Book of da Week: Atlas Obscura – An Explorer’s Guide to the World’s Hidden Wonders

Atlas Obscura Book
Look at it. Look at it! It’s glorious!

Take a look at this bad boy! It’s the first Atlas Obscura book. Don’t know the site? Philistine! This thing is a modern marvel, crammed with other modern marvels which lean towards the obscure side of things (hence “Obscura”, dumbo) from all the way around the world. Yes! There’s more to life than the supermarket at the end of the road!

Over four years this book was compiled, with the site’s co-founders Joshua Foer and Dylan Thuras pitching in alongside Ella Morton to style the thing into a kind of quirky version of Wikipedia. Truly, for those of you out there who have a sense of intrigue, love travelling, or just like sticking your nose into other culture’s business, then this is the book for you. It was just released, so we can recommend the big old hardback edition as it also doubles up as an effective self-defence weapon.

Atlas Obscura

Atlas Obscura - Mosque
Pfft. We could build that.

Most of us know what an atlas looks like. At last, now we have an atlas which is more entertaining than those tourism maps which basically say: “Visit London, Big Ben lives there.” Somewhat insipid, yes? Indeed, why not go and visit Archie the Giant Squid at the Natural History Museum instead?

There’s also the tale of Jeremey Bentham of London, a progressivist and moral philosopher who died in 1832 as essentially the founder of utilitarianism. He wanted to be an auto-icon in death (where the body is preserved and presented as though it’s still alive and kicking) and became somewhat infatuated with the events after his death, apparently obsessing away a full decade in advance of his demise aged 84.

However, when he was preserved his face became a twisted wreck of horror which would only ever terrify anyone visiting him, so his preservers stuck on a wax bust and stuck his real head on the floor. So this thing sat there until the 1970s when bloody hoodlums began dossing about and stole the head, eventually returning it for a £100 ransom. After this, the body was placed into a secure location and is wheeled out on special occasions.

Such bizarre anecdotes and pictures are what make up the Atlas Obscura book. It’s not a traditional read in any sense, you’ll simply be able to drop in and out of it as you please and take something new with you on every occasion.

Or you can start on page one and blast through the bizarre things which are dotted around this merry little merry-go-round called Earth. It’s a guarantee it won’t take you long to come across stuff you want to visit or, more appropriately for this day and age, bloody well Google.

Terrors from the Shoreline

Atlas Obscura - Australia
Terror!

Over the years we’ve become pretty obsessed with Australia’s bizarre, cantankerous local wildlife, and here we have another glorious example as to why it’s a scary place to live. Thusly, we were delighted to find a double page spread in Atlas Obscura about the horrors encapsulated on that massive island.

Whilst the funnel web spider has to be one of the most terrifying creatures on Earth, one of the more innocuous looking packs a more powerful punch. The stonefish features a “craggy, mottled complexion”. They:

“Camouflage themselves under mud or sand in the calm shallows of Australia’s tropical waters. Accidentally step on one and up to 13 venom-filled dorsal spines will send neurotoxins coursing through your body, resulting in terrible pain, redness, swelling, muscle weakness, and short-term paralysis.”

Annoying little gits. But what’s this? In the Bahamas there are swimming pigs! On an uninhabited island called Big Major Cay there are hundreds of super friendly pigs. They hang out on what has been called Pig Beach and go swimming during the day, clearly fearless of any potential shark encounters.

Okay, Shut Up Already, I Want This!

We don’t want to rant too much about Atlas Obscura as it’s simply more effective to head on out there and buy the thing. If, like us, you prefer staying inside away from people and slowly plotting world domination, then this tome is an excellent way to uncover the fabulous things which will be yours once your devious plans come to fruition.

It’s simply a treasure trove of gloriousness and wonder. By reading it, you’ll be unlocking a unique, peculiar, and regularly bizarre world which we regularly forget we live on. If you spent of your time between binge watching Netflix and murdering digital things on our games consoles, here’s a reminder there’s a world out there you can go and visit… but if you don’t want to do that, simply hang out and read the thing at home.

What’s the story here? If you want to learn about swimming pigs, the Great Stalacpipe Organ, colossal squid at Te Papa museum, the firefly squid of Toyama Bay, the world’s largest drain, or the rat king, then this is the book for you. Purchase and enjoy – we heartily recommend it. Head over to Atlas Obscura: Books if you’d like to hurl your money in its general direction.

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