Eccentric Islands: Travels Real and Imaginary

Eccentric Islands

Travels Real and Imaginary
“Vibrant, adventurous, and empathic.” —BOOKLIST

Eccentric Islands is a literary expedition across the map to islands both real and imaginary. Part traveler’s journal, part philosophical exploration, the book considers the idea of islands and asks whether they encourage eccentricity and grandeur in human beings, as scientists argue they do in the natural world.

Like a modern-day literary Darwin, Bill Holm travels to Isla Mujeres, an exceptional island east of the Yucatán Peninsula; Moloka‘i, whose history is graced by the example of Father Damien; Iceland, with a human genetic code nearly unmatched in its purity; Madagascar, an island of musical and botanical eccentricities; and Mallard Island, tucked in Rainy Lake, near the Canadian border. He also visits islands of ideas, including the Necessary Island of the Imagination, the Piano Island—located in the man-made lake under the atrium sky of an upscale hotel in the far interior of China—and the acute isolation of the Island of Pain.

Writing with the mind-set of a nineteenth-century traveler, for whom the journey is as important as the destination, Holm introduces beguiling characters and cultures, from the well-read radio man on an Icelandic freighter to the Robert Johnson of Madagascar and his instrument, the valiha. His book appeals to the traveler in all of us, especially those who savor the “mad juxtaposition of contraries, a complete cultural stew pot where the ingredients get to swap flavors and make something new and strange.”