WHEN IT COMES TO glossy coffee-table books, I’m afraid that reviewing a pre-publication PDF version is a bit like imagining what food tastes like from a photograph of a meal.
Books are all about production values, touch, smell and what today seems like the indulgence of print, and for all the promises of “high-quality lustre paper and a softcover with French flaps“, reading a digital approximation of Galapagos was never likely to thrill in the same way.
Anyway, diver, writer and underwater photographer Josef Litt was keen that we take the digital route in reviewing this, his first book, because he is printing it in batches largely to order, signed dedications and all.
And as Alex Mustard has already described the book in the preface as “a must-read for anyone planning to visit and equally for those that already have a place in their heart for Galapagos”, I’m sure there will be plenty of takers.
The first 100 or so pages provide an encyclopaedic and fascinating account of the geography and history of these remote Pacific islands, then we move into a section on nature, though few of the creatures described here are more than occasional visitors beneath the surface.
We then embark on a “Journey Through the Islands”. There are some excellent underwater photos, particularly of hammerhead sharks, but the bulk are topside, and in most cases the dive-site descriptions are short and mixed in with the other sights to see.
We only get seriously into diving towards the end of the book, when we finally reach the famed islands of Darwin and Wolf, and the accounts are compelling. I wanted more, but by then it was all over – we were into the comprehensive hints and tips, general information, glossary and index.
I’m sure it’s an accurate reflection of a destination so steeped in nature that to compartmentalise it into topside and diving is in a sense irrelevant. But of the 300 or so pictures, only about 7% are shot under water, and many of those are of marine iguanas.
This isn’t a criticism, just what I hope is a useful observation for divers considering buying this book.
It’s beautifully written and illustrated and would make a great souvenir of a visit, but you might want to consider alternatives if it’s a dedicated dive-guide you’re after.
Review by Steve Weinman
Mostly Underwater Books
Softback, 288pp, 25×20 cm, £29.50