Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Looking for Lost Places

Here’s the prompt for this week’s Nonfiction November post:

Be The Expert/Ask the Expert/Become the Expert: Three ways to join in this week! You can either share three or more books on a single topic that you have read and can recommend (be the expert), you can put the call out for good nonfiction on a specific topic that you have been dying to read (ask the expert), or you can create your own list of books on a topic that you’d like to read (become the expert).

I can’t tell you how much this one has tied me up in knots. All of my academic feelings of imposter syndrome came to the fore while I debated with myself about whether I am an expert in anything.  After much ado, I have decided to dodge my crazy and address part 3 of this prompt: “create your own list of books on a topic that you’d like to read.”

I have a strange fascination with abandoned places. My trips have often involved trespassing into crumbling structures or driving down dusty roads to find ghost towns. Take, for example, this fun ruin whose "private property" sign I ignored this past summer:

This got me thinking about the idea of lost places -- how ideas turn into reality but then are abandoned or forgotten or covered up by new things. For instance, check out Valerie Anex's fantastic collection of photographs about Irish “ghost suburbs,” – planned communities in Ireland that failed and were left uninhabited.

photo: by Valerie Anex from http://flavorwire.com/458497/eerie-photographs-of-modern-day-suburban-ghost-towns/view-all

There's certainly enough photography out there to keep me happily internetting forever, but what about reading? A quick search has led me to these three titles might be part of  an inquiry around this topic. Here’s a list of the books, along with the synopsis of each one from Powells:

A tour of the world’s hidden geographies – from disappearing islands to forbidden deserts – and a stunning testament to how mysterious the world remains today. At a time when Google Map’s Street View can take you on a virtual tour of Yosemite’s remotest trails and cell phones double as navigational systems, it’s hard to imagine there’s any uncharted ground left on the planet. In Unruly Places, Alastair Bonnett goes to some of the most unexpected, offbeat places in the world to reinspire our geographical imagination.

Bonnet’s remarkable tour includes moving villages, secret cities, no man’s lands, and floating islands. He explores places as disorienting as Sandy Island, an island included on maps until just two years ago despite the fact that it never existed. Or Sealand, an abandoned gun platform off the English coast that a British citizen claimed as his own sovereign nation, issuing passports and crowning his wife as a princess. Or Baarle, a patchwork of Dutch and Flemish enclaves where walking from the grocery stores’ produce section to the meat counter can involve crossing national borders.

In Ruins:  A Journey Through History, Art, and Literature by Christopher Woodward

In this enchanting meditation on ruins, Christopher Woodward takes us on a thousand-year journey from the plains of Troy to the monuments of ancient Rome, from the crumbling palaces of Sicily, Cuba, and Zanzibar to the rubble of the London Blitz. With an exquisite sense of romantic melancholy, we encounter the teenage Byron in the moldering Newstead Abbey, Flaubert watching the buzzards on the pyramids, Henry James in the Colosseum, and Freud at Pompeii. We travel the Appian Way with Dickens and behold the Baths of Caracalla with Shelley. An exhilarating tour, at once elegant and stimulating, In Ruins casts an exalting spell as it explores the bewitching power of architectural remains and their persistent hold on the imagination.

Lives In Ruins: Archaeologists and the Seductive Lure of Human Rubble by Marilyn Johnson

Lives in Ruins is an absorbing and entertaining look at the lives of contemporary archaeologists as they sweat under the sun for clues to the puzzle of our past. Johnson digs and drinks alongside archaeologists, chases them through the Mediterranean, the Caribbean, and even Machu Picchu, and excavates their lives. Her subjects share stories we rarely read in history books, about slaves and Ice Age hunters, ordinary soldiers of the American Revolution, children of the first century, Chinese woman warriors, sunken fleets, mummies. What drives these archaeologists is not the money (meager) or the jobs (scarce) or the working conditions (dangerous), but their passion for the stories that would otherwise be buried and lost.

OK, readers, please pull me off the internet and back into my reading chair. What else should I add to the list?


Leila @ Readers' Oasis said...

Very interesting post! Lives in Ruins has been on my wish list for a while, but now I'm intrigued by Unruly Places. I may have to add that to my list.

The book I'm reading now might qualify for this theme of lost places (if loosely interpreted, anyway!). It is Carl Hoffman's book Savage Harvest, about the disappearance of Michael Rockefeller in Papua New Guinea in 1961. Rockefeller went to one of the wildest places on earth--a place you could call "lost," in a sense--to search for indigenous art, and then he himself became lost. I'm completely enthralled!

jennifer said...

Oooh! Thanks! I'll check it out.

Anonymous said...

Wow! That's a great topic! I don't think I've actually read any books pertaining to this subject but I'm guessing The Lost City of Z?? (Ok I might just be reading the 'lost' part in the title!)

jennifer said...

I haven't read that one! Thanks for the suggestion. Looks interesting!

Becca Lostinbooks said...

Oh I SO know how you feel about the expert thing! If an academic knows one thing it's that the more you know, the less you know you know! But at a certain point, we are all experts at something. And it's a good goal to have to become an expert at something new, too!

Brona Joy said...

Ooh you're the second to recommend Lives in Ruins.
It sounds fascinating - thanks :-)


jennifer said...

Maybe I'll make "being an expert" a goal for next year. ;)

jennifer said...

I actually haven't read it (becoming an expert), but I plan to! I've seen several good reviews of it!