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Atlas Obscura: The World's Strange and Hidden Wonders

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Alexis is an avid reader who reads a wide variety of books. Her favorite genres are Science Fiction, Fantasy, manga and horror.

Atlas Obscura

Atlas Obscura

Title: Atlas Obscura

Authors: Joshua Foer, Dylan Thuras & Ella Morton

Publishing Year: 2016

Pages: 470

Price on Amazon: $35.00 or $23.29 with Prime

I can still remember the day in first grade when my teacher mentioned the Loch Ness monster. She was a first-year teacher and did a lot of things outside the box (in good ways). It was also the late 1990s, and teachers in the United States had more creative liberty. So my teacher decided to talk about the Loch Ness monster in our ‘fact or fiction’ unit. She had us write two sentences describing if we thought it was real or not. Fascinated, I wrote that I thought it was real, and with that, my love of the unknown and mysterious began.

Fast-forward to one-and-a-half years ago, by which time I had many years of literary and exploration experience under my belt. It was around then that I began to learn about abandoned place exploration. After subscribing to a few youtube channels, I learned about a website called Atlas Obscura. A little research later, I became entranced with the website and eagerly awaited the release of their first book titled simply “Atlas Obscura”.

It sadly took me longer than I expected to crack it open, but a few months ago I finally did, and I was not disappointed (well, maybe I was disappointed in myself for not reading it sooner). It became a book that I read a few pages of each day in order to cherish the wealth of information contained in its pages. The book clocks in at 470 pages, so it’s a book that will take the average reader some time to get through.

This sample entry features a Monastery in Palestine, built into a cliff.

This sample entry features a Monastery in Palestine, built into a cliff.


Of course, I can’t talk about the book without mentioning the Atlas Obscura website! Their website is a fantastic resource for information and news stories, with new articles going up daily. It has the additional feature for users to interact with the information on the website by having the option to create an account. Once users create an account, they can browse the thousands of places on the website and add places such as:

  • Been Here?
  • Want to Visit?
  • Add to List

The features are very user-friendly and it's easy to access places you've saved. The website features how many other users have marked a place as 'Been Here' or 'Want to Visit' but there is no option to see individual users. While some may want to see other users' lists, I personally enjoyed the anonymous nature of accounts. How obscure.

The website features categories for different cities and countries, making it easier for explorers to search only certain places. I had a few minor qualms with how listings took place initially, but ultimately I enjoy the drop-down features, even if some smaller countries and cities are easier to navigate through searches.

One other aspect I love about the website is the number of new articles that pop up on their website. Again, the editors, writers, and researchers at Atlas Obscura are passionate about what they do and it's evident in the amount of new material added on a daily basis. Suffice to say, it's a website with a wealth of information (far exceeding the book, so sequel?) and one that's easy to lose track of time with.

Glowworm caves in New Zealand anyone?

Glowworm caves in New Zealand anyone?

Concluding Thoughts

Atlas Obscura is a book that I can’t imagine ever getting rid of. After all, pegging it as the ‘obscure lovers’ bible would not be a stretch. The places listed in the book are presented in an engaging way, the information is enough to satisfy the passing reader and enough to engage devoted explorers to quest for more information. The authors were clearly thinking ahead when they wrote Atlas Obscura since each entry contains travel information for the motivated traveler.

Entries chosen for Atlas Obscura were wisely chosen as they space things out throughout the world, meaning most readers could access places in their country or state with relative ease, though some places will require multiple hours of travel. This was one aspect I had some reservations about as some places had listings that seemed lackluster or didn’t do an area justice.

One additional note on travel is that they do mention places that are not accessible to tourists. There are some places in the book that don’t allow visitors or require special permission. There is at least one entry in the book that visitors are advised against because serious risks are present, such as death. This resonates with the infamous saying “just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.”

With that, there isn’t much more to say about this wonderful book without attempting to rewrite it! Purchasing Atlas Obscura will not disappoint most any reader and deserves a spot on your bookshelf. Even once you finish it, you’ll be back to lookup an entry or just take a break from the normal routine.