by David McGonigal and Lynn Woodworth

Sometimes all you need is a good coffee-table picture book — and this one is GREAT. Published just the other year, it might well be the hands-down slambang ‘if you ever wanted to know everything about a place’ winner for Antarctica in particular. (The Arctic coverage is enjoyable but much more limited.)

See, the thing about ‘coffee table picture books’ as such is that they attract criticism for being fiercely middlebrow or something — expensive show pieces to impress others with your taste as you have wine and canapes or some such nonsense. That may well be the intent for a lot of books that could fit the description but that’s not to say one can’t actually put a hell of a lot of information in with the entertainment value — and that the information can’t work.

Thus this book, a monster in size and in price but you know, I’d say it’s worth it. Antarctica is hardly on the tip of everyone’s tongue, there’s mostly general impressions and occasionally something will be said about ozone research and last-minute rescue attempts. As an overview of history, natural and human-measured, as well as biology, geology, geography, etc. etc., this will pack yer brain in with stuff — but my goodness the PHOTOS. There’s some stunning work included in here, and I found myself stopping and looking in close detail at many different images. Not merely the continent but many surrounding islands are covered as well, and the images of South Georgia are breathtaking.

So get some to get it for you as a gift or something. I’d actually read through this one again if I ever wanted to make my way down there — and now I might!