Written by

Chris Gonzales


Syd Wachs

We consider ourselves curious people here at T&T. We’re always interested in learning interesting new things, even if they’re a bit…odd.

If you share that sort of inclination, the five books below will be right up your alley. Enjoy.

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Atlas Obscura by Joshua Foer, Dylan Thuras, and Ella Morton. ($21 hardcover)

Atlas Obscura by Joshua Foer, Dylan Thuras, and Ella Morton. ($21 hardcover)

The Atlas Obscura Book »

Written by Atlas Obscura founders Joshua Foer and Dylan Thuras — along with the site’s associate editor, Ella MortonAtlas Obscura: An Explorer’s Guide to the World’s Hidden Wonders celebrates over 600 of the world’s strangest curiosities and marvels:

Here are natural wonders—the dazzling glowworm caves in New Zealand, or a baobob tree in South Africa that’s so large it has a pub inside where 15 people can drink comfortably. Architectural marvels, including the M.C. Escher-like stepwells in India. Mind-boggling events, like the Baby Jumping Festival in Spain, where men dressed as devils literally vault over rows of squirming infants. Not to mention the Great Stalacpipe Organ in Virginia, Turkmenistan’s 45-year hole of fire called the Gates of Hell, coffins hanging off a side of a cliff in the Philippines, eccentric bone museums in Italy, or a weather-forecasting invention that was powered by leeches, still on display in Devon, England.

Folks like Neil Gaiman and Guillermo del Toro have given this book their respective stamps of approval, so yeah: a no-brainer read, this one.

Get the book in these formats:

Unseen City by Nathanael Johnson.

Unseen City by Nathanael Johnson.

Unseen City »

Unseen City: The Majesty of Pigeons, the Discreet Charm of Snails & Other Wonders of the Urban Wilderness is a funny guide to seeing and celebrating the wonders of urban nature — and in a way, learning to be a better, more curious parent:

Johnson argues that learning to see the world afresh, like a child, shifts the way we think about nature: Instead of something distant and abstract, nature becomes real―all at once comical, annoying, and beautiful. This shift can add tremendous value to our lives, and it might just be the first step in saving the world. […]

Unseen City takes us on a journey that is part nature lesson and part love letter to the world’s urban jungles. With the right perspective, a walk to the subway can be every bit as entrancing as a walk through a national park.

Once you’ve read Unseen City, you’ll see the world around you in a whole new light, city dweller or no. It teaches you to notice things that never would’ve crossed your mind before, particularly in regards to pigeons, squirrels, ginko trees, ants, snails, crows, and turkey vultures.

Here’s the official book trailer:

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A Burglar’s Guide to the City »

Geoff Manaugh, author of architecture blog BLDGBLOG, has a book called A Burglar’s Guide to the City, which, as Jason Kottke put it, “examines architecture through Ocean’s Eleven-tinted glasses.”

At the core of A Burglar’s Guide to the City is an unexpected and thrilling insight: how any building transforms when seen through the eyes of someone hoping to break into it. Studying architecture the way a burglar would, Geoff Manaugh takes readers through walls, down elevator shafts, into panic rooms, up to the buried vaults of banks, and out across the rooftops of an unsuspecting city.

Manaugh interviewed people from both sides of the law while researching for this book, including FBI Special Agents, reformed bank robbers, architects, and more.

Get the book in these formats:

Lists of Note by Shaun Usher.

Lists of Note by Shaun Usher.

Note: The book cover is now different than the one pictured here.

Lists of Note »

As we’ve mentioned in the past, we’re fans of the Letters of Note blog and its accompanying book.

Shaun Usher, the guy behind those projects, also has a blog called Lists of Note that documents the lists of notable people throughout history. He compiled 125 of these lists into a book called Lists of Note: Inventories Deserving of a Wider Audience. Here are just a few examples:

  • A shopping list written by two 9th-century Tibetan monks.
  • Leonardo da Vinci’s to-do list.
  • 19 year-old Isaac Newton’s list of the 57 sins he’d already committed.
  • Galileo’s list of parts needed to build his telescope.
  • Martin Luther King’s advice for black people starting to use buses.
  • Johnny Cash’s list of ‘things to do today’.
  • Michelangelo’s illustrated shopping list.
  • Julia Child’s list of possible titles for what would later become an American cooking bible.

This stuff is fascinating, even if you’re not much of a history nerd.

Get the book in these formats:

And Then You're Dead by Paul Doherty and Cody Cassidy.

And Then You’re Dead by Paul Doherty and Cody Cassidy.

And Then You’re Dead »

Let’s end this guide on a super-positive note, shall we?

And Then You’re Dead: What Really Happens If You Get Swallowed by a Whale, Are Shot from a Cannon, or Go Barreling over Niagara is a gleefully morbid new book by physicist Paul Doherty and writer Cody Cassidy about all the most outlandish, cartoonish, and impossible ways people can die.

From the author duo’s recent Reddit AMA:

We looked into questions like what would happen if you swam out of a deep sea submarine, were swallowed by a whale (surprisingly possible), your elevator cable broke (don’t jump. It won’t help), if it’s even possible to die from magnetism (it is, yay!), if sticking your hand in the CERN particle accelerator is lethal (probably) and many more.

I mean, this book really answers all the important questions:

How long could you last if you stood on the surface of the sun? How far could you actually get in digging a hole to China?


Can you die by shaking someone’s hand? Answer: Yes. That’s because, due to atomic repulsion, you’ve never actually touched another person’s hand. If you could, the results would be as disastrous as a medium-sized hydrogen bomb.

Now for the disclaimer: And Then You’re Dead isn’t for the faint of heart. I wouldn’t hand it to a kid to read, even if they love weird facts; the descriptions are just a bit too gruesome for that.

Get the book in these formats: