There are plenty of things one can learn from Tony Wheeler's new book.
The Lonely Plant co-founder uses Islands of Australia to shine a spotlight on the many diverse islands that the country has - emphasis on the many.
The first fact that will probably surprise readers is that Australia is not only an island itself, but it is a continent made up of islands. To be precise, 8220 of them - plus the mainland and the - sometimes forgotten - state of Tasmania.
And the islands are just as diverse as the mainland of Australia, many with a story to tell.
At only 85 metres long, Boundary Islet, for example, is the only land border between Victoria and Tasmania.
Meanwhile, Middle Island, off the south coast of Western Australia in the Recherche Archipelago, was home to Australia's only known pirate Black Jack Anderson, and also has a bubblegum-pink lake.
And then there is Fraser Island, which, Wheeler says, has a convoluted story to research because there are lots of different takes of what happened to Eliza Fraser on the island 1836 after the ship that was carrying her and her husband Captain James Fraser hit a reef 200 kilometres north of the island.
Survivors took the ship's longboats to the island, which is where the details get hazy.
Did they get captured by the island's Aboriginal community, or were they rescued? Did Captain Fraser die from a spear wound or did he starve to death? It's not even clear who rescued Eliza from the island, but she did make a career retelling the tale of her six-week "captivity" after leaving finally leaving.
However, mysterious island stories and pirate tales aside, it is WA's Dirk Hartog Island that's really captured Wheeler's imagination. It's also the island that, coincidentally, ended up on the book's cover.
"It's an outback island, so you're on an island but you could be somewhere in the outback going down four-wheel-drive trails, and it was fantastic in that way," Wheeler says.
"But I thought Dirk Hartog was a really fascinating island. It's got a really interesting history."
He refers partly to the island's history as a disaster zone for European explorers. While they aimed to sail to the Dutch East Indies (current-day Indonesia), if they travelled too far east they found Australia instead.
Dutchman Dirk Hartog was the first European to discover this particular island in 1616, and left a pewter plate fixed to a post that had inscribed the date he had arrived, as well as the names of the ship and the principal crew.
Almost a century later, in 1697, fellow Dutch explorer Willem de Vlemingh dropped by and replaced the plate with the original account and a longer inscription of his own time on the island.
Then, another century down the track, in 1801, Frenchman Jacque Felix Emmanuel Hamelin landed on the island and the tradition continued, with the explorer leaving his own plate.
"The story of the Dutch and French explorers turning up there and the plates that they left is a great story," Wheeler says.
"The one that was taken back to Amsterdam and is still on display today. The one that got taken back to Paris was lost, and they didn't know where it was. They were so embarrassed when they found it that they donated to the Western Australian government and you can see it now in Fremantle."
And it's not just the history that fascinates Wheeler, but the present day.
The island is at the centre of the Back to 1616 program, which aims to restore the animal life that was there when Hartog first landed on the island. This means getting rid of the sheep, goats and feral cats that were introduced, before re-introducing the native species that would have called the island home.
One of the key differences Islands of Australia has to Wheeler's other books is the type of research that went into it.
While Wheeler's time writing for Lonely Planet saw him take a "travel and explore" approach to his destinations, he admits a lot of the process for this book was sitting at a desk and reading the information provided by the National Library of Australia.
"The idea was that it was going to show off things that the National Library has from words to pictures, to maps, to anything else that would be of interest," he says.
"But as it turns out, I ended up going to a lot more islands because I really developed an interest in the ones that I hadn't been to because of working on the book."
So no, Wheeler has not travelled to all of Australia's 8000-odd islands. In fact, a lot of them cannot be visited as they have sheer rock faces dropping into the ocean, rather than a beach.
"Someone who wanted to could do all the inhabited islands - and there are a fair few of those now," he says.
"If I really wanted to I could probably sit down and draw up a list and go to the rest of the ones which have permanent inhabitation."
But while an island hop consisting of thousands may sound intriguing to the adventurers out there, the thing this book does more than anything is show just how unexpectedly diverse this country is. After all, Wheeler himself - like the majority of the country - didn't even know how many islands Australia had before this project.
"I think it's just never been pointed out to Australians," he says.
"If you'd ask me before I started doing this, where is the biggest number of Australian islands, I would have thought there were a lot around Tasmania, but obviously I would have thought it would have been the Barrier Reef where most of them are. But I would have been wrong.
"Although Queensland comes in second, because of the islands on the Barrier Reef, it's Western Australia which has most of the islands.
"But it's the sheer number of them. We have more islands around Australia than they have in the Caribbean, despite the number of countries that there are there. I just think the diversity is amazing."
- Islands of Australia, by Tony Wheeler. NLA Publishing. $39.99.