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8 Best Books on Easter Island for Curious Travelers and History Geeks

Are you visiting Easter Island or simply want to learn more about this mysterious place? We visited Easter Island in Sept 2017 and have compiled this list of best Easter Island books for the curious traveler.

Easter Island is an enigmatic place. The mysterious stone statues carved and erected by the Rapa Nui people have enthralled people since their discovery.

There are many questions about Easter Island and the best way to find the answers is by visiting the island itself. Instead of choosing guided tours we decided to develop a self-guided tour plan for our week on the island.

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While I took two guidebooks with me, the remaining books helped me understand the history of the place. I was particularly interested in books about Easter Island that gave us the in-depth information we would get in a local expert-led tour.

The key to experiencing Easter Island to the fullest and making most of your time on the island is in gaining an insight into the island before you go. Here is our recommended background reading including the best books on Easter Island:

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Best Guidebooks about Easter Island

1. The Complete Guide To Easter Island

After we booked our tickets to Easter Island, I searched Tripadvisor for the best Easter Island book or travel guide. The Complete Guide by Shawn McLaughlin was highly recommended by everyone. Unfortunately, it’s not easy to find this book at a budget price. I bought a used copy of the first edition and can’t recommend it enough.

While the older version is not up-to-date on information about businesses in Hanga Roa; the historical and archeological information about Easter Island remains unchanged.

The book also has wonderful drawings and charts while the big foldable map at the end was priceless in navigating around the island. It also has an English – Rapa Nui dictionary which helped us in communicating with the locals and understanding some of the names on the island.  

2. A Companion To Easter Island (Guide To Rapa Nui)

This guidebook on Easter Island is written by James Grant-Peterkin, a native Easter Islander, and shares local tips to see Easter Island. This is the second guidebook we carried for our week on the island.

The practical information about hotels, restaurants, shopping, and other tourist activities is really useful. The thing I liked most about this guidebook is that it shares optimal times to visit archaeological sites to avoid crowds and reveals photography tips for capturing the best shots. Planning a self-guided tour is quite easy with this book.

Even Amazon has really great in-depth reviews by travelers who used this guidebook to plan their Easter Island trip.

Best Books about Easter Island to understand its history

3. Among Stone Giants: The Life of Katherine Routledge and Her Remarkable Expedition to Easter Island (Lisa Drew Books)

Whatever we know about Easter Island is due to the tireless works of Western explorers, archeologists, and historians who worked with the locals to understand the Rapa Nui Civilization and their customs and traditions.

No mention of the history of Easter Island can be complete without a reference to Katherine Routledge, the first woman archaeologist to work in Polynesia. Katherine, along with her husband, conducted the first excavations on Easter Island.

This biography is a compelling read of Katherine Routledge’s life on the island and her path-breaking explorations about the world’s most remote and mysterious archeological sites. This book about the island gives a great insight into early archeological explorations on the island.

4. Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed: Revised Edition

What happened to the Moai? How did they topple? What about the Rapa Nui people? Why weren’t all the Moai transported to the platforms? Exactly what catastrophic event occurred that left so many Moai partially complete? Have you always wondered about exactly what happened on Easter Island? 

Pulitzer-prize winning author Jared Diamond explores how environmental changes, unsustainable population explosion, and civil unrest have resulted in the collapse of civilizations.

He discusses the vividly striking case of Easter Island as one of the failed societies in the book. The book may not be just about Easter Island but it inevitably links the lessons from the past to today’s world and what can be done to avoid a collapse of modern societies and avoid a repetition of the downfall of Rapa Nui civilization. 

5. The Statues that Walked: Unraveling the Mystery of Easter Island

The gigantic Moai or the stone statues at Easter Island have fascinated everyone since they were discovered. Every year thousands of tourists travel to the most remote inhabited place on earth to marvel at the Moai.

This book by archeologists Hunt & Lipo seeks to answer some of the questions and mysteries that abound the Moai.

They have excellent theories and explanations about how the statues were transported from the quarry of Rano Raraku to their ahus which were often miles away.

Their explanation that ‘the statues walked’ is increasingly believed by modern science. This Easter Island book also offers an interesting alternative to the prevalent theory of eco-suicide and self-destruction by the Rapa Nui civilization.

6. The Enigmas of Easter Island

Enigmas of Easter Island seeks to answer the most baffling questions surrounding the Moai, Rapa Nui and Easter Island by combining a wealth of archeological detail, island lore and accounts of European explorers.

The book references and analyzes most scientific theories around Easter Island and is a comprehensive analysis for anyone interested in Easter Island.  

7. Island at the End of the World: The Turbulent History of Easter Island

Author Steven Fischer examines and pens down the essential history of Easter Island. The book starts with the ancient history of the island including the population of Polynesians to the civil unrest and eventual decline of the Rapa Nui society and subsequent contact with the Europeans before moving to modern eras covering annexation and colonization by Chile and the Rapa Nui fight for civil rights in recent history. 

Some parts of Island at the End of the World: The Turbulent History of Easter Island is available to read for free on Google books.

8. The Mystery of Easter Island (Mystic Traveller)

The original account written by Katherine Routledge herself makes a good light reading on Easter Island. Written in 1919, the book lacks strong discussion and inferences present in other books but the first-person accounts from building the yacht ‘Mana’ to living on the island, understanding the customs of tattooing, documenting the Moai, and interviewing the Rapa Nui makes for a very enthralling read.

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