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Off the Map: Lost Spaces, Invisible Cities, Forgotten Islands, Feral Places and What They Tell Us About the World

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A tour of the world’s hidden geographies—from disappearing islands to forbidden deserts—and a stunning testament to how mysterious the world remains todayAt a time when Google Maps Street View can take you on a virtual tour of Yosemite’s remotest trails and cell phones double as navigational systems, it’s hard to imagine there’s any uncharted ground left on the planet. In A tour of the world’s hidden geographies—from disappearing islands to forbidden deserts—and a stunning testament to how mysterious the world remains todayAt a time when Google Maps Street View can take you on a virtual tour of Yosemite’s remotest trails and cell phones double as navigational systems, it’s hard to imagine there’s any uncharted ground left on the planet. In Unruly Places, Alastair Bonnett goes to some of the most unexpected, offbeat places in the world to reinspire our geographical imagination. Bonnett’s remarkable tour includes moving villages, secret cities, no man’s lands, and floating islands. He explores places as disorienting as Sandy Island, an island included on maps until just two years ago despite the fact that it never existed. Or Sealand, an abandoned gun platform off the English coast that a British citizen claimed as his own sovereign nation, issuing passports and crowning his wife as a princess. Or Baarle, a patchwork of Dutch and Flemish enclaves where walking from the grocery store’s produce section to the meat counter can involve crossing national borders. An intrepid guide down the road much less traveled, Bonnett reveals that the most extraordinary places on earth might be hidden in plain sight, just around the corner from your apartment or underfoot on a wooded path. Perfect for urban explorers, wilderness ramblers, and armchair travelers struck by wanderlust, Unruly Places will change the way you see the places you inhabit.


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A tour of the world’s hidden geographies—from disappearing islands to forbidden deserts—and a stunning testament to how mysterious the world remains todayAt a time when Google Maps Street View can take you on a virtual tour of Yosemite’s remotest trails and cell phones double as navigational systems, it’s hard to imagine there’s any uncharted ground left on the planet. In A tour of the world’s hidden geographies—from disappearing islands to forbidden deserts—and a stunning testament to how mysterious the world remains todayAt a time when Google Maps Street View can take you on a virtual tour of Yosemite’s remotest trails and cell phones double as navigational systems, it’s hard to imagine there’s any uncharted ground left on the planet. In Unruly Places, Alastair Bonnett goes to some of the most unexpected, offbeat places in the world to reinspire our geographical imagination. Bonnett’s remarkable tour includes moving villages, secret cities, no man’s lands, and floating islands. He explores places as disorienting as Sandy Island, an island included on maps until just two years ago despite the fact that it never existed. Or Sealand, an abandoned gun platform off the English coast that a British citizen claimed as his own sovereign nation, issuing passports and crowning his wife as a princess. Or Baarle, a patchwork of Dutch and Flemish enclaves where walking from the grocery store’s produce section to the meat counter can involve crossing national borders. An intrepid guide down the road much less traveled, Bonnett reveals that the most extraordinary places on earth might be hidden in plain sight, just around the corner from your apartment or underfoot on a wooded path. Perfect for urban explorers, wilderness ramblers, and armchair travelers struck by wanderlust, Unruly Places will change the way you see the places you inhabit.

30 review for Off the Map: Lost Spaces, Invisible Cities, Forgotten Islands, Feral Places and What They Tell Us About the World

  1. 4 out of 5

    B Schrodinger

    Books about maps and weird geography always get me. I'm a sucker for them. Alastair Bonnett offers up "Off the Map" to us geo-nerds and it's premise is to talk about many weird places that have their weirdness due to several reasons. He breaks the reasons down into several categories or chapters: dead places, in-between places, places that never were and renegade places. You'll read about an island that was on maps into the early 2000s, even on google maps, that never existed, a town that grew up Books about maps and weird geography always get me. I'm a sucker for them. Alastair Bonnett offers up "Off the Map" to us geo-nerds and it's premise is to talk about many weird places that have their weirdness due to several reasons. He breaks the reasons down into several categories or chapters: dead places, in-between places, places that never were and renegade places. You'll read about an island that was on maps into the early 2000s, even on google maps, that never existed, a town that grew up in a cemetery, Sealand, the small nation established on a WWII gunner platform off the UK coast, islands made of trash or pumice, 'The World' a sailing ship for the ultra wealthy and many others. While there were lots of fascinating tales as well as obscure facts in this book it did not quite fulfil my desire. The author is quite eloquent and his observations and conclusions are astute. But there was not much in-between. This book swayed from trivia to philosophical observation in a heartbeat and then the chapter ended and you were thrown into another weirdness. With just over seventy different places to chapters in a 300 page book, you were left on an ride of going "oh that's fascinating", "that's a great observation" to "oh that's the end of that. Maybe I can look up all those extra questions I have on Google." When a book does this seventy times it's a little frustrating. It's even more astounding that the author seemed to have travelled to some of these places and interviewed people, all for 5 or six pages of text. It seems like an awful waste. I would have loved to see ten or twelve of these places properly discussed instead of a frenetic whirlwind. So, definitely one for completists and lovers of geography, especially those who love trivia.

  2. 4 out of 5

    jeremy

    authentic topophilia can never be satisfied with a diet of sunny villages. the most fascinating places are often also the most disturbing, entrapping, and appalling. they are also often temporary. in ten years' time most of the places we will be exploring will look very different; many will not be there at all. but just as biophilia doesn't lessen because we know that nature is often horrible and that all life is transitory, genuine topophilia knows that our bond with place isn't about findin authentic topophilia can never be satisfied with a diet of sunny villages. the most fascinating places are often also the most disturbing, entrapping, and appalling. they are also often temporary. in ten years' time most of the places we will be exploring will look very different; many will not be there at all. but just as biophilia doesn't lessen because we know that nature is often horrible and that all life is transitory, genuine topophilia knows that our bond with place isn't about finding the geographical equivalent of kittens and puppies. this is a fierce love. it is a dark enchantment. it goes deep and demands our attention. alastair bonnett's unruly places offers transportive and captivating glimpses into the world's "lost spaces, secret cities, and other inscrutable geographies." divided into eight sections: "lost spaces," "hidden geographies," "no man's lands," "dead cities," "spaces of exception," "enclaves and breakaway nations," "floating islands," and "ephemeral places," bonnett's compendium of geographical curiosities will allure wanderlusters and imaginarians alike. bonnett takes us around the globe, visiting forty-seven locales of remarkable disparity: an island long believed to exist (that actually doesn't), a once great sea that's now nearly desert, turkish underground cities, a cemetery inhabited by the living, traffic islands, lands of shifting borders, cities abandoned after industrial disasters, cities left unfinished, freeports, secret prisons, intentional communities, illegal settlements, feral cities, a land forbidden to women (including female animals), pumice rafts, trash islands, man-made islands, floating communities, public sex spots, play spaces, and an airport parking lot, amongst many others. bonnett, a professor of social geography, invites us to think about the nature and meaning of place, drawing our attention to the neglected, forgotten, unknown, and undesirable locations that dot our planet. we are led to consider what specifically it might be that makes place so important to our species (collectively and as individuals). while bonnett's vignettes are wonderfully intriguing and succinctly portrayed, unruly places shies away from the deeper philosophical explorations it could have so easily embarked upon. it is, nonetheless, an engrossing tour of some of the world's most enigmatic and curious locales. yet while those who care about place have a lot to be troubled about, it would be a shame if this discussion was limited to nostalgic laments. as we have seen, the world is still full of unexpected places that have the power to delight, sometimes appall, but always intrigue. these unruly places provoke us and force us to think about the neglected but fundamental role of place in our lives. they challenge us to see ourselves for what we are: a place-making and place-loving species.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Jenny (Reading Envy)

    I really enjoyed this book, and it will go right next to Atlas of Remote Islands on my geeky geography wishlist. The author uncovers some obscure instances of secret/lost/unknown places, like floating pumice islands, towns not listed on maps in Russia, underground cities, and disappearing corners. What about the music festival that happens in an ice cave in Norway? Sign me up. I really enjoyed this book, and it will go right next to Atlas of Remote Islands on my geeky geography wishlist. The author uncovers some obscure instances of secret/lost/unknown places, like floating pumice islands, towns not listed on maps in Russia, underground cities, and disappearing corners. What about the music festival that happens in an ice cave in Norway? Sign me up.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Paul

    Apart from some obscure bits of the Amazon rainforest and Indonesian jungles we think that there can be no undiscovered parts of the world; can there? Surely, we must have discovered everything on Google Earth by now. Off The Map sets about putting that record straight. In this book, Bonnett helps us discover secret places, unexpected islands, slivers of a metropolis and hidden villages. Russia seems to have more than its fair share of secret and abandoned cities. There is Zheleznogorsk, a milit Apart from some obscure bits of the Amazon rainforest and Indonesian jungles we think that there can be no undiscovered parts of the world; can there? Surely, we must have discovered everything on Google Earth by now. Off The Map sets about putting that record straight. In this book, Bonnett helps us discover secret places, unexpected islands, slivers of a metropolis and hidden villages. Russia seems to have more than its fair share of secret and abandoned cities. There is Zheleznogorsk, a military town that never existed on any map and still retains some of its secrecy today. Probably the most infamous is Pripyat, abandoned days after the nuclear explosion at Chenobyl, it is slowly being reclaimed by nature; the amount of radiation means that the area will not be safe for humans to reoccupy for at least 900 years. Give or take… Bonnett tells us about disputed borders that mean that the people still living there are unattached to any nation, a man in New York who bought the tiny strips of land alongside tower blocks for a few dollars each. There is Sealand, a fortress built in World War Two and now a self-declared principality in the North Sea. Other islands exist in out oceans too, some that are on maps that have never been there, others made from rubbish that has collected together and occasionally floating rocks; or pumice as it is better known, the residue from underwater volcanoes. There is also a huge vessel called the World, collectively owned by the residents, it ploughs the seas keeping all the riff-raff away. He mentions the abandoned villages of England from the second world war, including one just down the road from me; Arne. It is a fascinating book, full of weird and wonderful trivia about places that you really wouldn’t want to visit on your holidays. It is also an exploration of what makes a landscape and the things we draw from it. Worth reading for anyone who is fascinated by those places that just don’t fit the map. 3.5 stars

  5. 4 out of 5

    Nancy Kennedy

    In "Unruly Places," Alastair Bonnett has written neither a tour guide nor a history book. Instead, it's a sort of mash-up of history, philosophy and sociology applied to the geography of little-known places on the earth. In separate chapters, the author examines places as diverse as islands that appear only on maps, underground colonies, deserted cities, male-only religious territories, and even urban "gutterspace," or slivers of land between buildings. Facts are my thing. Theory not so much. I f In "Unruly Places," Alastair Bonnett has written neither a tour guide nor a history book. Instead, it's a sort of mash-up of history, philosophy and sociology applied to the geography of little-known places on the earth. In separate chapters, the author examines places as diverse as islands that appear only on maps, underground colonies, deserted cities, male-only religious territories, and even urban "gutterspace," or slivers of land between buildings. Facts are my thing. Theory not so much. I found some parts of the book interesting and some of it too conceptual to capture my interest. I knew a little bit about some of the places the author examines -- for example, underground cities inhabited by early Christians -- and I enjoyed learning more about them. But the author's philosophizing often made no sense to me. Of living underground, he says on one page that "there is something down there; something we are drawn to," but just a few pages later says "only the truly fearful choose to live under the ground." Which is it? Are we drawn to it? Or forced underground? The chapters are brief, some only three or four pages, so you can take this book a little at a time, if you like. It's probably better to read it that way, as the connecting tissue of the book is fairly thin. But if you like to examine the mundane in a poetic way, this might be the book for you. For example, here is how the author starts his chapter on "Enclaves and Breakaway Nations": "I don't have an easy relationship with borders. They frighten and unnerve me. Searched, prodded, delayed; again and again, for the temerity of crossing a few feet of land. They are bureaucratic fault lines, imperious and unfriendly." Not really my thoughts as I cross a border, but then again, I'm not a poet or philosopher.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Althea Ann

    This is a great book to pick up when you don't have the time (or attention span) to sit down and get engrossed in something lengthy. It feels almost like a compilation of a column from a magazine - a couple of pages devoted to each entry. The theme is interesting places around the world. The focus is on the interstitial - things that are caught in the margins, between one thing and the other, not one thing or the other, overlooked, decaying, forgotten. Like many others, I find such things fascina This is a great book to pick up when you don't have the time (or attention span) to sit down and get engrossed in something lengthy. It feels almost like a compilation of a column from a magazine - a couple of pages devoted to each entry. The theme is interesting places around the world. The focus is on the interstitial - things that are caught in the margins, between one thing and the other, not one thing or the other, overlooked, decaying, forgotten. Like many others, I find such things fascinating, so I picked up this book both as a potential guidebook and to hear the author's take on such places. At a few junctures, the authors pontificating can get slightly pompous, in the manner of an academic lecture. Overall, however, his ideas about the psychology of topography: our conception of space, place, and borders (and how those change over time, are affected by politics, etc.), are quite fascinating. The chosen places, and the factual information on each of them, was also interesting. I did know about a decent percentage of the places mentioned, but I still kept raising my head up from the book to say to whoever was around: "Hey! Did you know...?" Each item that the author has included an essay on is accompanied by its longitude and latitude... however, what would've really brought this book up to 5 stars is if the author had teamed up with a National Geographic-quality photographer in order to illustrate these locations. For nearly every item, I found myself longing to see it as described - not just to peer at it via Google Earth. A coffee-table edition, with photos, would be a great project! An advance copy of this book was provided by NetGalley. Thanks so much for the opportunity to read... As always, my opinions are my own.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Thomas Cook

    I was disappointed in this book. I wanted to like it, and perhaps I am too much of a geographic stickler, but the read did not live up to the premise of the title. The author did not travel to many of the places listed, and there are too many places listed. Nor does the collection hang together. The book works well as a sampling of interesting places, and you can open it up anywhere and have a fun read; leave it in the restroom.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Emma Sea

    I wanted to like this book a hell of a lot more than I did. I found it all a little too . . . ordinary. The places (or non-places) were well described, but the words lacked that magic sense of evocativeness, and the "what they tell us about the world" just . . . missed, somehow? Maybe it's because it's formatted as a series of almost encyclopedic entries, each about one specific place. There's no overall thematic structure or narrative to tie them together. Or maybe it's because these aren't, in I wanted to like this book a hell of a lot more than I did. I found it all a little too . . . ordinary. The places (or non-places) were well described, but the words lacked that magic sense of evocativeness, and the "what they tell us about the world" just . . . missed, somehow? Maybe it's because it's formatted as a series of almost encyclopedic entries, each about one specific place. There's no overall thematic structure or narrative to tie them together. Or maybe it's because these aren't, in general, places that Bonnett has a link to, that he's visited. He's pulled the information for entries from other books, because they're interesting on the surface. There's little personal connection to Bonnett in here, outside of a few succinctly-stated anecdotes. But place is mediated through human experience, and without that spark of connectedness everything was just a little hollow and flat. This is nothing like a gorgeous as any of Mary Oliver's writing about place, or Robert MacFarlane's. I feel guilty for giving it a 2, but for me it was only OK.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Laura

    As stated in the publisher marketing "this is not a book you need to read cover to cover" and I have not though I would like to go back at some point and do so because it is clear the author has a particular flow to these essays in mind. Instead, I have been like a chicken pecking here and there in the grass when just steps away is a feeding trough neatly laid out. Ad though the reader can amass a wonderful collection of conversational trivia from this marvelous essay collection, it is far more As stated in the publisher marketing "this is not a book you need to read cover to cover" and I have not though I would like to go back at some point and do so because it is clear the author has a particular flow to these essays in mind. Instead, I have been like a chicken pecking here and there in the grass when just steps away is a feeding trough neatly laid out. Ad though the reader can amass a wonderful collection of conversational trivia from this marvelous essay collection, it is far more than cocktail party fodder. It is a collection with intellect and scope, a geo-social treatise on place and landscape, on belonging and on the mystery of our ever-changing planet. Bonnett examines the relationship between place and the human psyche and give intriguing examples of both natural and unnatural geological change. More than mere geographical observation and stopping short of environmental activism, the author seeks to engage our "geological imagination". Bonnett strings together stories of earth's transitional landscapes, the paradox of border regions and no man's lands, the rapid appearance and disappearance of islands, inland seas, and communities. Fascinating and impressively presented.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Nicky

    This was something of an impulsive purchase, and it turned out to be lighter reading than I expected. Each section is very short, sometimes just three pages long, and it leaves you wondering why he included such-and-such a place if there was so little to say about it. After all, the point of this book is to highlight interesting stuff about places that don’t exist (that either never have, or no longer do, or can’t officially, or…), so surely it’s worth spending some time on each one. Instead, a This was something of an impulsive purchase, and it turned out to be lighter reading than I expected. Each section is very short, sometimes just three pages long, and it leaves you wondering why he included such-and-such a place if there was so little to say about it. After all, the point of this book is to highlight interesting stuff about places that don’t exist (that either never have, or no longer do, or can’t officially, or…), so surely it’s worth spending some time on each one. Instead, a lot of the sections come across as perfunctory, included more out of a sense that they fit the theme than because they’re interesting. There are some interesting facts in here, and I do enjoy the way Bonnett cross-references with fiction — when he talks about St Petersburg/Leningrad, he mentions China Miéville’s The City & The City, for example. But it was too much of a grab bag of not-always-interesting facts, and sometimes it also came across as rather preachy. Not that I disagree with Bonnett on many of these things, but still, the tone is offputting. Originally posted here.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Daren

    Well, it took me longer to shelve the countries than it will to review... This was a great drop-in-drop-out book - the way I used it was for a half hour here and a half hour there. There are forty seven short stories in this book, divided into eight themes sections. They average about six pages each, so very manageable. Of the forty seven stories, there were probably 10 great stories, another fifteen good ones, and at the other end, probably 10 that were terrible. That leaves a dozen that were rea Well, it took me longer to shelve the countries than it will to review... This was a great drop-in-drop-out book - the way I used it was for a half hour here and a half hour there. There are forty seven short stories in this book, divided into eight themes sections. They average about six pages each, so very manageable. Of the forty seven stories, there were probably 10 great stories, another fifteen good ones, and at the other end, probably 10 that were terrible. That leaves a dozen that were readable without being much more. On that basis it is more hit than miss, and tracks around three stars for me. My expectations going in were quirks in geography, hidden corners, border anomalies and probably some off-the-grid type military or political enclaves. These were present, and probably formed the more enjoyable part of my reading, along with a few other unusual chapters. The chapters that didn't really resonate with me were the more ephemeral or theoretical ones - where geography and history slip into sociology and psychology. This is of course purely personal preference, but that's the way it fell to me. I think fewer locations, better selected and in a little more depth would have suited me. Particular highlights, off the top of my head - the underground cities of Cappadocia, North Sentinal Island, the land border section (India/Bangladesh; Sudan/Egypt; El Salvador/Honduras; and some of the floating islands and enclaves. Worth a read, but probably I would struggle to sit down and read it cover to cover.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Jill Hutchinson

    Do you suffer from "topophilia"? I think we all do as it is defined as "love of place". It is the fabric of our lives, a place to call home, memory, and identity. This book weaves topophilia into the author's search for those unusual places in the world that help define it and why, in most cases, people continue to inhabit these spaces. A social geographer, he takes us to areas that we didn't even know existed and to make it easier, he divides his chapters into such topics as lost spaces, no man Do you suffer from "topophilia"? I think we all do as it is defined as "love of place". It is the fabric of our lives, a place to call home, memory, and identity. This book weaves topophilia into the author's search for those unusual places in the world that help define it and why, in most cases, people continue to inhabit these spaces. A social geographer, he takes us to areas that we didn't even know existed and to make it easier, he divides his chapters into such topics as lost spaces, no man's lands, dead cities, spaces of exception, and much more. Some are right under our feet such as the underground labyrinth beneath Minneapolis/St. Paul, USA. Some which were thought to exist into modern times and appear on most maps, such as Sandy Island near Australia, don't really exist at all. Or the Aral Sea in Central Asia which has morphed into the Aral Desert where the inhabitants eagerly await the return of the "blue water" which will probably never happen. The author slows things down a bit in some chapters by his discussions about global warming......although an important and disturbing condition that is changing the world in which we live, he gets a bit repetitive. Otherwise, this is an armchair traveler's paradise and will amaze you that these "unruly spaces" actually exist.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Jules

    I liked this a lot, I really did, it's a curious exploration of hidden cities like mystery islands being uncovered and swallowed by the rising sea level, cemetery villages within a city, underground cities built to escape religious persecution and forgotten by time, or artificially created floating ice villages. However it felt really uneven in the quality of the pieces, the more interesting ones weren't explored thoroughly enough, and there's a good dose of authorial self insertion I thought re I liked this a lot, I really did, it's a curious exploration of hidden cities like mystery islands being uncovered and swallowed by the rising sea level, cemetery villages within a city, underground cities built to escape religious persecution and forgotten by time, or artificially created floating ice villages. However it felt really uneven in the quality of the pieces, the more interesting ones weren't explored thoroughly enough, and there's a good dose of authorial self insertion I thought really dragged the pieces down.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Bandit

    Some destinations aren’t on the maps. Some are, but in no conventional way. They don’t follow rules, which makes them by definition unruly and this book is a compendium of such locations. My second read by the author and again a terrific adventure. Bonnett is a professor of social geology, meaning not only does he know his subject, but he also presents it in a superbly fascinating, intellectually challenging and stimulating way. Not only did he find dozens of positively bizarre singular places, Some destinations aren’t on the maps. Some are, but in no conventional way. They don’t follow rules, which makes them by definition unruly and this book is a compendium of such locations. My second read by the author and again a terrific adventure. Bonnett is a professor of social geology, meaning not only does he know his subject, but he also presents it in a superbly fascinating, intellectually challenging and stimulating way. Not only did he find dozens of positively bizarre singular places, but he writes about them in a way that makes you ponder the very nature of our connections to these places. Bonnett postulates quite accurately that were are place making place loving species and as such we find ourselves homemaking in outlandish locales, creating creature comforts where none are readily available and bedding down in some very strange places indeed. And all of these locations are given context too, so that they can be understood within the grand scheme of things, both sociopolitical and anthropological. In the modern world where countries make for such uneasy neighbors, Bonnet argues for the world of created (however ersatz and inadequate) territorial boundaries the way I’d argue for democracy…far from perfect but it’s the best available. There are places here that desperately strive for independence, while some are equally desperate to find somewhere to belong. Tentative alliances and allegiances based on ancient past or circumstantial present, but also some absolutely random geographical creations, this book spans it all from need to whimsy. And no matter how well read and well informed you are or how seasoned or an armchair traveler you might be, it’s sure to surprise you with a place or two that’ll boggle the mind, delight and bewilder. Bonnett is a serious writer, and even though I may prefer my nonfiction to be slightly more humorous, his writing easily surpasses my desire for light amusement by just being so engaging and smart. Idea upon idea, this book is a genuine fount of information and food for thought. It really is. My favorite thing about Bonnett’s books is the way he makes you think of the world as a wider and wilder place that presented by my standard Mercator projection map on the wall. It makes you consider the world around us with certain awe and that’s just…well, awesome. Great read, edifying, educational, enlightening and terrifically succinct for such a strikingly inspiring undertaking. Recommended.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Stephen

    interesting book about maps and places and its an quirky book too but an easy read though.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Mycala

    Sooo... this book. I dove into this book after reading The Sex Lives of Cannibals and found the first chapters fascinating. Underground explorations, islands that appear and disappear seemingly at will, urban mini-properties? Cool! I gobbled it all up. Abandoned towns due to asbestos mining or nuclear accidents? Sad but fascinating. Then we got to the part about imaginary places of sorts and my interest ground to a halt. I kept trying, but I lost interest. I just couldn't bring myself to finish. Sooo... this book. I dove into this book after reading The Sex Lives of Cannibals and found the first chapters fascinating. Underground explorations, islands that appear and disappear seemingly at will, urban mini-properties? Cool! I gobbled it all up. Abandoned towns due to asbestos mining or nuclear accidents? Sad but fascinating. Then we got to the part about imaginary places of sorts and my interest ground to a halt. I kept trying, but I lost interest. I just couldn't bring myself to finish. I used to feel bad about putting books down, but the problem with forcing myself to read something that I no longer find interesting means that I stop reading entirely for a while. That's not fair to me. I know some people have a problem with those who give reviews of books they haven't completely read to the end. I don't care. If someone says they couldn't finish a book that says it all to me. There are too many other books on my "to-read" list and my life is already about half over, so I have more important things to do. :-) Two stars, because "it was ok" per the star rating. Also, because the first part of the book really was interesting. Also, I think photos would have been a great addition to this. Perhaps that's part of my trouble -- as a lover of geography and maps, even just maps would have made my enjoyment more complete.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Helen

    This was an interesting book of brief chapters dealing with out-of-the-way, forgotten, or anomalous (in one way or another) patches of land (or virtual land - as the case may be - since some "lands" that are discussed are man-made/temporary/boats. The author's prose is definitely a pleasure to read, with many felicitous turns of phrase. Also, the text is thought-provoking - for example, the author suggests that without borders, the world would be less fun, because it's the forbidden quality of f This was an interesting book of brief chapters dealing with out-of-the-way, forgotten, or anomalous (in one way or another) patches of land (or virtual land - as the case may be - since some "lands" that are discussed are man-made/temporary/boats. The author's prose is definitely a pleasure to read, with many felicitous turns of phrase. Also, the text is thought-provoking - for example, the author suggests that without borders, the world would be less fun, because it's the forbidden quality of finding places that are outside borders, or exist in a no-man's-land of one sort or another - that makes them exciting and interesting. He is probably right. The world is entirely spoken for it seems - mapped out, governed, under the authority of one state or another. We are attracted to anomalies such as the ones described in the book precisely because they're off the grid of states - we wonder how they can exist without the protection of larger states and so forth. Anyone who is interested in finding out about these remnants or left-over swatches of territory that seemingly are not accounted for, will find the book both enlightening & entertaining. So here are some quotes: From the Introduction: "Moving through landscapes that once meant something, perhaps an awful lot, but have been reduced to places of transit where everything is temporary and everyone is just passing through gave me a sense of unease and a hunger for places that matter." He was talking about his home town near London - which was bland/generic. How that experience of growing up in what sounds like a cookie-cutter suburb, like many others, inspired him to seek out places that were unique, and definitely had a sense of history or permanence. Well, we can say the same thing here - development is often rushed, so that developers can maximize profits quickly. The result can be acres of buildings that look very much alike - that don't look particularly like "New York" or "Brooklyn." Of course the situation is even more extreme in some suburbs where the houses really do like endless repetitions of prototypes - ranch, colonial, ranch, high-ranch, bungalow, colonial etc. When you add in the increasing prevalence of chain stores rather than mom-'n'-pops, if you are in one suburb, you might as well be in any other - there is almost nothing that makes one suburb that different or unique. Perhaps parks, views, the beach, mountains - things that cannot be "mass-produced" and that are in fact different wherever you go - these definitively distinguish one place from another. "When human fulfillment is measured out in air miles and when even geographers subscribe to the idea, as expressed by Professor William J. Mitchell of MIT, that 'communities increasingly find their common ground in cyberspace rather than terra firma,' wanting to think about place can seem a little perverse." "Off the Map" was published in 2015 - as the transition to an online existence - so to speak - was picking up. It's all the more so now, with folks more or less addicted to screens of one sort or another - and finding within cyberspace everything they need, or so they think. I think people if given a choice will gravitate to that which is more convenient - thus, because the smart phone offers convenience above all, it doesn't really matter where a person happens to be at any given moment, they can virtually "be" with their circle of friends/"on-line community" all the time. There's no need to fixate on place, or how and why one place is better than the next, as long as there is Wi-Fi (well, that's oversimplifying things, but it seems that in a cookie-cutter world, where Ikea supplies the furniture, Starbucks the coffee, and Amazon everything else - it hardly matters if one is interacting with folks on your smart phone in Brooklyn or Belgium - there are probably just as cool parks in Belgium as in Brooklyn and so forth, although knowing French in Belgium would be helpful). From Chapter: "Lost Spaces: Leningrad" "In "The City and the City," China Mieville's allegory of antagonistic cities that literally co-habit the same space, the inhabitants stay culturally pure by 'unseeing' each other and the other place." Here the author is discussing the sequence of names of St. Petersburg: Originally, St. Petersburg, then Petrograd - a more Russian, less German-sounding name during WW1, then Leningrad in honor of the father of the USSR, and then back to St. Petersburg once the USSR was dissolved and communism was overturned. The new regime symbolically ignores the old - by renaming a place. Especially a place named in honor of a tsar (Peter the Great) - definitively breaking with the monarchic past. A new society is supposed to arise from the ashes of the old, man's energy and imagination is supposed to be liberated and become even more creative and productive, without the constraints of class and the misery of poverty, income inequality etc. Unfortunately, except for about ten years immediately post-Revolution, the creativity and excitement turned into Stalinism and repression. Following a revolution and its cancellation, how do today's inhabitants deal with a prior era that has fallen into disfavor, that is, most of 20th C history - is it 'unseen' by them? Do they pretend that 70 years of Russian history 'never happened?' "Petersburg was an imperial new town built on the Baltic coast in the eighteenth century by Peter the Great and given a foreign, Dutch-sounding name, Sankt-Petersburgh." "It was here that 900 days of siege were endured during the second World War, when a starved people defended and then rebuilt their city from the rubble." From Chapter: "Old Mecca" "Turning complex, diverse places into shallow, simple ones creates a more culturally vulnerable population, an unrooted mass whose only linking thread lies in the ideology that is fed to them from above." "In the face of puritanical ideologies, whether political or religious, the past takes on a subversive and unruly quality." "Both [the destruction of Old Mecca and the ban on non-Muslims entering the city] are attempts to cleanse the city of historical complexity." "Ironically, before they seized the city [in 1803 and proceeded to destroy the visible associations with other, older, and less puritanical varieties of Islam], the Wahhabis [the Islamic faction to which the Saudi dynasty belong] themselves were deemed heterodox and banned from its holy places by the City's Sharif, or holy steward." "The iconoclasm inflicted on Mecca is providing the perfect environment for the growth of consumerism." From Chapter: "New Moore" "Rising sea levels are creating new shorelines at a rate that is outstripping governments' ability to respond." From Chapter: "Zheleznogorsk" "In 1996, [the residents of Zheleznogorsk, which was created by the Soviets for the production of nuclear weapons] ... voted to remain shut away from the world. ... closed places and secret cities fitted snugly into the paranoid mindset of Soviet communism but in a post-communist era there are other reasons why communities might decide to be cut off from the rest of us. It's not only about hanging on to secrets, it's about holding on to a lifestyle." From Chapter: "Aghdam" "For anyone over a certain age it is hard to believe that we utterly mistook something so bi, so solid, as the USSR. Even at a distance of almost a quarter of a century it is difficult to grasp that it was never a country at all so much as an unwieldy empire." From Chapter: "Bountiful" "Growing your own food and tending your own smallholding is hugely popular in Russia - it was estimated in 1999 that 71 per cent of the country's population already owned a plot and were cultivating it. In 2003, the same year that saw the foundling of Bountiful [pat of an eco-spiritual (Utopian) sect called the Anastasia Movement] the private Garden Plot Act allowed Russian citizens to claim free plots of land of between one and three hectares [~ 3-7 acres]." From Chapter: "Ranch of Sprouts: Brotas Quilombo" "Escape is not just about running away, it's about having somewhere to go, about setting down roots in a different kind of place. If free places cannot be sustained then escape becomes impossible and resistance slowly dies."

  18. 5 out of 5

    Steve Quinn

    Very cool. A lot of "I had NO idea that existed" moments. Full disclosure- I work for the publisher of this book. But I ain't faking it....liked this one a lot. Very cool. A lot of "I had NO idea that existed" moments. Full disclosure- I work for the publisher of this book. But I ain't faking it....liked this one a lot.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Sacramento Public Library

    R.E.M. asked listeners to “stand in the place where you are/think about direction and wonder why you haven’t before”. It’s a surprisingly powerful question, as is the question asked by the author of Unruly Places. What is space and what gives it meaning? As part of his consideration of the topic, the author visits or writes about unusual places around the world. There are modern lost cities, man-made islands, spaces between official borders, poisoned landscapes, breakaway nations and many more p R.E.M. asked listeners to “stand in the place where you are/think about direction and wonder why you haven’t before”. It’s a surprisingly powerful question, as is the question asked by the author of Unruly Places. What is space and what gives it meaning? As part of his consideration of the topic, the author visits or writes about unusual places around the world. There are modern lost cities, man-made islands, spaces between official borders, poisoned landscapes, breakaway nations and many more places the reader (and many other people) has probably never heard of or even considered as a “place”. Our relationship to space and its role in our lives is examined, from how a border confines us and gives us freedom to the paradox of migration/wanderlust and the powerful sense of identity that a place of origin can bring. Some places are more interesting than others, some stretch the definition of place, but all of them are thought provoking. Recommended for geography lovers, travelers, and curious readers of all sorts. --BW

  20. 5 out of 5

    Mike

    I've been reading this book on and off since it arrived as a gift from the Book Editor of the newspaper I do reviews for. I didn't have to review it, so just picked it up when I wanted to. It's that kind of book anyway: the chapters are loosely organised under several headings, but each is fairly separate. It offers short windows into strange worlds that inhabit the same globe as the rest of us, but some are so striking you wonder how it is that you haven't heard about them before. All of them a I've been reading this book on and off since it arrived as a gift from the Book Editor of the newspaper I do reviews for. I didn't have to review it, so just picked it up when I wanted to. It's that kind of book anyway: the chapters are loosely organised under several headings, but each is fairly separate. It offers short windows into strange worlds that inhabit the same globe as the rest of us, but some are so striking you wonder how it is that you haven't heard about them before. All of them attest to the way in which humans make place very much a thing of their own, even though that thing may vary enormously. The book also looks at some places that don't actually exist, and some that only existed for a short time because of their inherent fragility. Some of the places aren't inhabited at all, some were never meant to be inhabited, and some are just a puzzle as to why anyone would want to live there. Bonnett has a wealth of material at his disposal, and writes with a sense of delight about his subject matter. Eye-opening and very enjoyable.

  21. 5 out of 5

    DoctorM

    A clever and fun and thoughtful account of places that are off the map--- what Bonnett calls "lost spaces". Bonnett tours geographies that are messy, forgotten, lost, fading, abandoned--- ghost mining towns, the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, imaginary islands, once-and-former secret cities in Siberia, slivers of urban space unaccounted for on tax rolls and deeds ---to look at how a world of GPS and Google Earth still hasn't been reduced to cartographic fixity and at how humans respond to place and m A clever and fun and thoughtful account of places that are off the map--- what Bonnett calls "lost spaces". Bonnett tours geographies that are messy, forgotten, lost, fading, abandoned--- ghost mining towns, the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, imaginary islands, once-and-former secret cities in Siberia, slivers of urban space unaccounted for on tax rolls and deeds ---to look at how a world of GPS and Google Earth still hasn't been reduced to cartographic fixity and at how humans respond to place and memory. From comedy--- the twin Dutch and Belgian towns that overlap one another like some China Mieville novel ---to tragedy (Indian enclaves within Bangladesh where the locals are trapped between bureaucratic mandates and pushed out of schools and hospitals; North Korean prison camps; asbestos mining towns in the Australian west), Bonnett lays out a series of small essays that are delightful and haunting and occasionally disturbing. Very much worth reading.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Annie

    Years ago, I read a strange travel memoir by Daniel Kalder, Lost Cosmonaut, which sparked a love in me for travelogues of places most people don't visit. When I saw Alastair Bonnett's Unruly Places: Lost Spaces, Secret Cities, and Other Inscrutable Geographies, I jumped at the chance to review it. Over the course of this philosophical meditation of place and our relationships with it, Bonnett takes us to pirate towns, floating man-made islands, massive avant-garde art projects, dead cities, Sibe Years ago, I read a strange travel memoir by Daniel Kalder, Lost Cosmonaut, which sparked a love in me for travelogues of places most people don't visit. When I saw Alastair Bonnett's Unruly Places: Lost Spaces, Secret Cities, and Other Inscrutable Geographies, I jumped at the chance to review it. Over the course of this philosophical meditation of place and our relationships with it, Bonnett takes us to pirate towns, floating man-made islands, massive avant-garde art projects, dead cities, Siberian utopias, and other geographical oddities... Read the rest of my review at A Bookish Type. I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley for review consideration.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Tamara

    Poor Bonnett keeps looking for places that are truly...special, somehow. He searches desperately in the corners and interstices of the map to find someplace properly off it. He wants, I suppose, somewhere free of the late-stage consumer capitalist etc, blah, paradigm. A place where things are extraordinary just by didn't of being there. He's honest enough to admit he fails. The tetchy sense of ennui and disappointment persists. Oh, dear. I'm not certain, me, but I think I know the trick of creat Poor Bonnett keeps looking for places that are truly...special, somehow. He searches desperately in the corners and interstices of the map to find someplace properly off it. He wants, I suppose, somewhere free of the late-stage consumer capitalist etc, blah, paradigm. A place where things are extraordinary just by didn't of being there. He's honest enough to admit he fails. The tetchy sense of ennui and disappointment persists. Oh, dear. I'm not certain, me, but I think I know the trick of creating spaces free of the stultifying alienation of daily life. It isn't an accident of topography or architecture or a misplaced line on a map. The secret ingredient, is, comrades: hard work.

  24. 5 out of 5

    BookBec

    You know how magazines do those "Top 100" features, where everything has a short article but nothing gets covered in any depth? That's what this book felt like to me. I kept hoping I'd get a chance to settle in and enjoy a subject, but no, we just kept zipping on to somewhere new. There was little continuity or connection between locations, just separate mini-essays on each subject. Even within some essays I felt distracted: sometimes the author barely introduces the current location before he's You know how magazines do those "Top 100" features, where everything has a short article but nothing gets covered in any depth? That's what this book felt like to me. I kept hoping I'd get a chance to settle in and enjoy a subject, but no, we just kept zipping on to somewhere new. There was little continuity or connection between locations, just separate mini-essays on each subject. Even within some essays I felt distracted: sometimes the author barely introduces the current location before he's off on a tangent about some other place that he wants to compare. If you have 5-minute intervals in which to read, this might be your book.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Kate

    I expected more from this book. More off the map and more exciting. Off to the next one.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Jessie

    If this had just been a catalogue of odd and interesting places, I would have loved it, but I found the pervasive intrusion of the author's armchair psychoanalysis of the significance and/or meaning of such places to human beings presumptuous and grating (and sometimes even nonsensical). The thoughts and feelings he describes so frequently in the first-person plural so rarely were in accordance with my own thoughts and feelings that I started to cringe every time I saw the word "we" in this book If this had just been a catalogue of odd and interesting places, I would have loved it, but I found the pervasive intrusion of the author's armchair psychoanalysis of the significance and/or meaning of such places to human beings presumptuous and grating (and sometimes even nonsensical). The thoughts and feelings he describes so frequently in the first-person plural so rarely were in accordance with my own thoughts and feelings that I started to cringe every time I saw the word "we" in this book after only the first few pages. It seems like this is a book about the author's own relationship with the idea of place that's trying to be a book about EVERYONE'S relationship with the idea of place and consequently ends up overreaching. (Especially since he reveals at one point in the book that seeing the chaos of the lives of people who live in areas that are cut off from their own governments has made him reevaluate his anarchist/anti-statist sympathies. "It turns out that when you cut off people, especially poor and vulnerable people, from the state, you inhibit rather than enable autonomy." First of all: No duh. Second of all: I could be making my own set of assumptions here, but I feel like anti-statism is an opinion that's a luxury afforded only to those who live in highly functional states. If you live in a country that's a disaster, what you want is a functioning government/economy. Only people who are comfortable and who have every basic service they could possibly need provided to them [or who have the economic capacity and the skills necessary to provide for themselves] romanticize the idea of living in anarchy. To be fair to him, he says something about his "faith in community autonomy," so perhaps his vision is more one of a world of exclusively local governments, but I still think that's ridiculous. Anyway, this book has a kind of fixation about places that are "off the map" and in some way ungoverned or between jurisdictions that emphasizes geography over the historical/cultural context of the place, and it also seems to emphasize its author's own Western perspective rather than the perspectives of the people who actually exist in these spaces.)

  27. 4 out of 5

    Walt

    Unruly Places was a book I had been looking forward to reading for a while. Unfortunately, I was rather disappointed upon reading it. Bonnett talks about what place means to people and what draws us to unruly places; how the modern homogenizing development makes us feel disconnected from the unique and special places. Which he is right about and is the same thing which draws readers like myself to books about these places. Unfortunately, he doesn't deliver on the draw. While I was drawn to this Unruly Places was a book I had been looking forward to reading for a while. Unfortunately, I was rather disappointed upon reading it. Bonnett talks about what place means to people and what draws us to unruly places; how the modern homogenizing development makes us feel disconnected from the unique and special places. Which he is right about and is the same thing which draws readers like myself to books about these places. Unfortunately, he doesn't deliver on the draw. While I was drawn to this book to experience these lost places that I would never be able to visit, Bonnett is more interested discussing the moral, social, environmental, and psychological implications of places like these than focusing on the places themselves. With a few exceptions like the traffic island near his home he has visited few of these places. Most of the first hand accounts are reprinted from other people. He has looked them up on google maps though. So thanks for that. A large part of my disappointment is my fault,  resulting from the mismatch in my expectations of this book. I was looking for the adventurous first hand account of the gaps in the map from a modern day explorer and instead got the philosophical musings of a pseudo-intellectual academic. Even when I adjusted my expectations and decided that I still liked the idea of Unruly Places, I found that many, not all or even most, but enough of his sweeping statements about humans in regards to these places either just didn't ring true for me or were easily enough refuted combined with the overly dramatic writing meant that I still couldn't buy into it. I'm disappointed, because I really wanted to like this book.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Tracey

    I spotted this on the New Books shelf at the local library and couldn't resist. It's an intriguing travelogue of various places around the world that no longer exist, have yet to exist or are otherwise hidden from the general populace either by chance or by decree. Bonnet delves into the historical as well as the geographical elements of each of these "unruly places" and provides some intriguing insights. Among the areas discussed are the Sentinel Islands, home to one of the few (and probably mos I spotted this on the New Books shelf at the local library and couldn't resist. It's an intriguing travelogue of various places around the world that no longer exist, have yet to exist or are otherwise hidden from the general populace either by chance or by decree. Bonnet delves into the historical as well as the geographical elements of each of these "unruly places" and provides some intriguing insights. Among the areas discussed are the Sentinel Islands, home to one of the few (and probably most belligerent) uncontacted tribes; Pripyat, Ukraine (nearest town to Chernobyl) and Baarle, a town on the Netherlands/Belgium border made up of a multitude of enclaves, where your front and back doors may be in different countries. Well-researched, but not at all dry; in fact there are some nice touches of humor -- from the chapter on trash vortices/islands: "Since Belgium appears to have become an international standard for judging the size of large floating objects..." This book reminded me a little of Braving Home: Dispatches from the Underwater Town, the Lava-Side Inn, and Other Extreme Localesby Jake Halpern. While there's not much geographical overlap between the 2 books; both authors celebrate "topophilia" -- "a special love of peculiar places".

  29. 5 out of 5

    Bruce

    Written by a British professor who thinks that it is a meaningful exercise in urban exploration to try to navigate a daycare center while using a map of the Berlin subway system. A little too performance art-like and not enough factual explanations. To add to the disappointment, most places he describes have longitude and latitude given in a difficult traditional form. For example 14º34'56"N, 192º45'12"E. He calls these "Google Earth" coordinates. But in fact they can not be easily entered into G Written by a British professor who thinks that it is a meaningful exercise in urban exploration to try to navigate a daycare center while using a map of the Berlin subway system. A little too performance art-like and not enough factual explanations. To add to the disappointment, most places he describes have longitude and latitude given in a difficult traditional form. For example 14º34'56"N, 192º45'12"E. He calls these "Google Earth" coordinates. But in fact they can not be easily entered into Google Earth. Decimal degrees are far easier to enter, for instance 46.28871, -12.98225 works for me. The book is a bit too metaphysical for me, I would have preferred more about the geographical oddities. I found the lecturing tedious, and especially did not like the baseless political criticisms of Israel.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Jamie MacDonald Jones

    Once again Alastair Bonnett continues the conversion about Geography in his trademark accessible style. This collection of geographical oddities not only serves to ignite the curiosity of the reader and teach them something of the strange and often transient places found across the world, but in each short section provides a distinct message about the way people practice Geography in their everyday lives. As an academic Geographer, I think that Bonnett does great work through this book in assert Once again Alastair Bonnett continues the conversion about Geography in his trademark accessible style. This collection of geographical oddities not only serves to ignite the curiosity of the reader and teach them something of the strange and often transient places found across the world, but in each short section provides a distinct message about the way people practice Geography in their everyday lives. As an academic Geographer, I think that Bonnett does great work through this book in asserting the need and want for geographical learning and highlights the importance of space/place in every interaction we have, without coming across as too obtusely academic. A uniquely accessible Geographic study.

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