The Book of Islands

Philip Dodd & Ben Donald

The companion volume to Philip and Ben’s Book Of Cities features 200 of the world’s most intriguing islands in an exhilarating journey from east to west, starting on the International Date Line in Tonga, the first place on earth to greet each new dawn.

From there the book visits islands of refuge, escape, exile and mystery, islands of hermits, mutineers and artists, the sites of battles, vendettas and revolutions. The tropical paradises of Mauritius and Bali bask alongside the barren Torres Strait Islands and Krakatoa, and densely populated islands that are cities in their own right – Venice and Hong Kong – or islands in the heart of cities like Stockholm’s Gamla Stan or the Ile St-Louis in Paris. The book pulses with the music of Jamaica, the colours of Gauguin’s Tahiti and the legends of Ithaca, home of Ulysses.

The writing distils the essence of each island, with quotes from an eclectic mixture of visitors and residents, combined with a collection of award-winning photographs, including the great aerial shots of Yann Arthus-Bertrand.

‘In my opinion all men are islands. And what’s more now’s the time to be one. This is an island age. You can be sun-drenched, tropical, a magnet for young Swedish tourists. And I like to think that perhaps I’m that kind of island. I like to think I’m pretty cool. I like to think I’m Ibiza.’
Hugh Grant as Will Lightman in About A Boy

A Richard and Judy Christmas Book selection 2008

Hardback, 512 pages
9 780955 304668
30 September 2008
Buy now

Das Buch Der Inseln
National Geographic
978 3 86690 065 3

El Libro De Las Islas 
978 84 8076 774 3


Pub-quiz super-question of the week: where are the highest inhabited islands in the world? Bzzzzzz. Lake Titicaca. They’re called the Uros Islands, 3,812 metres up on the Altiplano of Peru and Bolivia and populated by a pre-Incan civilisation, who have managed to preserve their traditions despite decades of South America’s main tourist trails. And they’re just some of the 200 drops in the ocean (or lake) featured in The Book of Islands, a comprehensive new piece of escapism to sit, temptingly, on your coffee table.

The Sunday Times

The celebration of ‘islomania’ behind this book is nothing to do with being a helpful travel guide; nor can its remit be scientifically defined. ‘We went by instinct in the end,’ write its authors, as they struggle to define what gives a place its ‘islandness’. And fine instincts they were, too.

The Book of Islands, by Philip Dodd and Ben Donald, has winnowed the selection down to 200 of the world’s most islandy examples, starting at the International Date Line with Tonga and the Chatham Islands, the first places to greet each new day, and tracking the sun west towards Samoa. 

Thus we have Baffin in Canada (bigger than Germany) compared, probably for the first time, to the Lake Palace in Udaipur. Islands closer to home – the Aran Islands and the Isle of Wight – find they have much in common with Bora Bora, Ibiza, Robben Island and Bikini. The authors even suggest an islomaniac cocktail, which might be more appealing to visit than to drink: Curaçao, Madeira, Rum and Islay whisky. The tragedy is that many of these paradises, such as the Maldives, are at risk from rising sea levels. Peter Jackson perhaps puts it best: “New Zealand is not a small country but a large village,” he writes. 

Katy Guest, The Independent, 5 December 2008

Looking for that perfect Christmas gift for your islomaniac partner; or perhaps even for yourself? Well then I have discovered the perfect gift. The Book of Islands will keep any islomaniac happy over the holiday period.

Philip Dodd and Ben Donald are both seasoned travel writers who spend their time travelling the world. Oh poor things, what a terrible job! They have collated their years of world travelling into a list of their favourite 200 islands around the world, and took the novel approach of listing them by latitude starting off with the Kingdom of Tonga on the international dateline (one of my favourites) and ending up in Samoa.

The Book Of Islands is an exhilarating journey to some of the most extraordinary and isolated places on earth. From tropical paradises such as Mauritius and Bali, to prison islands like Alcatraz and Robben Island, from the far-flung - snowy Kerguelen in Antarctica and Tierra del Fuego at the tip of Latin America - to islands in the middle of cities - the Ile St-Louis in Paris and Manhattan - and those that are cities in their own right, like Venice and Singapore - each island has a unique and very distinct character.

Included are places of refuge, escape, exile and mystery - the unblinking primitive statues of Easter Island and the dragons of Komodo; islands that have been sanctuaries and monasteries; the homes of hermits, mutineers, emperors and artists; the sites of battles, vendettas and revolutions. Some of the islands featured are under desperate threat from the forces of global warming: rising sea levels and an increase in severe weather conditions. Unless things change dramatically, many of these unique and diverse mini-cultures will simply disappear. The Book of Islands presents what could be a last chance to celebrate these diverse and extraordinary places.

The fascinating and insightful articles are accompanied by over 250 colour photographs contributed by the world’s leading travel photographers.

If your loved one is not as committed an islomaniac as you, then this is the perfect gift to share your passion with them. Islomaniacs beware though! this book will induce serous hunger pangs for island travel.

Cheyenne Morrison, Islomaniacs Society

“Stuck for ideas for a Christmas getaway? Philip Dodd & Ben Donald, co-authors of the new Book of Islands have some ideas for finding the perfect escape from the Brussels sprouts and paper hats. And why not leave a copy of the book behind, wrapped up underneath the tree just to make them green with envy? Ho, ho, ho.”

Christmas Island was named after the day it was discovered and while eerily idyllic and aptly named, it lies north west of Australia so might be a bit far away for a short Yuletide break. So if you’re looking for a white Christmas with a difference, why not discover some other festive islands closer to home.

Upload your iPod with some seasonal tunes and head off to newly cool-again Lanzarote, of which it has been said “if Apple did islands the would look like this. Lanzarote is an island of iLandscapes of white villages set against black lava.” Liberated from its lager-lout image and with its perfectly preserved high-rise-free architecture, this favourite Canary is now an island of boutique villas, gourmet restaurants and good wine.

For something more rugged, head further out to sea and the island of Madeira, one of the Portuguese Azores, birthplace of Premiership Christmas cracker, Ronaldo, and home to a pink hydrangea-covered corner of Kent. Set in the middle of the Atlantic, it comes complete with lush vales and emerald lakes, perfect for a Boxing Day walk in case you’ve overdone it on the famous local tipple.

Alternatively, if it’s white sand you want instead of white snow, and palms instead of firs, head for Jamaica, where you can load up reggae carol covers such as the timeless classic ‘Jamaica Jamaica, we don’t’ gat no snow’ to the tune of Jingle Bells. Or instead of chestnuts, roast breadfruit on an open fire while sipping a cool Carib beer under guaranteed sunshine, with your toes dipped into the turquoise surf.

If you like the idea of a festive season away from the British weather, but without completely abandoning all traces of home, head for the tiny islands of Malta. An international crossroads throughout its history, Malta has been described as having “the culture of South London in a landscape like Lebanon”. The badges of its colonial history litter the island - like incongruous red post-boxes standing out in narrow, unmistakably Mediterranean streets.

Beneath the post-imperial veneer lies a fascinating cultural tapestry, interweaving Arabic, Italian and Sicilian, in a language that contains many unique letters. The fusion of cultures also infuses the local cuisine, a melting pot of such oddities as dolphin fish pie and torta-tal-lampuki, another seafood dish, in case you can’t find anywhere serving turkey and sprouts!

Travel to the east from Malta and you’ll alight on the island Cyprus, a land apart - geographically close to the other Greek islands and sharing their forgiving ‘winter’ climate, but with a character all its own. In this quieter season, freed from the swarms of summer tourists, you get to see more of the true nature of the place and its people. Enjoy lashings of the local ‘meze’ or ‘zivania’ firewater with the locals’ hospitality, a great way to dodge the weather home. 

Cloud Nine Magazine

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