Island: How Islands Transform the World

Written by J. Edward Chamberlin
Review by Eva Ulett

Island is a compact but dense study of ocean islands from cultural, biological, geological, literary, and historical perspectives. There is much interesting information in this small volume. Islands constitute the majority of the world’s smallest countries; islands are distinguished by an astonishing variety of fauna and flora, much of which is unique to the island environment; and, with their volcanic origins, are a microcosm of the development of life on the planet.

Separate chapters describe the storytelling traditions and creation myths of islands, their actual geological formation, the discovery and population of islands by humans and other species, and the island as a place in literature and imagination. The wealth of fascinating detail makes for an instructive and entertaining read. In Island, author Chamberlin represents ocean and lake islands as standing for “much of what we dread, and much of what we desire… they may well define what it is to be human.”