Just in time to get us dreaming of summer travel comes this quirky but lovely book about out-of-the-way places. Judith Schalansky grew up in East Germany when it was still situated behind the Iron Curtain. Forbidden to travel, she began a lifelong fascination with atlases and maps. The very names of these islands pull you in: Robinson Crusoe, Takuu, Possession Island, Lonely Island, Pagan, and Diego Garcia.
Each island gets a double page, one for its map, so you can trace it with your fingertips and see its shape on a pale sea of blue, the other for a history or story about the island. Lonely Island was the former location of a polar observatory. The Soviet Union decommissioned it after the cold war and now only old buildings remain. In one of them, rain and melted snow wash away the ink on the former hermit astronomer's log--left remaining, only a patchwork of history. A stranded sailor landed on Robinson Crusoe, part of the Juan FernÃ¡ndez island chain off Chile. Alexander Selkirk (1676-1721), a Scottish seaman who spent four years marooned on this island, is believed to be the model for Robinson Crusoe, the first novel in English. Island gems from five oceans are covered here, and orange maps at the front of each section pinpoint their location in their home ocean, should you ever want to outfit a boat and sail toward one.