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Pocket Atlas of Remote Islands: Fifty Islands I Have Not Visited and Never Will

4.25  ·  Rating details ·  3,628 ratings  ·  516 reviews
Born on the wrong side of the Berlin Wall, as a child Judith Schalansky could travel only through the pages of an atlas. Now she has created her own, taking us across the oceans of the world to fifty remote islands. Perfect maps jostle with cryptic tales from the islands, full of rare animals and lost explorers, marooned slaves and lonely scientists, mutinous sailors and f ...more
Paperback, 239 pages
Published June 1st 2012 by Penguin Books (first published 2009)
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Michael Hung I studied geography and love maps, collect maps. But I hate travelling on boats and get seasick... So this book completes my experience not just givin…moreI studied geography and love maps, collect maps. But I hate travelling on boats and get seasick... So this book completes my experience not just giving me maps and sketches, but also poems, stories and histories of those remote......... islands and I will never visit. How about if someone makes a travel documentary based on those descriptions from this book. Like the one travel by trains.... (less)
Ana I don't think so! This book is quite sad, even when it's beautiful.…moreI don't think so! This book is quite sad, even when it's beautiful.(less)

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B Schrodinger
On a wonderfully warm and cloudless winter solstice day I took this volume on a picnic and was engrossed for a few hours with the beautiful maps and the equally beautiful stories that accompanied them. While Judith Schalansky proves to be another of my fellow map nerds along with Simon Garfield and Ken Jennings, Judith's history has a unique slant on the usual type of nerdery.

Judith grew up in East Germany during the late 80's and early 90's. So her primary school years were filled with communis
Jenny (Reading Envy)
Dec 21, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: All dreamers, travelers, and writers
I would give this book 10 stars if I could. I wish it was twice as long. It has a beautiful introduction full of thoughts on travel and what it is that draws people to remote places. The majority of the book is two-page segments where the island's map is on one side and the other has basic information on it (when it was "discovered," how many people inhabit it, important moments in its history) as well as a narrative. That was my favorite part. It might have a legend, a historical moment, a disc ...more
Dec 14, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, travel
This is the anti-travel book. You've never been to these places, and if you know what's good for you, you never will. The author has never seen them, either. In fact, hardly any living person has been to these spots, and with good reason.

It came in a box with another book and a CD, delivered to my front porch and awaiting me Friday night. At first look, it seemed scant. A large-type introduction, as if to exaggerate the number of pages. Some maps of islands with brief written observations on the facing page. I read a few. Cute, but I was already in the middle of a novel I was really enjoying and this could wait on a coffee table, where maybe it would belong.

Came Saturday morning, and the novel stood next to the Atlas. My hand fl
Thomas Strömquist
Feb 15, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Thomas by: Isidora
The mouse-over tooltip for five stars here on Goodreads reads "it was amazing" and seldom have I come across a book to fit the bill better. I was blown away by this wonderful atlas of islands already during the foreword. The imagery of the author at eight, traveling the world by tracing a route with her finger in her atlas and her mother advising her to "take the Panama canal, that's the shortest route" is powerful and very vivid. She brought her fascination with maps, atlases and islands in par ...more
Jul 28, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This book drove me crazy. The author includes fifty islands, most unfamiliar to a general audience (Iwo Jima and Easter Island are the only ones I recognized). Each spread includes information like the island's name, area, number of residents, etymology of the name, parent country, distance from other locations, timeline of major events, a small map of where island is in relation to major continents, and a larger map of the island itself. The brief text that accompanies this is liable to go in a ...more
Written, designed and even typeset by the author, this is an exquisite little book to read. In terms of content, I think it is compelling in a car-crash kind of way; disturbing and at times horrific, but difficult to turn away from. Some of the stories I was familiar with, and I've even visited one of these fifty remote islands, but overall I agree with the author who says in her introduction what I found on my journey were not models of romantic, alternative ways of living, but islands one migh ...more
This is genuinely a delightful book. And it’s such an original concept. I mean, how often do you think of islands? Really think of islands? Not very often? Me either.

Judith Schalansky however, has thought about islands a lot, and she shares it with the world in this beautiful book. Each island takes up two pages, one with a small description and one with a simple, but wonderful illustration of the island. The description is not a description per se, it’s more a selected story about the island i
Oct 06, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Those with a sense of curiosity
Physically, this is a very lovely book. In concept it is surely a contender for the ultimate expression of armchair journalism on Earth?

The proportions and weight of this book makes it deeply satisfying to hold. I love the very feel of the paper; the minimal palette of colour; the (frustratingly unspecified) fonts used to set the texts. In relief, each island is positioned on a background of water-cool pale greyish-blue; annotated with bays and settlements, points and capes, lesser islands, san
Sep 05, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favourites
Fifty remote islands. The author didn't see them. I will probably never visit them. Every island has a story, beautiful like a fairy tale, and a beautiful map. This is a very good way to get through the winter. ...more
Sep 24, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, travel
This is such a bizarre premise for a book - and yet likely to appeal to anybody who has ever been an Atlas Adventurer - someone who explored the world and their imagination using only an atlas. Well, I did that as a kid and even now, so the idea of vicariously exploring these oscure places appealed to me a lot. Vicariously at two removes, since the author hasn't been to any of them, either. (I have met people who've been to two of the places in this book, though.)

The design of the book is amazin
Courtney Johnston
Envy is not a pretty emotion. It makes you feel empty, and small. Thankfully my delight in Judith Schalansky's 'Atlas of Remote Islands' was great enough to overwhelm the occasional twinge of envy that she, and not I, has made something that I find so utterly covetable. (Made worse, let's be honest, when I just discovered that she's a year younger than me).

Of course, I couldn't have created this book: it grows entirely out of Schalansky's own self. Her discovery of the household atlas as an eigh
Brendan Monroe
Everything about this book is beautiful. And I do mean everything. The illustrations, the font, the binding, and the text itself.

If these read dates are accurate, then I started reading this just over a year ago, on May 14th. I was about to embark on a trip to the islands of Mauritius and Rodrigues and thought, "what could be better than reading a book about remote islands while on somewhat remote islands?"

Not much, really. But this is so much more than a beach read. It took me over a year to
Apr 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is such a lovely book, I would have purchased it no matter what was inside. It turned out very well indeed as I learned so much about the various islands described, along with particular historical events. Of course, I also learned that maybe I never want to be shipwrecked on some of these islands.

Paradise is an island. So is hell.

Here are fifty lands where everything may not be quite as rosy as we think. Admittedly, some of us armchair dreamers may wish for a desert isle type of existence.
Jul 06, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Even today, I could spend hours looking at maps – but when I was twelve years old and had the hours to spare, I did. Any kind of map would do: world atlases and road atlases, globes and National Geographic maps, topographical maps, boating maps, flight maps, geological survey maps, weather maps, vegetation maps and species range maps, the maps you might find printed on the endpapers of history books or of art books, or scattered among the entries of an encyclopedia.

I soon began drawing my own ma
Dip into this lovely small atlas anywhere and enjoy the fruits of Schalansky’s many years’ labor cataloging, mapping, labeling “Fifty Islands I Have Not Visited and Never Will.” The drawings have a timeline and scale; they are labelled with longitude and latitude and are pinpointed on a globe. Each drawn island has contour with shading showing mountains, water, and plains. Each location sports a short introductory essay often including reports related by the earliest discoverers, or seafaring me ...more
Nov 13, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is beautifully written and well-nigh impossible to categorize. It's not a travel book. It's not a conventional atlas. There's a lot of history in here, but it's not a history book either. The book contains maps of fifty of the world's most isolated islands and one-page vignettes to accompany each one. Usually, but not always, these vignettes tell of some event in the island's history. The author is able to make each story absolutely fascinating and I am thirsty for more. Unfortunately she h ...more
Apr 24, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Fifty islands, fifty (dubious) stories; some mythological, others based on true facts, others not so much. All unique, all interesting, all extremely atmospheric and poignant. All stories that accompany beautiful cartography of places you will never visit indeed.

I can continue to list adjectives but all I have to say is that I enjoyed this book immensely.
You get to learn about specks of dust that are part of a universe so vast that it makes them, those teeny tiny places unimportant. Places that
Jan 17, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A lovely small book that offers up facts and tiny bits of history about lost places--- islands at the ends of the earth, islands that have fallen off the map. Schalansky herself was born in the old East Germany, in a DDR where travel was impossible and "escapism" had dangerous political overtones. Her little atlas is a kind of poem to the places overlooked on maps, a vision of invisible places that have stories worth recovering. An absolute delight to read. ...more
Michael Scott
Atlas of Remote Islands is Judith Schalansky's purely East-European, formerly Communist-country travelogue. She was born in 1980, in East Germany, and by the time she discovered the joy of traveling--like many of us, as a child--she had to learn that traveling beyond the Iron Curtain was merely possible through one's imagination. Hence, the subtitle: fifty islands I have not visited and never will.

A dystopian travelogue! This mini-booklet covers fifty islands, spread systematically around the wo
Alex Flynn
Mar 27, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Marc McGee
An amazing work that is a testament to the possibilities of the book as both an object as well as a medium. It is as much visual art as it is narrative, containing fabulously composed pages, with hand drawn maps and typography developed by the author. I found the book randomly while writing in the library one day and was intrigued by the title, specifically the subheading “Fifty Islands I have never set foot on and never will”. Who would write such an atlas? Why would they be intrigued by these ...more
I love this book. Every part of it is exquisitely designed, and every part of it is a pleasure to look at. The cover is gorgeous, the margins and layout of the map pages are beautiful, so are the inside covers -- nothing is unintentional. Even the design of the 24 page text at the beginning -- it's large like in children's books, while she's talking about her childhood and faraway places, the feeling of how large the world is -- she toys visually with the idea of scale. If you see the book and t ...more
Erik Fazekas
Is this Fiction of Non-Fiction?
Are these stories true or just the authors imagination? I dont´t know, but they are brilliant!
Matt Ely
Apr 24, 2020 rated it really liked it
You should guess by the subtitle that this won't be light. In fact, the most upsetting thing about these stories is that they're true. With two pages of bare-bones, isolating introduction for each island, followed by a short story, the narrowness of the information provided matches the small scale of these strange, forgotten outcroppings. You should decide before you begin whether you want to have a phone nearby to aggressively Google each entry afterward. Sometimes that will be rewarding, and s ...more
Rohan Crickmar
Dec 29, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Charting these tiny, remote islands adds a vastness to world. Sometimes it was the perfect before-sleep book with wanna-be utopias and sublime ice-bound peaks. It could be nightmare-inducing though with quite a few disturbing stories of violence. The author is necessarily selective in the focus of these vignettes, leaving the reader to ponder over mysterious topography or wonder about those few inhabitants.
Jun 14, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: art, non-fiction
The concept is fascinating: each island is drawn in exquisite detail in black, white, and orange (for cities and roads) and stranded on an expanse of pale blue. The layout evokes the isolation, the constant threat of the ocean. On the facing page is a small bit of factual information about the island: size, population, name, language, latitude & longitude, distances from three nearest land masses, and a timeline of its discovery. Below that is the text of the book, a single paragraph telling the ...more
This book attracted me because of two traits of mine. Firstly Wanderlust; I have a thing for maps and reading or watching documentaries about places, but rarely seem to go anywhere! And secondly the fact that often I am just pretty much a loner. So I had to order it in to my library right away. I knew it was a ‘literary atlas’ from the get go, something the part of my brain that loves knowledge could love while enjoy good creative writing, sounds perfect! Unfortunately, it’s not.

I was left rathe
Robert Vaughan
What drew me originally to this book is my utter fascination with maps, travel and islands. In fact, the day the book arrived, I'd already made a list of all of the islands I'd ever been to (not including lakes, or rivers!) and it was longer than I'd expected. I decided to look up one, off the northeastern coast of Australia called Hinchinbrook Island, which I visited in 1993. At the time I stayed at the Wilderness Lodge, the only one on the island, a modern day Swiss Family Robinson experience! ...more
Atlas of Remote Islands is a unique, beautiful little book. It starts out with an introduction in which the author describes her childhood love for atlases. She beautifully describes the wondrous process of discovering and imagining all the places around the world in which she will never set foot. The introduction is followed by maps and a short vignettes about fifty different remote islands. The author states in her introduction that everything is based upon extensive research of rare texts and ...more
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Judith Schalansky studied Art History at the FU Berlin and Communication Design at the Fachhochschule Potsdam. After finishing her studies in 2007 she taught Typographic Basics at the Fachhochschule Potsdam until 2009.
Her first publication was the typographic compendium Fraktur mon Amour. From then she switched more to writing books for which she also did the graphical design. In 2008 she debuted

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“Consulting maps can diminish the wanderlust that they awaken,as the act of looking at them can replace the act of travel. But looking at maps is much more than an act of aesthetic replacement. Anyone who opens an atlas wants everything at once, without limits--the whole world. This longing will always be great, far greater than any satisfaction to be had by attaining what is desired. Give me an atlas over a guidebook any day. There is no more poetic book in the world.” 16 likes
“Le carte geografiche sono astratte e allo stesso tempo concrete, e nonostante pretendano di essere oggettive, non offrono una riproduzione della realtà, bensì una sua ardita interpretazione.” 1 likes
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