What people say about Off the Map

"I enjoyed OTM very much.  For Finns, it fills a certain gap in coming to terms with the past and provides an outsider's view of our politics and society at a special time in our history, the last phase of the Cold War and the tectonic changes that followed.  It also reads wonderfully."

Ambassador Kirsti Kauppi, Finnish ambassador to the United States

Gordon Sander was the only foreign journalist who covered Finland's decade-long transformation from an isolated backwater into a vibrant and modern society.  More than just a portrait of a fascinating country, this is the story of a long and bumpy love affair between an American journalist and a European nation.  It leaves us admiring them both.

Stephen Kinzer, former New York Times foreign correspondent, currently senior fellow, Watson Institute, Brown University, author of The Brothers, True Flag and other books


Gordon F. Sander is not just a meticulous historian and accomplished journalist.  He is also an adventurer with an eye for the weird and the wonderful.  This updated reprise of Off The Map is full of laughs and sighs for those of us who can remember those years.  More than that it will give any reader some some unique insight into how and why Finland and the Finns are the way they are today.

Eddy Hawkins, veteran journalist and writer/broadcaster for the English language news service of YLE, Finnish National Broadcasting


Off The Map is the story of the era when Helsinki and Finland finally became European as seen through the eyes of master storyteller and chronicler Gordon F. Sander himself.

Ami Hasan, and founder and chairman of hasan & partners advertising agency, Helsinki


Gordon Sander’s book, Off the Map, is a personal take on Finland’s emergence as a country.  Told through a charming mix of reportage and vignettes, Sander provides a journey through Finland’s anxious years balancing the Soviet Union to the dizzying end of the Cold War to becoming one of the world’s most equitable and competitive societies.  Insightful and with plenty of levity, Off The Map is an honest look at an oft-overlooked country as it comes of age.

Reid Standish,  American journalist based in Helsinki and frequent contributor to Politico, Foreign Policy, and others

"The US writer Gordon Sander came to Finland for the first time in the late 1970s on assignment from The Atlantic Monthly.  He was astounded by the crosswalks, which didn't merely have lights, but also sound signals to help the visually impaired.  This is clearly a country that cares about all of its people, the amazed American thought.  This was the beginning of a life-long love for Finland, and later, Aland...

Aland review.jpg

Sander is a consummate story teller with an excellent grasp of both Finland, and its Nordic and Baltic neighbors.  [In the book] he expertly mixes anecdotes about some of the dramatic experiences he has had and his encounters with some of the colorful personalities he has met along the way, with expert political and historical analysis..

...He gets to write his first big international story in 1977, when a hijacked Aeroflot plane lands in Helsinki. Two Russians who have taken control of the plane demand to be flown to Sweden and freedom, but the loyal pilot tricks them and lands in Helsinki instead [where there is a treaty by which the Finns are obliged to return hijackers to the USSR].  After a dramatic negotiation, President Kekkonen--'in many ways Moscow's man in Helsinki--ordered the police to storm the plane and the hijackers are taken into custody, after which they are promptly returned to Soviet authorities..

...[In Aland] Sander rents a cabin in Bjorko [in the center of the archipelago] and spends two wondrous days in the embrace of Nordic nature--but only after surviving a near drowning after he lost his rowboat while exploring a small island near the cabin...'

'It's always interesting to hear an outsider describe one's home.  That is done by a writer and reporter of Gordon F. Sander's caliber only makes the whole thing more enjoyable....Off the Map is a pure feast for the reader."

from a full-page review of Off the Map in 'Aland,' the leading paper of Aland, October 17th, 2018