Forrest's Reviews > Atlas Obscura: An Explorer's Guide to the World's Hidden Wonders

Atlas Obscura by Joshua Foer
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Jan 23, 2017

really liked it

I was once a world-traveler. This had nothing to do with my courage and everything to do with my father being in the US Air Force. I had the privilege of being born in Germany and living in The Philippines, Italy, England, and even Nebraska. And all over the United States.

The funny thing is, though my parents were sure to take me to several tourist destinations while we were abroad, I usually didn't seek out such places myself. This was especially true in Italy, where my friends and I would go explore the extensive tunnel systems under the city of Brindisi, and visit beach-side World War II bunkers where we would look for (and find) old shell casing from a time when our grandfathers might have been storming the beach. This was also true when I lived in England, where our favorite thing to do was to break into an old, supposedly haunted 12th-century priory, complete with trap doors in the floors and passageways hidden within the walls. They are real. I found them and walked through them myself. But I never did get to the Roman Colosseum, nor did I ever visit the Tower of London. Maybe I had an aversion to doing the touristy things because I LIVED there. Yes, the stay was temporary, no more than three years, but these places were "home" for me. So I didn't feel like a tourist. I'd much rather go watch the bums roll each other on Carnaby Street (affectionately known as "Cannabis Street" to us teenagers and, which has become way more commercialized now than when I was a kid hanging out there in the mid-'80s) than step foot in Madame Tussauds (I even had to cheat to see how to spell that). I've had hookers proposition me on Leicester Square, watched hungry bands busk on the tubes, and, yes, watched bums roll each other in alleyways. This was my idea of "touristing".

So when I saw that the fabled website Atlas Obscura had put out a book, I had to give it a read. Thankfully, my local library had a copy sitting front and center on a display as I entered in. I couldn't believe that it hadn't been snatched up yet, so I grabbed it fast. The book, like the website, provides GPS coordinates and a "Know before you go" caveat for each location or event, a helpful hint or two that might just save your life, if not save you a lot of embarrassment.

So, from the Narcisse Snake Orgy to Marvin's Marvelous Mechanical Museum to The World's Quietest Room, take this book with you on your travels and discover the hidden strangeness that the world holds. I guarantee it will be much more fulfilling than merely walking like well-behaved sheep along well-manicured routes led by well-spoken tour guides. The world is awkward, grungy, untidy, weird, and broken. Embrace the strange! Sure, you should see some of the normal destinations, but don't forget the abnormal!
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Reading Progress

December 19, 2016 – Shelved
December 19, 2016 – Shelved as: to-read
January 9, 2017 – Started Reading
January 9, 2017 –
page 37
7.87% "My wife and I, just Saturday night, were talking about plans to travel. I had mentioned to her that there are some quirky or unique places I'd like to see. That was before I saw this book staring at me from a library display. \n\nOur itinerary just became significantly longer."
January 12, 2017 –
page 60
12.77% "Well, this will inform any future travel plans. I recognize some internet strangeness, and now I know where to go to see the real thing(s)."
January 12, 2017 –
page 116
24.68% "Eastern Europe is strange."
January 15, 2017 –
page 159
33.83% "My review of this is going to be so pithy. How do you choose from among so many great entries without including all of them? I mean, it's a nice problem to have, but it's still a problem."
January 16, 2017 –
page 192
40.85% "On to Africa."
January 17, 2017 –
page 261
55.53% ""Narcisse Snake Orgy". There's a title I'm not likely to forget soon. Or ever.\n\nI need brain clorox."
January 19, 2017 –
page 333
70.85% ""Marvin's Marvelous Mechanical Museum" in Famington Hills, MI, sounds like something I need to see. And the "World's Quietest Room" in Minneapolis sounds intriguing - pardon the pun."
January 23, 2017 –
page 469
99.79% "Will probably do up a short review tonight. I need to get this back to the library! Yay, libraries!!!"
January 23, 2017 – Finished Reading

Comments (showing 1-9 of 9) (9 new)

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message 1: by Travelin (new) - added it

Travelin There is something telling in the fact that you've been to "even Nebraska". There must be a special kind of bum rolling there.


Forrest Travelin wrote: "There is something telling in the fact that you've been to "even Nebraska". There must be a special kind of bum rolling there."

(With apologies to GR friends living in Nebraska) It is its own little country, at least where I was and at that time.


message 3: by mim (new) - added it

mim I love getting the emails from Atlas Obscura and had this book on my to own list. Reading your review reminds me of how much I love obscure places. The first time we took our family to Paris for 5 weeks and we found every obscure museum that we could after seeing the usual ones. It was a lot of fun.


Forrest mim wrote: "I love getting the emails from Atlas Obscura and had this book on my to own list. Reading your review reminds me of how much I love obscure places. The first time we took our family to Paris for 5 ..."

That sounds like a blast. Did you see the Gustave Moreau museum? That'son my hit list.


message 5: by Francesca (new)

Francesca Forrest Enjoyed this as much for your reminiscences as for the review--sounds like a fun childhood!


Forrest Francesca wrote: "Enjoyed this as much for your reminiscences as for the review--sounds like a fun childhood!"

It was all I knew. Yes, it was fun in many ways.


message 7: by Jakk Makk (new)

Jakk Makk Traveling, dreadful uncomfortable stuff, and here I thought you were a halfling scribe. Turns out you are a grave robber, a reaver, a no-account! (Riffing on DCC RPG Intro)


Forrest Jay wrote: "Traveling, dreadful uncomfortable stuff, and here I thought you were a halfling scribe. Turns out you are a grave robber, a reaver, a no-account! (Riffing on DCC RPG Intro)"

Guilty on all counts!


Miriam Forrest wrote: "Travelin wrote: "There is something telling in the fact that you've been to "even Nebraska". There must be a special kind of bum rolling there."

(With apologies to GR friends living in Nebraska) I..."


I'm kind of sorry now that I passed through without stopping to check it out.


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