Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “A Burglar's Guide to the City” as Want to Read:
A Burglar's Guide to the City
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

A Burglar's Guide to the City

3.34  ·  Rating details ·  2,824 ratings  ·  408 reviews
Encompassing nearly 2,000 years of heists and tunnel jobs, break-ins and escapes, A Burglar's Guide to the City offers an unexpected blueprint to the criminal possibilities in the world all around us. You'll never see the city the same way again.

At the core of A Burglar's Guide to the City is an unexpected and thrilling insight: how any building transforms when seen throug
Paperback, 296 pages
Published April 5th 2016 by Fsg Originals (first published March 17th 2015)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about A Burglar's Guide to the City, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
David No, it is all text, except for a tiny icon of a burglar running away with a giant bag of loot that is used to note the start of a new section within a…moreNo, it is all text, except for a tiny icon of a burglar running away with a giant bag of loot that is used to note the start of a new section within a chapter. (less)

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.34  · 
Rating details
 ·  2,824 ratings  ·  408 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of A Burglar's Guide to the City
May 18, 2016 rated it it was ok
I'm going to save you some time and give you the entire takeaway from this book here: Burglars do not use the architectural features of buildings as they were intended, often going through walls, ceilings or floors to gain entry.

Instead of creative capers, the of author A Burglar's Guide to the City gives us mundane stories about police ride alongs and interviews he conducted. This book would better be titled, "My experiences researching a book about burglary."

A great deal of space, for instance
Apr 05, 2016 rated it it was ok
I've been putting this off because there are two types of reviews that I like to write: those where I loved the book and want to sing its praises, and those where I really despised it and can't wait to tear it to pieces. When a book is just ... mediocre ... I can't get up the energy to bother to say anything.

I mean, I pre-ordered this book. Don't even remember how I came across it, but I read the blurb on Amazon - "At the core of A Burglar's Guide to the City is an unexpected and thrilling insig
May 20, 2016 rated it liked it
I really wanted to give this book a higher rating. I heard Manaugh interviewed on NPR and was looking forward to the book. It needed to be shorter, by at least a 25%. If it had been, I would have given it 5 stars. The information was delivered well, it just needed to be tighter. He should shop for a better editor.
Feb 22, 2018 added it
Well-researched, full of great anecdotes and interesting architectural information. As a card-carrying nerd, I would have appreciated a bit more information on the background and origins of the weird spaces and architectural loopholes burglars exploit: the history of drywall construction, for example, or how and why tunnel systems are created and how and why they can be forgotten. I wanted this to be a monumental volume, a kind of anti-Seeing Like a State—Seeing like a Radical, Seeing like a Cri ...more
Oct 16, 2017 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: career criminals, architecture junkies
3.5 stars rounded down.
I quite enjoyed A Burglar's Guide to the City. It was packed full of interesting information, albeit in a very disorganized manner, and various explorations into the means, tools, and minds of burglars. Manaugh not only explores the art of burglary but the architectural structures with all of their vulnerabilities that they burglarize.
We learn early on that burglary is not theft, but the entering of a walled structure to commit a felony:
"[T]o commit burglary you must c
Leo Knight
Aug 30, 2016 rated it did not like it
This is a stunningly dull and repetitive book. It has about one chapter's worth of information, stretched and padded to over 200 pages. The author will write a perfectly pleasant, informative paragraph, nicely summing up a topic. Then, he will follow up with three or four more paragraphs, restating the same ideas and sentiments. At several points, I laughed out loud at his literary acrobatics, desperately re-wrapping the same packages. I finally gave up, skimmed the rest, and found more of the s ...more
Jun 27, 2016 rated it really liked it
Great heist stories folded into a mix of history, architecture and society.

Loved it! I was impressed at the diversity of topics it's possible to touch when going deep into one thing.

It could definitely inspire some paranoia, since it swiftly cracks the illusion of personal/home "security", and I learned many things I didn't know I didn't know about (lock-picking societies?).
Patrick Hunnius
Pretentious, repetitive and oddly self-congratulatory. I gave up a quarter of the way through.
Oct 16, 2016 rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction
The point repeated often through this book is that burglars do not use the architectural features of most buildings at they were intended. Additional locks on the door are not much use if they can go through the wall, the ceiling or the floor. Chapters are spent discussing tunnels, roof jobs, and holing up within a Toys R Us. The book begins and ends with George Leonidas Leslie, an architect turned burglar.

Extraneously, the author rode along in LAPD helicopters, looking at street layouts but mos
Apr 08, 2016 rated it liked it
I wanted to love this book and thought I was going to from the opening chapter but it meanders. The author is weirdly repetitive at times (e.g., the author is weirdly repetitive at times) and the book can't seem to figure out if it wants to be pop science or more philosophical architecture discussion. Regularly swapping between the two means neither ever quite gets fleshed out.

That said, I liked a lot of it and it gave me a couple of ideas about how to improve our house's security, so I can't co
I loved this book. It's a combination between psychological/criminological information on burglars and architectural theories/elements that allow them to move around the environment. It's an awesome combination of theory and practice and covers a lot of things I am directly interested in, as a criminology student. I would recomend it to everyone, but especially those with a keen interest in criminology or architecture, becausr it really is a joy to read.

Yes it has shortcomings, most notably the
Apr 09, 2017 rated it it was ok
Long essays are probably best suited to magazines, except for the fact that there really aren't magazines anymore; longform articles aren't great for the short attention-span of the net, and they certainly aren't very good when stretched out to book length. Here we have a case of the latter.

An intriguing premise-- that there is an alternate way to contextualize our habitat, through the eyes of the burglar, the intruder, the outsider-- gets any reader right into the thick of the discussion.
Book Concierge
Manaugh looks at architecture and the central role it plays in the crime of burglary.

The book begins and ends with the 19th-century New York superburglar George Leonidas Leslie, who used his training as an architect to figure out new and unexpected ways to gain entry to building.

There were parts of this book that I found completely fascinating, and it made me look at our own efforts at home security differently. However, Manaugh has a tendency towards repetition. He’s very fond of lists: for e
Jan 10, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: gen-nonfiction
the burglar is a three-dimensional actor amid the two-dimensional surfaces and objects of the city. this means operating with a fundamentally different spatial sense of how architecture should work, and how one room could be connected to another. it means seeing how a building can be stented: engineering short-circuits where mere civilians, altogether less aggressive users of the city, would never expect to find them. burglary is topology pursued by other means: a new science of the city, pro
Victoria Hawco
Jun 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It calls Die Hard an architectural movie and somehow proves it.
Nov 04, 2018 rated it did not like it
Perhaps a more fitting title for Geoff Manaugh's journalistic account of the craft of burglary would be "A Police Apologists Account of the Rise of the Surveillance State." Focusing more on the cops who dedicate much of their lives, and far too much of their psyches, to catching burglars, robbers, and petty thieves, Manaugh's book at times feels like nothing short of a police memoir.

Admittedly, Manaugh's explicit thesis is an interesting one: the existence of burglary complicates how we conceiv
Jul 01, 2016 rated it liked it
Interesting content but Manaugh Circumlocutiously repeats everything he says. This leads to some great turns of phrase in all the variations on the theme of not using architecture as intended but by the end of the book it's mostly just tedious. ...more
First Second Books
It appears that as well as there being a lock-picking group in Calista's neighborhood, there's one in Brooklyn, too! More exploration is needed here.

This was a fascinating book about architecture and how people think about space and buildings and construction and burglary! Highly recommended.
Kasa Cotugno
Dec 28, 2018 rated it liked it
More about burglary and less about architecture than I would have liked. Entertaining, and well researched, but a tad repetitive.
Dec 03, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: archi-stuff
My house was burglarised once, and I can't dismiss the shock and trauma to feel utterly unsafe, helpless and fragile in a chaotic reality (which by then seemed to be a nonchalant way of putting things into perspective - All I know is that I went Kaput). But the way I've been robbed, had nothing to do with the genius/(roofman)/tunnel jobs ways I'd discover later on in this book. They simply hopped on the fence and forced the house's door open with huge rocks, and maybe some equipment unsuccessful ...more
Dec 11, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
This book is primarily a guidebook to more interesting books (most of which seem to have been the inspiration for major motion pictures), padded out with less-gripping firsthand research and a great deal of repetitive prose. It was still an acceptable read, but I wish it had been the book it promised to be.

Like. Am I interested in the tale of the architect who took mid-1800s New York by the throat and shook it until all its money fell out? I cannot overstate how much I am, and also in his co-con
Laura Verburg
May 29, 2017 rated it really liked it
This was a big departure from what I usually read, but taking a chance on something different paid off. It was fascinating to go along with the author as he worked his way through research of all kinds, exploring many different facets of burglary, or anything remotely related to burglary. That was perhaps the most interesting part--the author's tendency to twist and turn through subtopics, going off on what seemed to be tangents, only to have them tie back in to the main themes, or be explored a ...more
The idea behind this was interesting but it read a bit dryly for me. The short of it is that Burglars use architecture opposite the way it is intended, and challenge the way people live. Overall it had a few moments of 'that's neat' but otherwise I had trouble staying focused on it (I listened to the audio book). ...more
Karen Chung
Jan 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Loved this book. It will really help you see and think outside of the box of urban architecture - and may even give you ideas on how to use an indirect rather than rule-following approach to problem solving.
Feb 23, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really loved the earlier chapters! They do a very good job of making architecture "real"; i.e. showing the various ways that the architecture of our streets and buildings effects our lives, and how someone with awareness of this can exploit it to their own benefit. However, outside of the first few chapters, it tends to lose some steam. ...more
LAPL Reads
Jul 26, 2016 rated it really liked it
I cross the street at the crosswalk. I use the entrance and exit doors as marked, even when they take me a long way around. Sometimes, I wait forlornly on deserted street corners for the sign to indicate that it is finally all right to “WALK”. So, like Geoff Manaugh, author of A burglar's guide to the city, I was thrilled to learn that there were other ways to understand and move through urban spaces. This is not an instruction manual or safety guide. It doesn’t teach you to be a burglar. Instea ...more
Max Nova
Apr 26, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Full review and highlights at

"A Burglar's Guide to the City" plays with the subversive idea that "burglars are idiot masters of the built environment, drunk Jedis of architectural space." Exploring the exotic ways that criminals exploit architectural weaknesses, Manaugh walks us through some of the most famous heists in history and how creative uses of the built environment played a role in their success. He latches on to the idea that burglary is a uniq
Oct 16, 2017 rated it really liked it
Overall, I found it to be entertaining and informative, although I was left wanting to know more about the architecture of buildings and how they are utilized by burglars, as well as the thought processes of burglars and how they differ from those of people that do not generally think about burgling in their day-to-day lives.

The information about using a building's fire codes to identify the layout of a floor down to what doors are alarmed, the distance from a unit to the exit, and the layout of
Joe Kessler
Jul 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Partly an ethnography of burglary practices and overlooked vulnerabilities, partly a thoughtful exploration of how burglars interact with architecture in ways counter to expectation or design intent, A Burglar's Guide to the City is a deeply engrossing and thought-provoking work. I loved author Geoff Manaugh's analysis and real-world examples, particularly in terms of the escalating contest between criminals and police / security forces to work around one another's latest advances and the ways b ...more
Apr 16, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Endlessly fascinating and full of information that will make you alternately disgusted, paranoid, and gleefully absorbed, Manaugh has researched this thing to death and done all of the right interviews with all of the right people. It's a great, gripping read filled with not only stories about real thieves and heists, but also comparisons to the literature and movies about them. Even more fun than I thought it was going to be. ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Play Book Tag: A Burglar's Guide to the City / Geoff Manaugh - 3*** 1 8 Jun 12, 2017 10:58AM  

Readers also enjoyed

  • Flawless: Inside the Largest Diamond Heist in History
  • Capital City: Gentrification and the Real Estate State
  • Ten Restaurants That Changed America
  • Ready to Run: Unlocking Your Potential to Run Naturally
  • A Pattern Language: Towns, Buildings, Construction
  • Towards a New Architecture
  • Rockonomics: A Backstage Tour of What the Music Industry Can Teach Us about Economics and Life
  • A Natural History of Wine
  • Godforsaken Grapes: A Slightly Tipsy Journey through the World of Strange, Obscure, and Underappreciated Wine
  • The Image of the City
  • All the Wrong Moves: A Memoir about Chess, Love, and Ruining Everything
  • Stuff You Should Know: An Incomplete Compendium of Mostly Interesting Things
  • Sex on the Moon: The Amazing Story Behind the Most Audacious Heist in History
  • The Eyes of the Skin: Architecture and the Senses
  • Walk to the End of the World (Holdfast Chronicles, #1)
  • Softwar: An Intimate Portrait of Larry Ellison and Oracle
  • The 99% Invisible City: A Field Guide to the Hidden World of Everyday Design
  • The Spark (The Patron Wars, #1)
See similar books…
See top shelves…

News & Interviews

Need another excuse to treat yourself to a new book this week? We've got you covered with the buzziest new releases of the day. To create our...
12 likes · 0 comments
“In one sense, burglars seem to understand architecture better than the rest of us. They misuse it, pass through it, and ignore any limitations a building tries to impose. Burglars don’t need doors; they’ll punch holes through walls or slice down through ceilings instead. Burglars unpeel a building from the inside out to hide inside the drywall (or underneath the floorboards, or up in the trusses of an unlit crawl space). They are masters of architectural origami, demonstrating skills the rest of us only wish we had, dark wizards of cities and buildings, unlimited by laws that hold the rest of us in.” 3 likes
“As a cop trying to anticipate how burglars might use the city, you have to think three-dimensionally. Volumetrically. You have to think in a fundamentally different spatial way about the city laid out below, including how neighborhoods are actually connected and what the most efficient routes might be between them. After all, this is how criminals think, Burdette explained, and this is how they pioneer new geographic ways to escape from you.” 2 likes
More quotes…