Alastair Bonnett (Quarto Group UK) 2015, 310pp, RRP $24.99

Bonnett, a Professor of Social Geography, here investigates places peculiar, transitory, controversial and sometimes pretty much uncharted, which is still possible in this jaded age of transatlantic air travel and Google Earth. Off The Map - Alastair Bennett - A&U - The Clothesline

After an introduction that defines the term ‘topophilia’, a love of place, we leap into the often unknown, with geographical spots explored including: ‘Lost Spaces’ (like Australia’s Sandy Island and the ‘purposefully repressed’ Leningrad and Old Mecca); ‘Hidden Geographies’ (like North Cemetery, Manila, where the living happily reside with the dead, and North Sentinel Island, home to one of the last ‘uncontacted’ indigenous peoples); ‘No Man’s Lands’ (such as Bir Tawil, a 795-square-mile stretch of desert between Sudan and Egypt that neither wants); ‘Dead Cities’ (the story of the Ukrainian town of Pripyat, evacuated after the Chernobyl accident, is chilling); ‘Spaces Of Exception’ (numbering Geneva Freeport, a massive warehouse run for the world’s richest); ‘Enclaves And Breakaway Nations’ (Sealand and other independent states usually set up by loons); ‘Floating Islands’ (one is ‘The World’, a gigantic boat so huge that it becomes a ‘place’, and sometimes home to the dreaded Gina Reinhart); and ‘Ephemeral Places’ (which might inspire you to visit the temporary annual utopia of Nowhere in Spain’s north).

Even if geography wasn’t your strong suit while at school (hello out there), this sometimes funny, always informative and at times creepy tome is well worth a read, and offers a how-to-guide to getting lost in places across the world which don’t exist, didn’t exist or exist only sometimes – but take care, as some could well kill you.

Dave Bradley

This title is available through the Allen & Unwin website.

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