This book is so much more than I thought it was going to be. I first became aware of it through a friends blog and instantly loved the angle. An atlas focussed only on remote islands. Awesome idea.

What I didn’t realize is the philosophy behind it – the whole questioning of what a map really is. Maps, these things we take as exact reflections of geographical reality, are of course highly politicized during certain eras. I think of the maps from my homeland that reflected the British Empire, for example.

And then there were the descriptions that accompanied each remote island map. Beautifully researched, highly crafted pieces of writing of no more than a page that focussed on an event in that islands history (often just about the only man observed event that occurred on these places at all)

Some of these descriptions are poignant, some mysterious, some terrifying but all are compelling and fascinating.

This got me thinking. We so often talk about how the web has shortened people’s attention spans, as if looking at things for a short burst of time automatically means there is less depth present. Is this really true?

Isn’t a Larkin poem or Dylan song or a book like this full of depth? Aren’t they examples of how short actually means exact and to the point, rather than superficial?

Isn’t spending hours on tumblr coming across stunning and evocative imagery as deep as reading a 500 page novel full of waffle?

I’m certainly not saying there’s no place for the long ass novel. I love me some David Mitchell or some Tolstoy. But in the modern era of communication overload, brevity and succinctness are at a premium. Particularly, when done as well as they are in this book

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