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UK Publisher: Biteback

No man is an island, wrote John Donne. BBC Home Editor Mark Easton argues the opposite: that we are all islands, and it is upon the contradictory shoreline where isolation meets connectedness, where ‘us’ meets ‘them’, that we find out who we truly are.

Suggesting that a continental bias has blinded us, Easton chronicles a sweep of 250 million years of island history: from Pangaea (the supercontinent mother of all islands) to the first intrepid islanders pointing their canoes over the horizon, from exploration to occupation, exploitation to liberation, a hopeful journey to paradise and a chastening reminder of our planet’s fragility.

But that is only half of this mesmerising book: aided by the muse he names Pangaea, Easton also interweaves reflections on what he calls ‘the psychological islands that form the great archipelago of humankind’. Taking readers on an enchanting adventure, he illustrates how understanding islands and island syndrome might help humanity get closer to the truth about itself.

Brave, intelligent and haunting, Islands is a deep dive into geography, myth, literature, politics and philosophy that reveals nothing less than a map of the human heart.


“A spellbinding serial voyage in which encounters with islands across time are gathered, displayed and reburnished. Memoir becomes morality, as the oldest human myths challenge present neglect and political malfunction.” – Iain Sinclair

“Illuminating, incisive and beautifully written.” – Kirsty Young

“From ancient Crete to modern Canvey, this is a fascinating voyage around island identity, exploring isolation and imagination through a wealth of stories from around the world.” – Martha Kearney

“A timely and original exploration of the liminalities of islands and the waters that envelop them: by turns beguiling, enchanting and ultimately affirming.” – Sir Anthony Seldon

“This is a huge theme which Mark Easton pursues with vigorous and beautifully clear prose. His archipelagic fascination is contagious. Read this and the maps in your mind will never be quite the same again.” – Peter Hennessy

An award-winning documentary-maker and journalist, Mark Easton is the BBC’s Home Editor, appearing regularly on BBC television and radio as...