2022 Nonfiction Reader Challenge Monthly Spotlight #11

 

Welcome to the Monthly Spotlight for the

2022 Nonfiction Reader Challenge!

Each month I’m highlighting some of the reviews shared for the challenge in the linky

Don’t forget to link each book you read as you read during the year!

I encourage you to support all participants who have shared what they are reading for the challenge. Give them a like, leave them a comment, share their posts on Facebook, twitter, or instagram #ReadNonFicChal

Click here to sign up for the 2023 Nonfiction Reader Challenge

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IN NOVEMBER …

 

[LINKED TO A PODCAST]

Of Tunnel 29: The True Story of an Extraordinary Escape Beneath the Berlin Wall by Helena Merriman, Helen of Helen’s Book Blog writes “I’d heard good things about this story of triumph, survival, and heroism so was looking forward to reading it and I was not disappointed. Merriman writes a good narrative nonfiction story that absorbs the reader from page one.”

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[SOCIAL HISTORY]

A recommendation of City of Nets: A Portrait of Hollywood in the 1940’s by Otto Friedrich from a friend paid off for Maphead, “After experiencing City of Nets’ impressive scope and depth I suspect it’s probably the best book out there when comes to the history of early Hollywood. Well-written and insanely well-researched it’s hard to offer up a comprehensive recap of what the book covers, harder still to do so concisely.”

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[WILD ANIMALS]

I loved The Unexpected Truth About Animals by Lucy Cooke, “Written with an irreverence tempered by passion, Cooke exposes the secrets of thirteen well known animals, drawing from historical sources, current research, and her own knowledge and experience. Witty, informative and utterly fascinating, The Unexpected Truths About Animals is an engrossing read.” Read my review at Book’d Out here.

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[PUBLISHED IN 2022]

“This is an eye-opening read about the dangers of scientology.” Laura of Reading Books Again says of A Billion Years: My escape from a life in the highest ranks of Scientology by Mike Rinder.

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[CELEBRITY]

Writes Sue at Book by Book about These Precious Days by Ann Patchett, “I loved every moment of this book! The essays are each very different, yet linked together in a way that paints a picture of Ann and her life, and the people she loves. This wonderfully-written collection of essays is moving, funny, heartfelt, and powerful. I thoroughly enjoyed the experience.”

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What will you be reading in December?

 

Need some inspiration? Check out these posts

SOCIAL HISTORY and POPULAR SCIENCE

LANGUAGE and MEDICAL MEMOIR

CLIMATE/WEATHER and CELEBRITY

REFERENCE and GEOGRAPHY

LINKED TO A PODCAST and WILD ANIMALS

ECONOMICS and PUBLISHED IN 2022

2022 Nonfiction Reader Challenge Monthly Spotlight #1

2022 Nonfiction Reader Challenge Monthly Spotlight #2

2022 Nonfiction Reader Challenge Monthly Spotlight #3

2022 Nonfiction Reader Challenge Monthly Spotlight #4

2022 Nonfiction Reader Challenge Monthly Spotlight #5

2022 Nonfiction Reader Challenge Monthly Spotlight #6

2022 Nonfiction Reader Challenge Monthly Spotlight #7

2022 Nonfiction Reader Challenge Monthly Spotlight #8

2022 Nonfiction Reader Challenge Monthly Spotlight #9

2022 Nonfiction Reader Challenge Monthly Spotlight #10

2022 Nonfiction Reader Challenge Monthly Spotlight #ReadNonFicChal Check out some of the latest #Nonfiction book reviews shared last month #readingchallenge at Book’d Out #nonfiction 

Review: The Torrent by Amanda Gearing

 

Title: The Torrent: A True Story of Heroism and Survival

Author: Amanda Gearing

Published: 30th January 2017, UQP

Status: Read November 2022

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My Thoughts:

The Torrent by Toowoomba journalist Amanda Gearing relates the events of the flooding that devastated the Lockyer Valley in 2011 and the extraordinary stories of survival, rescue and loss revealed in the aftermath. First published in 2012, this 2017 edition also includes updates on the lives of the original interviewees and reporting about the inquiries into the disaster held in later years.

During the summer of 2010/2011 Queensland experienced weeks of monsoon rains, causing widespread flooding across the southern half of the state. On January 10th 2011, the weeks of heavy rain forced a torrent of water through the town of Toowoomba, over the ranges and into the Lockyer Valley. With almost no warning, a wall of water, described as an ‘inland tsunami’, descended upon the communities of Spring Bluff, Murphy’s Creek, Postman’s Ridge, Withcott, Helidon and Grantham. Homes and buildings were swept away, crops and stock were decimated and tragically, twenty four people died.

Though the prose is delivered without flourish, the narrative is absolutely harrowing. I found my pulse accelerating and my body tensing as I read of the water raging through the valley, changing so many lives in its wake. Catherine, her husband Selwyn and their six year old daughter, Katie, were attempting to leave when their property at Murphy’s Creek was hit by a surge of floodwater. Catherine eventually found purchase on a tree about a kilometre downstream to which she clung for several hours before being rescued. Neither her husband nor daughter survived. After their car was swept off the road at Helidon, James Perry, his wife Jenny Thorncraft and their son Teddy climbed onto the roof of the vehicle and clung to the roof racks as it was tossed around by the churning waters. When high voltage live power lines began grazing the waters surface, the family were forced to abandon the car and were separated. Jenny was eventually rescued from a tree, and nine year old Teddy was found on top of a cattle feeder several hours later, over 6km away. The body of James Perry has never been found. Elderly couple Peter and Marie were trapped in their Grantham home for hours after it filled with water and was then swept nearly 2km downstream. These are a summary of just a few of the staggering stories of survival, tragic sacrifices and heroic rescues related in The Torrent.

Gearing goes on to explore the aftermath of the disaster, following up with survivors, witnesses and their communities to reveal how they have fared in the days, weeks, months and years since. The confidence of some residents that the flooding was unlikely to ever be repeated is heartbreaking given they have been, most recently in Feb 2022, though less dramatically. Gearing also discusses the findings of various official inquests and inquiries held, and their attendant controversies. Though the flash flooding was a result of excessive rain due to a La Niña weather event, multiple failures in planning, preparedness, and communication contributed to the loss of life.

Informative, insightful and powerful, The Torrent is both an important record of a natural disaster, and a compelling tribute to the individuals affected.

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Available from UQP

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Review: The Unexpected Truth About Animals by Lucy Cooke

Title: The Unexpected Truth About Animals: Stoned Sloths, Lovelorn Hippos and Other Wild Tales

Author: Lucy Cooke

Published: 31st May 2018, Black Swan

Status: Read November 2022

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My Thoughts:

In The Unexpected Truth About Animals: Stoned Sloths, Lovelorn Hippos and Other Wild Tales, New York Times best-selling author, award-winning documentary filmmaker and broadcaster, and National Geographic explorer Lucy Cooke counters the ‘biggest misconceptions, mistakes and myths we’ve concocted about the animal kingdom’.

Written with an irreverence tempered by passion, Cooke exposes the secrets of thirteen well known animals, drawing from historical sources, current research, and her own knowledge and experience.

Here are just a few of the unexpected truths I learned:

  • Despite billions of dollars and the best of modern technology, we still are not certain how or where the Anguilla anguilla (Eel) reproduce.
  • The sloth’s neck has more vertebrae than any other mammal’s, even the giraffe’s.
  • Vultures have been used to detect gas leaks in pipelines
  • To determine how bats are able to fly in the dark, Italian Catholic priest Lazzaro Spallanzani experimented by systematically removing their eyeballs, plugging their ears and noses, cutting off their tongues, and coating them in varnish.
  • From the 1940s through to the 1960s the world’s first reliable pregnancy test came courtesy of a small, bug-eyed frog. When injected with a pregnant woman’s urine, the amphibian squirted out eggs eight to twelve hours later to confirm a positive result.
  • Storks were exterminated in Britain because the church was offended by the ‘pagan’ belief that they played a part in bringing a couple a baby.
  • Hippopotamuses secrete a substance that is acts as sunscreen, fly repellent and antiseptic.
  • Pandas might look cute and harmless but the powerful muscles in the panda’s cheeks deliver a bite force almost equal to a lion’s.
  • Adélie penguins exchange sex for pebbles from single males to shore up their nests.

And so much more! I’ve shared some of the tamer revelations here because, among other things, the sex lives of desperate male penguins are a little disturbing. This is definitely not a book for prudes, or anyone who prefers the Disney version of animals.

Witty, informative and utterly fascinating, The Unexpected Truths About Animals is an engrossing read.

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Available from Penguin UK

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*Purchase from Booktopia*

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SIGN UP for the 2023 Nonfiction Reader Challenge

 

I hope you will join me for the 2023 Nonfiction Reader Challenge, now in its 4th year.

The aim of the Nonfiction Reader Challenge is to encourage you to make nonfiction part of your reading experience during the year.

HOW IT WORKS

You can select, read and review a book from the categories listed below during the year for a total of up to 12 books; OR select, read and review any nonfiction book. A book may be in print, electronic or audio format.

Choose a goal:

Nonfiction Nipper: Read & review 3 books, from any 3 listed categories

Nonfiction Nibbler: Read & review 6 books, from any 6 listed categories

Nonfiction Nosher: Read & review 12 books, one book for each listed category

AND/OR

Nonfiction Grazer: Read & review any nonfiction book. Set your own goal.


Categories:

 

History

Memoir/Biography

Crime & punishment

Science

Health

Travel

Food

Social Media

Sport

Relationships

The Arts

Published in 2023


The challenge will run from January 1st to December 31st 2023. Participants may join at any time up until December 1st 2023.

 

For further details and to sign up, please visit the

2023 Nonfiction Reader Challenge page


PLEASE SHARE ON YOUR SOCIAL MEDIA CHANNELS

Download a printable bookmark or note sheet!

 


Got any recommendations for these categories? Please feel free to leave them in the comments.

 


Time to #SIGN UP for the 2023 Nonfiction Reader Challenge #ReadNonficChal #ReadingChallenge ##2023ReadingChallenge #Nonfiction #bookbloggers #bookstagrammers

Review: Australia’s Great Depression by Joan Beaumont

 

Title: Australia’s Great Depression: How a Nation Shattered by the Great War Survived the Worst Economic Crisis It Has Ever Faced

Author: Joan Beaumont

Published: 1st March 2022, Allen & Unwin

Status: Read November 2022 courtesy Allen & Unwin

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My Thoughts:

 

I don’t remember The Great Depression ever being a topic of discussion among my family. My maternal and paternal grandparents were born in the mid to late 1920’s so they would have been young children at the time, and my great great grandparents had all passed away by the time I was six. All I really know of its impact comes from American novels set during the period that I studied in high school like Of Mice and Men and The Grapes of Wrath. Though I don’t care much for economics as a subject I am increasingly interested in learning more about Australian history.

Australia’s Great Depression by Jean Beaumont is a comprehensive examination of the global crisis’s impact on the nation, particularly between the years of 1929 and 1932. Australia was amongst the hardest hit nations, with the economic crash triggered by a combination of wartime and repatriation spending, the collapse of export markets like wheat and wool, the rising price of imports, and high overseas debts.

I have to admit that I found some of the economic and political detail to be tedious, but I do feel it was explained clearly.

Of more interest to me was the impact on the population. Unemployment in Australia ranged between 25 and 30 per cent, and was at its highest in 1932. Beaumont shows that not all sectors of the economy equally affected, and hence the impact of the Great Depression varied according to location, age, marital status, gender, ethnicity, class and former military service. I found the specifics of the variables to be intriguing , though none were too surprising.

I also found the brief discussion of the parallels between the behaviour of political parties and politicians around the Depression and the current economic downturn post-CoVid to be of interest. It was also interesting to note, given current woefully low unemployment payments, that the ‘susso’ payment introduced during the Great Depression, was similarly set at a meagre rate, and for almost the same reasons that the government uses to justify it today.

There is a collection of photographs and other images included at the end of the book. So too are Beaumont’s extensive lists of References and Notes for anyone interested in further reading.

At nearly 600 pages I wouldn’t recommend Australia’s Great Depression.  to a casual reader unless the topic is of specific interest, but I feel I learnt a lot about the nation’s socioeconomic history and the complexity of the Great Depression experience by reading it.

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Available from Allen & Unwin  

RRP AUD$39.99

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Review: The Book of Phobias & Manias by Kate Summerscale

 

Title: The Book of Phobias & Manias: A History of the World in 99 Obsessions

Author: Kate Summerscale

Published: 5th October 2022,Profile Books

Status: Read October 2022 courtesy Allen & Unwin

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My Thoughts:

“We are all driven by our fears and desires, and sometimes we are in thrall of them.”

The Book of Phobias and Manias by Kate Summerscale is an interesting compendium  identifying familiar and obscure fears and obsessions that afflict humankind.

Personally, I don’t care much for heights (acrophobia) though I’m fine if I’m in a fully enclosed area like a building or a plane. I am also afraid of sharks (galeophobia) and by extension I don’t like being in deep water (thalassophobia). My fears aren’t quite severe enough to warrant diagnosis as a phobia though.

A phobia is a persistent, overwhelming and debilitating fear, often with irrational cause. For the purposes of diagnosis, that fear must interfere with normal functioning. In her introduction, Summerscale discusses how some fears are considered to have a evolutionary purpose, a reflex to protect us from external threats, like snakes (Ophidiophobia) for example. Others may be a result of personal experience, for example someone may develop a fear of dogs (cynophobia) after being bitten by one; or cultural conditioning, like the fear of being without a mobile phone (nomophobia). Some fears, like most mania’s, may be related to chemical imbalances in the brain. A mania is often an overwhelming compulsion to do something, like stealing (kleptomania) or oniomania (shopping). A mania may also stem from a delusion, such as the false belief that one is desired (erotomania), and can affect clusters of people.

The entries in The Book of Phobias and Manias are arranged alphabetically, from Ablutophobia to Zoophobia. The length of each varies but in most instances Summerscale defines the phobia, or mania, and offers some historical, cultural and scientific context as well as an anecdote or case study. I found the entries to be very readable and the language is accessible, but there is some repetition that is noticeable if you read through the book in one sitting. Summerscale’s research seems to be sound, though Freud was cited uncomfortably often. The sources she provides are quite extensive and a good source of further reading.

As an introduction to phobias and manias, The Book of Phobias and Manias could be a good resource. I found it to be entertaining and interesting.

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Available from Allen & Unwin

RRP AUD$39.99

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*Purchase from Booktopia*

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2022 Nonfiction Reader Challenge Monthly Spotlight #10

 

Welcome to the Monthly Spotlight for the

2022 Nonfiction Reader Challenge!

Each month I’m highlighting some of the reviews shared for the challenge in the linky

Don’t forget to link each book you read as you read during the year!

I encourage you to support all participants who have shared what they are reading for the challenge. Give them a like, leave them a comment, share their posts on Facebook, twitter, or instagram #ReadNonFicChal

—————

IN OCTOBER …

 


[SCIENCE]

Reading Books Again did not enjoy Starry Messenger: Cosmic Perspectives on Civilisation by Neil deGrasse Tyson. “The book was a disappointment. I expected a scientific book. What I got was unorganized ramblings regarding problems on earth. The writing itself was good but the content was lacking.”

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[SOCIAL HISTORY]

“I would highly recommend Tongerlongeter as a book to get you thinking; a narrative which presents another view of Australian history.” says Denise Newton Writes of Tongerlongeter: First Nations Leader & Tasmanian War Hero by Henry Reynolds and Nicholas Clements.

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[PUBLISHED IN 2022]

Stranger Than Fiction has a mixed response to Queens: Women in Power Through History by Phyllis G. Jestice, but she writes, “The highlight of the book is the glorious illustrations (180 of them), which include reproductions of paintings and tapestries as well as photos of sculptures and artifacts.”

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[NATURE]

BookShelfDiscovery writes, “It’s not hard to be swept away by Dara’s love of nature through the strength of his writing, and you can really feel how nature affects his senses. ‘Diary of a Young Naturalist’ is powerful and inspiring book.”

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[CELEBRITY]

If you are a fan of the show I recommend The Big Bang Theory: The Definitive, Inside Story of the Epic Hit Series by Jessica Radloff, “…both a fun and interesting read, not only as an insiders view of an iconic sitcom and its stars, but also for what it reveals about working in the television industry in general.” Check out my review here at Book’d Out 

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What will you be reading in November?

COMING SOON: 2023 Nonfiction Reader Challenge 

 

Need some inspiration? Check out these posts

SOCIAL HISTORY and POPULAR SCIENCE

LANGUAGE and MEDICAL MEMOIR

CLIMATE/WEATHER and CELEBRITY

REFERENCE and GEOGRAPHY

LINKED TO A PODCAST and WILD ANIMALS

ECONOMICS and PUBLISHED IN 2022

2022 Nonfiction Reader Challenge Monthly Spotlight #1

2022 Nonfiction Reader Challenge Monthly Spotlight #2

2022 Nonfiction Reader Challenge Monthly Spotlight #3

2022 Nonfiction Reader Challenge Monthly Spotlight #4

2022 Nonfiction Reader Challenge Monthly Spotlight #5

2022 Nonfiction Reader Challenge Monthly Spotlight #6

2022 Nonfiction Reader Challenge Monthly Spotlight #7

2022 Nonfiction Reader Challenge Monthly Spotlight #8

2022 Nonfiction Reader Challenge Monthly Spotlight #9

2022 Nonfiction Reader Challenge Monthly Spotlight #ReadNonFicChal Check out some of the latest #Nonfiction book reviews shared last month #readingchallenge at Book’d Out

Review: Once Upon a Tome by Oliver Darkshire

 

Title: Once Upon a Tome: The Misadventures of a Rare Bookseller

Author: Oliver Darkshire

Published: 6th October 2022, Bantam Press UK

Status: Read October 2022 courtesy Bantam Press/Netgalley

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My Thoughts:

 

Once Upon a Tome is a charming account from Oliver Darkshire of his experience working at Sotheran’s Rare Books and Prints, one of the world’s oldest bookstores.

Founded in York in 1761, Sotheran’s moved to London in 1815, eventually settling into premises in Sackville Street, just off Piccadilly in the heart of London’s West End. The store is laid out of three floors, crowded not only with old and rare books, but also magazines, art, maps, and antique bric-a-brac, including a cursed lectern.

Having fled an administrative job in a legal firm to avoid being fired, Oliver joined the staff, aged 20, as a bookseller apprentice. He’d no real intention of remaining in the job for long but stayed for a decade. (Oliver has now left Sotheran’s, moving to the country with his husband, though he still maintains the store’s Twitter feed @Sotherans which he popularised.)

Told through a series of roughly chronological vignettes, Oliver writes warmly about his colleagues, especially his canny late mentor, James; cheekily of his customers categorised as ‘smaugs’, ‘Dracula’s’ or one of a variety of ‘cryptids’; and earnestly of the vagaries of rare bookselling. I found his stories of cataloguing, bookrunners, home visits, ghosts and secret cellars entertaining, and his insights into the store’s trade interesting.

Comparisons to the memoirs of Edinburgh rare bookseller Shaun Bythell are inevitable, and I think Once Upon a Time comes out ahead. Darkshire writes with more evident affection for the store, its trade and its customers, though perhaps that is in part the privilege of being an employee rather than the owner.

A witty, candid, and tender book, Once Upon a Tome is sure to delight bibliophiles everywhere.

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Available from Bantam Press

Or help support* Book’d Out

*Purchase from Booktopia*

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Nonfiction November: Your Year in Nonfiction

Looking back over the past year, I’m disappointed by how few nonfiction titles I’ve read. My annual aim is a minimum of two a month but I’ve fallen well short of that.  A few weeks of illness mid year is partially to blame, I’ve been behind on my schedule ever since and I have had to prioritise books received for review in an effort to catch up.

Of those nonfiction books I have read, all, except one, were received by publishers, most of which I requested to meet my goal for the Nonfiction Reader Challenge. To date I’ve read only 12 nonfiction books this year, eight of which specifically satisfy challenge categories.

Because of this no single topic has dominated my reading, which is not a bad thing really. Thankfully none of the titles I read were duds, but two do stand out, both of which I highly recommend.

The first is a memoir, The All of It: A Bogan Rhapsody by Cadance Bell. Written with such sincerity and heart it is an authentic, moving and often funny account of one person’s journey to self acceptance and I would recommend it especially to anyone who may be grappling with their gender identity, or trying to understand someone who is.

The second is Unmask Alice by Rick Emerson, an explosive exposé of the fraud perpetrated by Beatrice Sparks who was the ‘Anonymous’ author of Go Ask Alice and Jay’s Diary. It’s an incredible story of one woman’s hubris and deceit, as well as a fascinating exploration of the enormous cultural impact the books made, which still reverberates fifty years later.


Click here to browse reviews for the other nonfiction titles I’ve read so far this year, shown below .

My goal for Nonfiction November this year is simply to read as much nonfiction as I can.

I have four books that are a priority if I am going to complete my Nonfiction Reader Challenge goal. (Covers are linked to Goodreads)


I also have six nonfiction titles on my review schedule I need to read, though two aren’t being published until 2023. (Covers are linked to Goodreads)


And I’d like to be able to pick a few books from my very long TBR list as well, which I will no doubt be adding to this month. (TOP TIP: Start a blank document now so you can add the books that catch your eye, & who recommended them, over the next four weeks. It makes pulling together your post for Week 5 so much easier.)

Nonfiction November is such fun! Please feel free to leave a link to your post if you are participating, or to your own review of any of the books I’ve shared here.

Review: Atlas of Abandoned Places by Oliver Smith

 

Title: Atlas of Abandoned Places: A Journey Through The World’s Forgotten Wonders

Author: Oliver Smith

Published: 11th October 2022, Mitchell Beasley

Status: Read October 2022, Hachette Australia

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My Thoughts:

 

“To step into an abandoned place is to cross a kind of threshold into the past- to time travel from the present day to the instant that people departed.”

In Atlas of Abandoned Places: A Journey Through The World’s Forgotten Wonders, Oliver Smith highlights fifty abandoned places and structures found across the globe, from the catacombs of Paris, to wartime bunkers in Albania, to a Vietnamese theme park, and even entire towns in California, Turkey, and Australia.

While some of these abandoned places are found in remote areas, like the Aniva Lighthouse at the most southern point of Russia, others are more accessible, the old City Hall Station in New York, for example, can be glimpsed during the transit through Brooklyn Bridge Station. The reasons for the abandonment of these sites vary, from the destructive effects of a natural disaster, like the volcanic eruption that devastated Southern Montserrat, to financial collapse that left developments, including the Turkish castles of Burj Al Babas, unfit for habitation. Each place has its own unique story.

An award winning travel writer, Smith’s text is articulate and evocative. For each location he presents a description of the location and/or structure, its purpose and history, its present condition, and what its fate may be. I found the information about these sites, most of which were unfamiliar, generally fascinating and often thought-provoking.

The layout is consistent with each place featured over four pages. The introduction and text with a small image or two is on the left, a full page map showing the location on the right, followed by more text on the left and a large matte image or two on the right. In some instances I would perhaps have liked more images of the sites/structures, but they are easily found online.

I enjoyed browsing through The Atlas of Abandoned Places, this is a well presented book that both informs, and sparks the imagination.

“For places that seem lifeless, their lesson is that – in some form or other-life goes on.”

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Available from Hachette Australia

Or help support* Book’d Out

*Purchase from Booktopia*

*As an affiliate of Booktopia I may earn a small commission on your purchase at no additional cost to you.*

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