book reviews by Althea

Unruly Spaces – Alastair Bonnett ***

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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.


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