Atlas of Cursed Places: A Travel Guide to Dangerous and Frightful Destinations by Olivier le Carrer

This was an impulse buy (“there’s a book called what?”).  I regretted it almost immediately as I don’t have a good track record with books with catchy titles.

Then it arrived and I was impressed by how pretty it is.  The text is accompanied by lots of old maps.  I could spend hours trying to narrow down the timeline of some of the maps given the obsolete country names (opening to a random page, British East Africa and Italian Somali Land).

What passes as a cursed place for le Carrer is pretty random but once I started to get into it I was intrigued.  It’s everything from Gaza (for obvious reasons) to a place in India where the coal underground is perpetually burning, to Nauru (“blighted by phosphate”, ie completely ruined by mining operations).  Myths are debunked along the way, particularly the Bermuda Triangle and the Nevada Triangle (in the case of the latter, it’s the thermals that bring planes down).

The book is arranged by longitude, which is a really interesting perspective.

Because it’s not a narrative it’s the sort of thing you can dip in and out of, and I found myself picking it up when I had a spare few minutes over a couple of months.  By the end I was really enjoying it – it made me think about what gives a place a mythic bad reputation, and is packed with a lot more fascinating facts than I anticipated.  This is on top of the maps as mentioned above.

Looks pretty and made me think, a definite thumbs up.

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