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Islands Apart: A Year on the Edge of Civilization
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Islands Apart: A Year on the Edge of Civilization

3.68  ·  Rating details ·  66 ratings  ·  24 reviews
Author Ken McAlpine stands in his front yard one night in Ventura, California, trying to see the stars. His view is diminished by light pollution, making it hard to see much of anything in the sky. Our fast-paced, technologically advanced society, he concludes, is not conducive to stargazing or soul-searching. Taking a page from Thoreau's Walden, he decides to get away fro ...more
Paperback, 272 pages
Published July 14th 2009 by Trumpeter
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3.68  · 
Rating details
 ·  66 ratings  ·  24 reviews

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Apr 12, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: library_books, travel
I wanted to like this book more than I did; but, sadly, the parts didn't make a whole for me. McAlpine writes well but the pieces would have been better suited to publication in magazines. The intervening non-island essays felt like filler, and I didn't really get a "sense" of each island's individuality - a map of the Channel Islands (at least a rough one showing their relative size and distance was sorely lacking.
Wendy Campbell
Apr 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Ken takes us on a wonderful journey: as well as sharing his week-long camping stays on each of California's Channel Islands, he shares his times with islands of people amongst us - like lunches for the homeless.

Ken's ability to not only BE with whatever environment he is in, but also to eloquently share what he experiences, is a profound gift.

As I read the last sentence I was very grateful to have been taken with Ken on his travels. The lives of all the beings on the various islands that he inh
Ken Colman
Jan 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Ken did a masterful job of moving from the islands and isolation to being with others in all parts of society. It was a journey of discovery of self that we all take and end up with more questions than answers. I appreciated the book and recommend it as a read for those searching for meaning in life and in this world.
Jun 09, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Islands Apart is a story of a man's quest to look at the world we live in from a quiet place.

Ken McAlpine journeys to all 5 of the Channel Islands for a week stay at each island. In some of his visits he is completely alone and in others he meets people like himself that want to get away from what can sometimes be very hectic lives. In Mr. McAlpines visits he describes what it is like to be on the islands. It is extremely interesting to hear about the different fauna and flora on each of the is
I live in Ventura County and randomly found this book at the Camarillo Library while searching for travel books for Southern California. Since I've camped at Santa Cruz Island and visited Anacapa, I was immediately intrigued by the subject matter - that a man decides to spend a year visiting the islands in the Channel Islands National Park as well as different places in Southern California, discovering how to "slow down and notice the wonders of nature and humanity".

It was a quick read, but a l
Jun 26, 2009 rated it liked it
So, I won this book as part of the Goodreads book give-away, and hence am reviewing it before its actual release.

Given that, I might be tempted to be nicer in my review, particularly if this were a first-time author. But he's not; McAlpine has one prior book and has allegedly won writing awards and such. So I'm going to assume he can take my brief summary of Islands Apart, which is that this is a book about a privileged white man who gets dissatisfied with society and gains his first inkling tha
Mar 26, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
The subtitle of this book was misleading. I pictured the author living alone, like a castaway, for a year. Not so. He spent a week on each of the Channel Islands (the California ones, not the English Channel ones), separated by weeks of investigating "fringe" lifestyles or situations. Despite getting something different than what I was expecting, I still liked the book very much. To me, McApline has the perfect writing style for this type of non-fiction. It wasn't objective, but it wasn't so per ...more
Jenny (Reading Envy)
Dear Mr. McAlpine,

I would like to have your life. I have read two of your books at this point, and each one has supercharged my weird desire to travel to obscure, cold-weather, bleak places, and I have now added the Channel Islands to my list. I was actually reading Off-Season: Discovering America on Winter's Shore the day I went to Block Island in February, so this is no joke!

P.S. As your name is McAlpine, I can only imagine that you are obscurely related to the larger MacGregor clan, so I thin
Alisha B
Jun 12, 2009 rated it really liked it
I think what McAlpine was trying to do was to show that there is a deep desire in all things, in people and in nature, to know that there will be some piece of them left behind after they die. To know that they won’t just fade into oblivion. It is why we have children. It’s why writer’s write, cavemen drew, why the park ranger’s work so diligently to preserve the foxes and murrelets and the ugly scrub that’s native to the islands. It’s why the xantus murrelets continue to lay eggs in caves where ...more
Jul 19, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: first-reads
This book discussed the fast paced life we all live and how we don't take the time to sit and reflect in our busy lives today where we are always online or running from errand to errand. Ken spent a week on each of the Channel Islands off the coast of California and painted a glorious picture of solitude and peace. His descriptions of the islands were vivid and I felt like I was right there on the island too. I enjoy escaping to the mountains at least biweekly so I really related well to this st ...more
Sep 18, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: memoir-read
I found the focus of this book a little distracting. Is it a book about the author being "on the edge of civilization" or a book about a guy who goes camping for 5? different weeks on the Channel Islands and then is around the homeless, meeting street performers etc? I thought both topics were interesting but the title gave me the impression that this would be about the author's revelations on each island. While I enjoyed the book and was interested in other things he has written, I wished this ...more
I took this back to the library after carrying it around for three weeks and barely getting into it.

I liked the information about the islands, and about the wildlife (especially the only-found-here-and-nowhere-else foxes) but I just couldn't get into the rest of the writing.

Note to publisher: some kind of map of the Channel Islands would be a good idea in this kind of book.

(And I skimmed but saw not one mention of the so-called "lost woman of San Nicholas Island ... which you'd think might be a
May 07, 2009 rated it really liked it
This was my first book I won off a Goodreads giveaway. It was an interesting story about the author who decides to spend time out of his day to day life visiting different islands of the Channel islands, and he does this without the technologies that most of society depends on, such as cell phones and internet. He meets people who have gone through hard times, and not just visits with these people, but becomes apart of their everyday life. I really enjoyed this book, and the author's writing st ...more
Jun 07, 2009 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed reading this book. I, as many other native Californian's, was not very familiar with the islands Ken McAlpine stays on. I found the book very enlightening and interesting. I love that he went to each island and talked about history of it, wild life, botany native to each island. He not only gives you a lot of neat facts ( I am sure the reader has never heard) but there is also an endearing story. I also liked how it was almost like reading a few different short stories. It was a ...more
Jennifer Campaniolo
Apr 08, 2009 rated it really liked it
The author, a journalist living in southern CA, decides to spend a year staying on-and-off the Channel Islands so he can experience life without cell phones, Blackberries, or internet. He also spends time with people experiencing some of the world's sorrows like war and poverty. The narrator is funny and engaging, and there's definitely a "fly-on-the-wall" quality to reading about his unique experiences.
Tiffany Malcom
May 07, 2009 rated it liked it
The problem with reading travel books is that they just add to the list of places I want to go! This one follows a guy who spends a week on each of the Channel Islands (off the coast of Southern California . . . not that I knew that before, but now I do). He's not the most interesting writer in the world, but he made me want to go there!
May 11, 2009 rated it liked it
I enjoyed reading each chapter, and the book struck me a bit in the same way that Omnivors Dilemma did in that way. I felt that each section was a bit disconnected. Overall, it was a good read and I would recommend it to someone who has a knowledge of the area, as I found it more enjoyable, knowing where he was referring to.
Andrew Ludke
Apr 17, 2010 rated it it was ok
It's an interesting idea, what would it be like to live away from the distractions of the modern world? I am a thoroughly entrenched techno geek. I work as an automation systms engineer and have many of the latest gadgets when theuy come out. The author sets out to find some space inside and out to sort through whats important.
This author was recommended by a friend in Ventura, CA for summer reading, and I enjoyed the book with its commentary on the Channel Islands and various other places in Southern California, I didn't always find the writing moving. I will probably dip into at least one more of his books to see if I grips me more than this one did.
Katherine Duncan
Nov 12, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I thoroughly enjoyed this book, it is a non-fiction and it renewed my appreciation of the islands we get to enjoy! I am ready for another visit and will go with more thought on what I am encountering.
Mar 09, 2014 rated it it was ok
I didn't like the non-island bits; I started to skip them as I went along. And even the island sections were too short and didn't give enough of a sense of what he went through. Too many wrapping up chapters with lessons. Eh.
May 15, 2009 rated it it was ok
Shelves: memoir-bio-abio
While I appreciate what the author was hoping to gain from his experience, I found that I didn't have great deal of interest in the book when I started reading. Perhaps it was timing; I might try this one again at a different point.
May 11, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: first-reads
Great read especially when sitting on the back of a boat at the lake
Oct 08, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 50-books-in-2012
Read this in a weekend...since I leave in Ventura I am drawn to the islands but have not taken on what Ken did. It was a real read and an honest experience.
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Jan 16, 2012
Jim Jannotti
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Apr 14, 2019
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Diana L. Fowler
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Feb 12, 2019
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Ken McAlpine’s most recent novel, NEXUS, picks up where the page-turning JUNCTURE left off. Cerebral Jaws and riveting thriller, NEXUS unspools in a world rapidly moving beyond anything we know. Our oceans are changing. Very soon survival may be more than just a word on this page.

Ken McAlpine is the author of ten books; fiction, non-fiction and selected essays. Of his novel TOGETHER WE JUMP, USA T