a car crash in 1931 at 47 years old. He was a Harvard and Oxford educated lawyer, professor. Subjects he taught (from wikipedia): Agency, Common Law Procedure, Partnership, Corporations, Damages, Persons, Admiralty, Mortgages, Municipal Corporation, Military Law, and in Torts - Corporation Law and Admiralty. He worked as assistant counsel to the U.S. Shipping Board. They're all in Islandia. Wright produced a complete geology of Islandia (including some maps inc ...more
the gift
do not know if this is a book to rate, as it is very unique, very different, very much written as a private fantasy/pleasure. it makes me question not only the aspects of my home society- as any good utopia or anti-utopia does- but also the ingrained expectations i have of what a novel is. this is not a novel but a romance, and though it does offer recognizable plots, this is never the most important concern of author, and should not be that of the reader...

it is long. it takes a while to enter
...more
Lori
Nov 01, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
How I long for Islandia! Beautifully written, and so well created I almost think this must be real. This book will stay with me for the rest of my life.
Randy
Nov 26, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Maybe I’m the only one who didn’t know about Islandia. Both my brothers, for example, have read it. But that was back in their hippie days when I’m certain that the Islandian agrarian ways, the idealized simple life, the personal, nearly libertarian freedom of the Islandian concept had great appeal to people living in teepees and growing organic gardens. The blurb I read referred to the book as the “best utopian novel ever written.” I’m not sure I consider Islandia a utopia but it is a fascinati ...more
Terry Cornell
Aug 09, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
I picked up a tattered paperback copy of Islandia years ago at a secondhand bookstore. I don’t remember why I purchased it, not knowing anything about it. Perhaps it was the title, seeming to promise adventures in some far-off exotic locale. Nevertheless, a month ago, it beckoned to me from its dusty niche on the bookshelf.

At first, the 900+ yellowed pages of small print intimidated me. It started a bit slow but captured my interest within the first 100 pages. Austin Tappan Wright’s amazing work
...more
Alan Freed
Feb 18, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Islandia is a book I discovered during my hippie days and remains one of most influential works affecting my life and my ambivalent feelings about humanity's obsessive and arguably unthoughtful and largely uncontrolled embrace and development of an overly complex and technologically dependent world. I am getting ready to reread it again to see if it still affects me in such profound and unsettling ways.

Austin Tappan Wright perceived the inherent downsides of such an obsession by the "developed"
...more
Vanessa Read
Sep 14, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
For anyone who has grave concerns about industrial enterprise and the impact this has on the human psyche and the way this interacts with nature and the natural environment this book will be truly inspirational. The conclusion reveals that there is no real happy ending to any of the questions and problems that arise from human interaction with the environment and, like Tolkien's narratives, compromise is sometimes necessary and invariably enforced.

Islandia is a Utopian fantasy, but contains the
...more
William Nielsen
Mar 06, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: science-fiction
While cleaning out bookshelves, i.e. "weeding the collection," i came across this book. I had read this for the first time many years ago at at time when I had recently read the Lord of the Rings trilogy. At some point I reread the book, but could remember nothing definite except for having a certain fondness. So I reread again despite the fact that at almost a 1000 yellowing, thin pages with small print was not something I really wanted to do. But I couldn't weed it without finding what it was ...more
Lawrence Blair
Jun 20, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A masterpiece, plain and simple -- but it's not for everyone. This is a sedate, thoughtful novel of radical ideas and subtle characterization delivered in the stately prose that writers still used as the nineteenth century turned to the twentieth. If it is occasionally tarnished by sensibilities of the time, we should overlook that in favor of the considered utopian perspective Wright espouses. He looks at our own world from the outside; it is an exploration of culture shock. I first read this b ...more
Mary
Jan 27, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I first read Islandia in 1972, during the the Vietnam war, and I have re-read it at least 10 times. It is one of my favorite books of all time. I would like it to be on the required reading list for all high school students. For that matter, I would like it to be required reading for everyone in the Congress and the White House. I think Austin Tappan Wright was a genius, and I would love to own a first edition of this book. I highly recommend it, especially at this time of America's involvement ...more
Carol
Jul 24, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of my top ten all-time favorite books. I was transported to another world and I don't think I've ever really left it. Suggested to me by a salesman in a small bookstore near my college dorm...years and years ago. I don't know that salesman's name but I will always be grateful for his suggestions.
Michael Battaglia
Ever fall so in love with a place that you couldn't stop writing about it, obsessively cataloging every tiny detail and studying every aspect of it until you're left with a giant brick of a manuscript that could successfully anchor a ship at harbor? People might say that you're a little quirky, frankly. Now imagine you made that place up entirely, and your name isn't Tolkien. Now people would say you're a quirky writer with a lot of free time.

But it's actually not quite that simple. Austin Tappa
...more
Joe Ward
Jun 22, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Islandia

As a young man, recently married, an older friend recommended that I read Magister Ludi by Hermann Hesse along with Islandia by Austin Tappan Wright. I asked him which book was most "fun" to read and he said that Islandia is the most fun, so I read it first. That was nearly 40 years ago. I reread Islandia less than a decade later and have just recently reread it for a third time. I won’t take the trouble to write a synopsis of Islandia and thereby turn this review into a spoiler but wil
...more
Dr. Andrew Higgins
I finally finished this massive novel that is the epitome of world-building in fiction There is not much fantasy in it but there is a good cracking story about the discovery and exploration of a new continent Now I need to get to work on the paper i am working on about exploring how Tappan-Wright and other authors (including Tolkien) used paratextual elements to world-build. Have some time to read this and continue to press on when it starts to lag in narrative over description - a tremendous wo ...more
François Carrière
Sep 05, 2017 rated it did not like it
I am glad that this is over with. Rarely can I say that skipping whole chapters does not affect you enjoyment of a book but in this case it is true. There are whole chapters where nothing happens.
I have read "The Fountainhead", "Atlas Shrugged" and "Battlefield Earth" all are long but stuff happens.

To top it all off the editor cut down the original to this length I am sure there was still a lot of fat to cut.
Bart Hoag
Aug 28, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: gave-up
Kind of intriguing, I love a book that creates a new world, society, but this one was too much for me, I should have read it when I was 16 or so. Gave it a fair chance and don't want to discourage anyone from giving it a go...
Steve
Dec 23, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: ANYONE and everyone
When I was loaned a copy of Islandia to read, by one of the most beautiful women I've ever known, I was cautioned, "Nothing really much happens in the first 400 pages, but stay with it. It's worth it." No truer words were ever spoken. Except I was transfixed long before page 400.

ISLANDIA turned out to be the single best book I've ever read in my now semi-long life. It is a WONDERFUL story. Not in terms of battles like Lord of the Rings, or intrigue in the way of Dune. John Lang's journey to the
...more
Mark
Oct 18, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
This was an interesting book, and while I know people like to compare it to Tolkien, what with it being "an alternate, made-up world" I thought it had some weaknesses. First I'll gripe about that then say what's good about it if I can.
The map included in the book is truly elementary and includes only several of the places which are germane to the story and skips over others. I found myself returning to it time after time, not finding the place named, and shrugging.
There is sex in the book, yes,
...more
William Crosby
Jan 14, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I recommend this book to read to help understand our U.S. culture and possible alternatives. However, read only if you have the time and patience; otherwise, you will feel the immense pressure of the length of the book (over 900 pages) and may not like it because it took so much time. You are best to be in a mood to explore a new country. In that sense, treat it as if it were one of those 10 volume fantasy books each of which is 700 pages.

This was published post-mortem. The author was having fun
...more
Paul Dormer
Dec 28, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy
In about 1977, I attended a talk given by the author Anne McCaffrey in Cambridge. At one point she mentioned as a supreme example of world building Islandia by Austin Tappan Wright. I imagine no-one at that talk had ever heard of it. A quick check at the Cambridge University Library the next day showed they didn't have a copy. As that's a copyright library, that would suggest it had never been published in the UK.

About three years later, I was at a science fiction convention in Boston, Mass. and
...more
Fred Cameron
May 26, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: top-5-novels
Another of my top 5 novels of all time. A book that's hard to classify; The New Yorker called it a utopian fantasy, but for me it was far to real for either of those words. I was there on the Karain subcontinent in the country of Islandia with John Lang, Dorn, Dorna and Nattana. But of course I was John Lang, and shared all his relationships and adventures.

I learned a few things about women from this book - what's desirable and possible, and what's desirable but not possible. I don't know how mu
...more
Chip
Oct 19, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was highly recommended this tome by my good friends at my favorite sci-fi/fantasy bookstore, Dark Carnival in Claremont. I had been lugging around a massive stack of apparently "difficult" work, so they had an idea of what I was looking for in my so-called Speculative Fiction reading.

I will usually give big books at least a couple hundred pages to get going. This is the case with most Russian literature, and this is the case with Islandia. Be prepared for NOTHING TO HAPPEN for a good I don't
...more
Craig
May 24, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy, favorites
Re-read recently for the 4th-5th time, this is in my top-10 favorite books ever. It's a long (1000 pages), rambling, extremely detailed examination of the culture, politics, philosophy and geography of a Utopian country on a mythical sub-continent in the first decade of the 20th century. The plot concerns a young American appointed consul to this self-isolated country whose travels there cause him to reexamine everything he believes. There's just enough action and romance to move things along, i ...more
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Austin Tappan Wright was an American legal scholar and author. He was the son of classical scholar John Henry Wright and novelist Mary Tappan Wright, the brother of geographer John Kirtland Wright, and the grandfather of editor Tappan Wright King.

Although Wright’s professional colleagues were aware he had literary interests outside his field and some anticipated he might eventually branch out into
...more
More about Austin Tappan Wright...