“There is no more poetic book than an atlas,” Judith Schalansky
A quick glance at most people’s bookshelves is enough to guess the wanderlust of the owner, as the presence or absence of travel guides can tell you a lot about their globe-trotting habits. That said, I am in possession of a few pristine guides bought in anticipation of trips that never got beyond the dreaming stage, which rather scuppers that theory I suppose. Circumstances have meant I’ve not explored the world as much as maybe I’d have liked to, but actually, I’m quite content to travel vicariously from the comfort of my sofa, whether that’s via the medium of a travel guide or a thumping good novel.
Discovering Judith Schalansky’s ‘Atlas of Remote Islands: Fifty Islands I Have Not Visited And Never Will’ was wonderful. It’s such a stunningly beautiful book, and feeds into another obsession of mine – mapping, to deliver an equally satisfying way to travel for free. I’ve always enjoyed looking at maps, and am fascinated by the history and politics of cartography.
The atlas is an elegant pale blue hardback book with touches of golden orange, bound with black cloth. It is full of illustrations of remote outcrops across the world, with accompanying text that is sometimes factual, sometimes whimsical, sometimes a bit of both. Schalansky might blur the boundary between fact and fiction, but her prose never fails to excite the imagination. The book is a feast for those who, like me, savour the experience of poring over a map, following imaginary journeys from my very own Mount Olympus above. If a map-lovers indulgence is not enough, it is also a design masterpiece. The restrained palette and minimal design is exquisite, and it’s another book that I’ve ended up buying multiple copies of as gifts.
The summer holidays might be over, but that’s no reason to stop travelling. With Schalansky’s atlas you’ll just have itchy fingers instead of itchy feet.