Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Atlas Obsura ~ Joshua Foer, et. al.



Foer, Joshua et. al. Atlas Obscura: An Explorer’s Guide to the World’s Hidden Wonders. New York, NY: Workman Publishing Company. ISBN 978-0761169086. $35.00 USD.

I ordered this book for my library collection not really knowing what it was all about.  When it came in from processing for the shelves, I happened to pick it up and browse through it.  What a find!  www.atlasobscura.com is a website created in 2009 by Joshua Foer, a science writer and author of international bestseller Moonwalking with Einstein, and Dylan Thuras.  It is a collaborative effort where people from all over the world can add information about interesting and obscure places, people, histories, art and architecture, just to name a few.  The website gave birth to the book, Atlas Obscura: An Explorer’s Guide to the World’s Hidden Wonders, published in late 2016 by Workman Publishing Company. It was my Non-Fiction pic for #libfaves16 this year, and when I tweeted “It’s like porn for information junkies,” the publisher retweeted it with the comment “what else can be said?!”

The book is oversized (hence the larger purchase price), and is divided into areas of the world, such as Europe, Asia, Africa, Canada, USA and Latin American.  Within these sections are photos, drawings, maps, and, of course, written information about, well, obscure people, places and things that most of us have never heard about!  I, of course, started my review of this unique book in the USA section, “Four Corners and the Southwest,” which includes my native state, Texas.  In one entry, titled “Ozymandias on the Plains,” there is a picture of a sculpture of “two vast and trunkless legs of stone” in Amarillo with references to Percy Bysshe Shelley’s poem “Ozymandias.”  The sculpture is out in the middle of a field with cows grazing in the meadow surrounding it. Created by sculptor Lightnin’ McDuff, it is continually vandalized to include socks on the feet, perhaps to keep the legs warm…..


The Ozymandias on the Plains statue in Amarillo, Texas,


The other entry that captured my attention are the Pando Aspens located in Richfield, Utah.  Though it may look like a forest of trees, it is actually a single organism – every stem is genetically identical and is linked by a single root system, making it the heaviest, and one of the oldest, organisms in the world.   The root system is an estimated 80,000 years old!


Image result for panda aspens utah

These are only two of hundreds of entries from all over the world contained in the delightful book, Atlas Obscura.  I loved it so much, I gave it to several people for Christmas.  I highly recommend this title for anyone with curiosity and a sense of wonder about the world.



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