Monday, August 1, 2016

The Atlas of Lost Cities

The title: Atlas of Lost Cities
The author: Aude de Toqueville
Publication: Hachette, 2016
Got it from: The library

I love reading travel books, but not the normal kind, more like the kind about really weird places almost no one goes to or wants to go to.  It gives me a strange thrill, like when I'm alone in a deserted part of a museum looking at some forgotten display that suddenly transports me to another time and place.  In some ways this book reminds me of Unruly Places, a book I still like to think about from time to time.  The title of Atlas is misleading, because this book is not really an atlas, nor is it solely about cities, and they're not lost, except in the sense that they aren't what they once were (which, really, what place isn't?)

I read this book cover to cover, which is kind of a weird way to read it, since it's not very organized.  The sections are roughly based around continents, but they jump around in  time and place depending on the author's whim.  There's no rhyme or reason to the author's choices, and they're really just little snippets of the history of these places, not encyclopedia entries.  There's not even any real pictures, just drawings, which might disappoint some people but kind of reminded me of a charming Victorian travel guide.  If you're okay with the randomness of it all, you'll probably enjoy this book.  I learned quite a bit about places I knew nothing about, like the town in Pennsylvania that's been on fire since some fireworks were foolishly set off in the 1960s.  There's a lot of weird ghost towns in this book, like places that were built and expected to prosper but were never lived in and just abandoned.  There's also some underwater towns, although sadly no mention of the towns lost to the St. Lawrence seaway.  The author seemed to stick more to lesser-known places that spark the imagination rather than famous lost places, although Pompeii is in here (the only one of the "lost cities" I've actually been to.) 

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