symphony for the city of the deadBiographies or any sort of nonfiction relating to the siege of Leningrad that occurred amidst World War II can become depressing to read because of the many, many atrocities committed and the vast number of people who died. Symphony for the City of the Dead: Dmitri Shostakovich and the Siege of Leningrad by M.T. Anderson is the opposite of the traditional heavy nonfiction. Anderson breaks up his story of Shostakovich and the evolution of Leningrad by dropping in back-and-white historical photographs that allow readers to put a face to a name. This inclusion breaks up the chaos and destruction happening within his descriptions of Stalin’s purges and the eventual siege of Leningrad by bringing in pictures and maps to connect the history presented with an actual physical place and actual people. It may seem easy for people to ignore and write off atrocities committed, but I find that when authors choose to add pictures into their books, the subject matter becomes even more real and life-changing.

Symphony for the City of the Dead: Dmitri Shostakovich and the Siege of Leningrad really brought to life for me the importance of art and culture to a nation and its citizens, both in a negative and a positive light. Anderson tells readers the story of Stalin and his purges: how he rid the country of top military officials, science experts, and a wide variety of other people and effectively set his country up for more widespread disaster when Hitler invaded and he had no experts to ask for advice. This book focuses on art and culture, specifically music and Dmitri Shostakovich. This Russian composer escaped death at the hands of Stalin and instead found himself navigating the tricky tight-rope of composing the music that Stalin finds appropriate while still staying true to himself. Shostakovich’s Seventh Symphony is the one that he writes for Leningrad, “The City of the Dead,” and this book effectively sets the stage for discovering Shostakovaich’s mindset around that time and also the necessary cultural and political framework that he was up against. Highly recommended!

Check out the following fiction and nonfiction books for more information about the siege of Leningrad and related topics!

the madonnas of leningradcity of thievesleningrad siege and symphonyinferno the world at warstalin the court of the red tsarabsolute war

the tightly tangled webIf I sounded impressed with my review of the first volume of Nathan Edmondson’s Black Widow a few weeks ago, then I can firmly tell you that his second volume, Black Widow: The Tightly Tangled Web intrigued me even more. This volume shows you that Black Widow is indeed a human capable of feelings. (If that statement made you roll your eyes, let me explain.) In the first volume, and really throughout any of the Avengers movies, the Black Widow, aka Natasha, is shown as a cold,  yet ruthless, killing machine, one who will do whatever it takes to complete her mission, an M.O. that makes perfect sense since she used to be a KGB assassin. Edmondson expands upon Natasha’s past in this second volume, allowing readers a glimpse behind the dark curtain that hides Natasha’s true self.

Black Widow: The Tightly Tangled Web tackles the bigger idea of superheroes as a whole. In both volumes, readers see Natasha as part of the Avengers and SHIELD, going on missions for them, but also going on side jobs in order to atone for her past life as a KGB assassin. Once the Black Widow is seemingly outed through media footage splashed all over the news, other superheroes, SHIELD operatives, and the regular public are forced to question the idea of superheroes operating outside the reach of the law.

Another ongoing thread in this second volume focuses on the people who come and go in Natasha’s life. In San Francisco, Natasha runs into her ex Matt Murdock, also known as Daredevil, while hunting for cyber terrorists. On what she thinks is a simple mission in Prague, Natasha finds herself face to face with the Winter Soldier, who unbeknownst to her is there to stop the train from being robbed. Later, she runs into the Punisher, aka Frank Castle, a former Marine turned vigilante, while searching for information about a deadly criminal network that seems to be running communications off of the boat she is searching.

Add in a run-in with Hawkeye and this second volume reads less like a stand-alone Black Widow volume and more like a combination superhero graphic novel, which I found to be equally disappointing and riveting. I did enjoy the interactions she had with each person because it added an extra layer of depth to Natasha as a human being and highlighted important aspects of her past and her personality that would have been missed if readers were only privy to the conversations between her and her attorney, Isaiah. (Isaiah seems to be her closest friend and confidante and the doozy of a mess that Natasha finds herself in in this second volume comes back to harm Isaiah.) I just wish this volume had been more of a focus on Black Widow, more of a true stand-alone comic. I personally can’t wait for Edmondson’s new issues of Black Widow because it sounds like they will show more about her background.

woman in gold

Restitution claims resulting in the Nazi seizure of artwork, jewelry, money, furniture, etc., are upwards of billions of dollars with successful returning of stolen materials becoming more of the exception than the norm. Settlement agreements or restitution of any kind was opposed by many governments and sometimes even neglected until after the Cold War when the extent of both the worth and amount of objects seized became more widely known. The signing of the Washington Principles on Nazi-Confiscated Art in 1998 by over forty countries set into motion the identification of confiscated art pieces and the subsequent restitution of the art pieces to the pre-war owners.

Having said this, I found Woman in Gold to be a dynamic and intriguing portrayal of an actual art restitution claim that began in the late 1990s. This movie stars Helen Mirren as Maria Altmann, a Jewish woman who was forced to flee Vienna during World War II and who left with nothing more than the clothes on her back. Sixty years later, she began the arduous journey to get back her own family possessions that the Nazis seized, even while they were still living in their apartment in Vienna. Among these possessions, and arguably the one that created the most scandal in Austria, was the painting by Gustav Klimt called “Adele Bloch-Bauer I” (aka “Woman in Gold”) that is a painting done of Maria Altmann’s aunt Adele. The Austrian government was not keen, to say the least, to just hand over the painting to Miss Altmann as it had become part of Austria’s heritage, even though it had been stolen from their family and not gifted as the government believes.

Ryan Reynolds plays as Maria Altmann’s attorney, Randy Schoenberg, a man who at first writes Altmann off and then becomes increasingly involved in this case, risking his job and family, and ultimately taking her case all the way to the Supreme Court. This movie is a fascinating look into the tangled and confusing web of restitution claims, governmental politics, and legal processes. It also perfectly highlights how the actual process of reclaiming something that was illegally taken from you can be incredibly difficult. Woman In Gold is only one story of successful art restitution, but with the release of this movie, the public is made more aware of the atrocities committed and objects stolen by the Nazis and just how complicated it is to get back something that is rightfully yours!


Interested in learning more about art restitution? Check out the following items below!

monuments men bookmonuments men dvdhitler's holy relicsrape of europasaving italythe venus fixershitler's art thiefthe lady in gold

cinderella1Reboots of classic fairy tales seem to be announced every other day with versions ranging from all-out musicals (Here’s to you, Into the Woods) to a new deluxe version being released from the Disney vault (Quick! Get your Aladdin fix!) to even focusing on the point of view of the villain (Poor scorned Maleficent). These new versions can conjure up sentimental feelings among older viewers and provide an opportunity for people to talk about their favorite classics and all of its reboots.

Disney just released a new version of Cinderella, which stars Lily James as Ella, a young girl being raised by her mother and merchant father when tragedy strikes leaving her father to raise Ella all by himself. Armed with her mother’s last words, “Have courage and be kind”, and her loving and strong nature, Ella sets out to find the good, and to most importantly, bring out the good present in the world all around her. Ella’s father remarries and soon a stepmother and two stepsisters are brought into the family. Tragedy strikes again with the sudden passing of her father and Ella finds herself having to dig deep within to deal with the bullying of her step-family as she struggles with her whole world turning upside down. She soon meets a dashing young man in the woods, decides to do everything within her power to see him again, and makes the ultimate decision to take her life back into her own hands.

This version of Cinderella does not stray far from the classic, but instead works to give more back story to the different characters present. You’ll learn more about what made Cinderella’s stepmother into the woman she is, how Cinderella’s relationship with her parents and strong connections to the people around her molded her into the woman she becomes, and how and why the Prince and his family behave the way they do. Add in a dash of Helena Bonham Carter as Cinderella’s quirky fairy godmother and this version of the classic Cinderella becomes one full of hope, imagination, and fun that will leave viewers relishing in the simple, life-changing wisdom of “Have courage and be kind”.


Interested in checking out some more movie reboots of Cinderella? Look below! If you’re interested in finding some book versions, contact us at the library.

ella enchanteda cinderella storyever after1cinderella2funny facecinderella3

 

 

smoke gets in your eyesI’ve got a thing for any books that deal with death, medical, or morbid themes. (Check out my blog post on Working Stiff.) Death is not something discussed across the dinner table or out in public while waiting for the bus. Instead it is pushed to the back of our minds as something that we will deal with later, something we can put off until “our time comes”. Smoke Gets in Your Eyes & Other Lessons from the Crematory by Caitlin Doughty talks about death across a wide variety of cultures, continents, and centuries, in an effort to help us understand that we shouldn’t fear or push death to the dusty corner of our lives. We should work to become as comfortable as possible with death in order to lift up the stereotypes that surround the people who work with death everyday. (Side note: the author dives into very real descriptions of preparing bodies after death and the intricate details of some death cultures, so this book is definitely not for the faint of heart or stomach.)

Smoke Gets in Your Eyes is a work of nonfiction that tells the intertwined stories of the myriad cultures of death and the life of the author. Caitlin Doughty was born in Hawaii and had no real exposure to death until she turned 8 and witnessed the violent death of a small child at a mall. Once she was old enough, Doughty moved to Chicago where she graduated with a degree in medieval history, something that helped fuel her theoretical interest in death. After graduation, she realized that there was not much she could do with a degree in medieval history, so she moved to California and began applying for jobs at crematories in order to gain practical work experience with the dead.

This book talks about Doughty’s first job as a crematory operator, the one who deals with your loved ones’ bodies and remains, as well as “other duties as assigned”, like shaving faces, dealing with the bodies that have been donated to science, preparing bodies for funerals, and going on runs to pick up the newly deceased from wherever they died. At her first job, Doughty gets her real look into the mystery surrounding the people who choose to work with the dead for a living and is able to see what exactly goes on behind the scenes at funeral homes, hospitals, nursing homes, etc., when people die. While Doughty can indeed get very graphic, for instance she goes into great detail about the embalming process, the information she presents comparing different death cultures around the world to our own now, as well as comparing how people view death across time, is immensely fascinating and really points out to readers that the more we know and make an effort to understand death, the less we will shun it and be afraid of it. While this book does talk about the author’s journey into the death industry, Doughty also includes passages of other relevant historical and societal death practices for readers to try to understand.

kill the messengerI don’t know about you, but my attention is always peaked when I start watching a movie and it says, “based on a true story” somewhere in the opening credits. I watch the movie trying to absorb as many of the facts as possible, so that when the movie ends, if I still find the topic and people the movie is about interesting, then I can go research more. My newest “based on a true story” movie is Kill the Messenger starring Jeremy Renner.

In Kill the Messenger, Renner plays Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Gary Webb, an investigative reporter who worked for the San Jose Mercury News, who finds himself entangled in a political and drug war when he at first becomes tricked into helping a younger drug dealer get his charges dropped in trial. Webb inadvertently stumbles upon a huge life-changing story when he digs deeper into the initial story he was presented with and finds a connection between the U.S. government and a Central American war. Through investigative reporting and tracking down anyone that could possibly be tied to this case, Webb finds that a United States intelligence agency has linked themselves to a group of Central American drug smugglers. Webb’s story seems to only be getting better until he is dragged in front of operatives for the agency and is told, in polite terms of course, that if he does not stop, he will be unequivocally endangering his life, the lives of his family, and the lives of everyone he knows. Here is when everything starts going downhill for Webb. This movie can be described as a riveting suspense, an explosive race for the truth, and even a compelling political drama. I was intrigued by the suspense and the cover-ups that happen throughout and how everything you think you know, you actually don’t know at all. Check out this movie and let me know what you think!


If you’re interested in learning more about Gary Webb, the journalist who exposed the CIA, check out the books below. They contain essays written by Webb, while Kill the Messenger by Nick Schou is one of the two books that the move is based on.

ktm bookinto the buzzsawyou are being lied to

 

 

Last year, the American Library Association, along with the Banned Books Week planning committee, announced that Banned Books Week 2014 would have a thematic focus on comics and graphic novels. Even though we are now in Banned Books Week 2015, it is still important to focus on graphic novels and the censorship that happens to them because they are often clouded in an aura of mystery by those who don’t understand and those that don’t read them.

Some of you may be wondering what the difference is between a comic book and a graphic novel. I encourage you to think of a graphic novel as a format and not a genre, meaning that graphic novels encompass the same thing that the format of a book does, but just in a different format. A very simplified definition of a graphic novel can be found at the Get Graphic website where they say that graphic novels can be of any genre for any audience, but with all to most of the comic being done with pictures. Graphic novels can be fantasy, romance, horror, westerns, superheroes, fiction, non-fiction, and anything else you could possibly think of as a genre. Some people may like to interchange the phrase “comic book” for graphic novels, but that can conjure up the image of superheroes. Let’s just stay simple. Graphic novel = format.


Now that the description has been given, let’s delve into the fun part: figuring out what graphic novels have been banned and for what reasons. Every year, the American Library Association, also known as the ALA, releases a list of the top ten most frequently challenged books for that year. Further down on that page, there are more lists of banned books and the reasons why they are banned. (Check out this list put out by the CBLDF for Banned Books Week 2015 that lists 12 Challenged & Banned YA Graphic Novels.) In these descriptions, you will find references to the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, the CBLDF, a non-profit organization that posts cases on their website of comic books that have been challenged, censored, banned, etc.


the complete maus

In Maus, Art Spiegelman writes about the struggles of Vladek Spiegelman, a Jewish survivor of Hitler’s regime, and his son, a cartoonist who is struggling to work with the story of his aging father. Going on around the backdrop of guilt and survival are also the things that happen in normal day-to-day life: the stories of unhappiness, routine, and squabbles that we all live through. In one part, the son is interviewing his dad about his experiences. In another part, Spiegelman is interpreting his father’s life as a graphic novel, which each different race being depicted as a different animal. This Pulitzer Prize winning graphic novel has been challenged for being “anti-ethnic” and “unsuitable for younger readers”. It has also been removed from shelves in foreign countries for having a Nazi swastika on the cover.


captain underpantsThe Adventures of Captain Underpants by Dav Pilkey is a frequently banned/challenged series(the cover shown being the first in the series), so much so that it is number 13 on the top 100 list of banned/challenged books for 2000-2009. It has even been number 1 on the top 10 lists for many years. It is often challenged and/or banned for offensive language, anti-family content, sexually explicit, violence, or being unsuited for age group. In this book, Harold and George often get into hijinks that include turning their principal, Mr. Krupp, into Captain Underpants, so that he can defeat some kind of nefarious evil-doer that has descended upon the school. In case you are wondering why this book is featured on the graphic novel list, this book is filled with pictures and the boys are also working on their own comic strip, which sometimes takes up chunks of the book.


boneJeff Smith created Bone, a series of graphic novels, which, in the first of the series shown to the left, chronicles the lifes of three Bone cousins, Fone Bone, Phoney Bone, and Smiley Bone after they are run out of Boneville, their home, and are forced to find their way in a desert and then a subsequent valley. Smith spins humor, mystery, and adventure together into this story that people who have left home for the first time, people reminiscing, and especially kids will relate to as the Bones realize that everything now around them is totally different, overwhelming, and, of course, strange. The Bone series found itself on the top 10 list of frequently challenged books in 2013 for the following reasons: “political viewpoint, racism, and violence”.


dramaRaina Telgemeier has written many graphic novels that center around this age, but the one that causes the most issues in terms of banning and challenging is Drama. In this graphic novel, Callie, the main character, loves theater, but to her chagrin, she can’t sing. She is made set designer for this year’s production and has decided that this set for her middle school’s production of Moon over Mississippi is going to look amazing! As she is dealing with everything to do with the play, Callie also finds herself having to deal with the offstage and onstage drama generated by the actors that are chosen for the play. All around her relationships begin and end, while some fail to even start. This award-winning graphic novel was recently on the top ten list for 2014 for being “sexually explicit” and has also been challenged because of the inclusion of two gay characters.


stuck in the middleWhile the following book has yet to crack the top ten frequently challenged book lists, it has been pulled and challenged in libraries across the country. Stuck in the Middle: Seventeen Comics from an Unpleasant Age is a collection put together from a wide variety of cartoonists detailing their own times in middle school. The point of this book is to show that while middle school and being thirteen is incredibly awkward and unpleasant, you will survive! The authors in this graphic novel are not afraid to deal with the nitty, gritty, uncomfortable topics that happen throughout middle school. This book has been pulled from two South Dakota middle schools and has been challenged in other towns as well for the following reasons: objectionable sexual, language, drug, and alcohol references. A few libraries allowed the book to be retained, but placed it in the professional collection, which requires students to obtain parental permission before they are allowed to check it out.


this one summerJillian and Mariko Tamiko created this New York times bestseller, Printz award Honor Book for excellence in young adult literature, and Caldecott Honor Book in 2014. This One Summer is about the story of Rose, whose family has vacationed at Awago Beach for as long as she can remember. There she is able to escape all of her troubles and truly slip into her refuge and summer getaway spot. Windy, her friend, is there as well, filling in as the little sister that Rose never had. Everything is perfect until this summer when Rose’s parents keep fighting, Rose notices that Windy is childish, and rose and Windy get things entangled in the drama of the older kids on the island. This graphic novel has been challenged for “age-inappropriate content”, an ultimate misinterpretation of the age requirements for the Caldecott Award, which is for books aimed at kids 14 and under, while This One Summer is aimed at kids 12+.


blanketsCraig Thompson wrote Blankets, a semi-autobiographical journey into his relationship with his brother, Phil, who he had to share a blanket with when he was younger, and his first girlfriend, Raina, who he also shared a blanket with. This graphic novel works to tell two entwined stories by flashing back to early experiences in Craig’s life while also pairing them with things that he is experiencing right now. This book dives into Craig’s upbringing in a religious family, how he handles his first love who he meets at a church camp, and also how he comes to terms with his religious beliefs as his life makes a whole bunch of changes. Raina’s family brings the added complication of Down Syndrome to their relationship while her parents are also dealing with a divorce. This book has been challenged because of allegedly obsence illustrations, depictions of sex and human body parts, inappropriate subject matter, and that the comic artwork would attract children who would then see the “pornographic” images.


the complete persepolisMarjane Satrapi wrote the award-winning graphic memoir, Persepolis, about her struggles growing up in Tehran. Marji spent most of her childhood growing up in a family not short on live during the Islamist Revolution. She quickly had to learn how to manage her private vs. her public life in Tehran. As her family encouraged her to speak her mind, she often landed in trouble, forcing her parents to ship her off to school in Austria. In Vienna, Marji dealt with her adolescence away from her family, only to return home to face both the good and the bad. In the end, she self-imposed an exile upon herself when she became a young adult. This graphic memoir was number 2 on the top ten list of 2014 and has been banned and challenged for many reasons: gambling, offensive language, political viewpoint, graphic depictions, and also politically, racially, and socially offensive.

Here are some news articles that talk about Persepolis being banned. Many more are out there as well.


fun home

Now we’ve arrived at the graphic novel that has been ripping up the headlines recently in terms of people trying to ban it. Fun Home by Alison Bechdel is an autobiographical memoir that deals with Bechdel’s everyday life in an unnerving and darkly funny story about her family. Alison’s father, a man of many different talents and jobs, is a distant parent and a closeted homosexual. Alison yearns for her father, but as the stories or her brother and her running rampant through the “fun home,” also known as the funeral home, can attest, their relationship works through their sharing books. This book has been banned/challenged for LGBTQ themes and morality themes.


saga

 

 

Saga by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples is a sort of modern retelling of Romeo and Juliet. Alana, a winged soldier from planet Windfall, and Marko, a horned former prisoner of war from Landfall’s moon, are both on the run from their respective militaries. They escaped to give birth to their daughter, but now everyone wants them dead. Sheer luck seems to be the only way the family has survived and managed to escape into the galaxy. The Saga series is number 6 on the list of top ten most frequently challenged books of 2014 and was banned for the following reasons in 2014: anti-family, nudity, offensive language, sexually explicit, and unsuited for age group.


 

killing jokeYou may be wondering why there aren’t any superhero graphic novels on this list. Let me introduce to you Alan Moore’s Batman: The Killing Joke with Brian Bolland as the illustrator. This graphic novel was released as a a stand-alone by DC Comics in 1988. In this graphic novel, Bolland depicts the Joker’s brutal torture of Jim Gordon and his daughter Barbara. The psychological and physical damage done upon Gordon and Barbara are illustrated perfectly in this graphic novel and prove to forever alter the continuity of DC’s Batman universe as the shooting of Barbara Gordon leaves her paralyzed and ultimately leads her to becoming the Oracle. Alan Moore has had many graphic novels challenged/banned and Batman: The Killing Joke followed for the following reasons: it “advocates rape and violence”.

thor god of thunderRight around the release of any superhero movie, a lot of other merchandise related to that superhero begins hitting the market. Because I am not a pre-teen or teenager anymore and have decided that I need to start decorating like a proper adult (It’s sad, I know), buying superhero towels, sheets, and posters to decorate are no longer an option. You know what venue that does still leave open? Videogames! Because of this adulthood I have been thrust into, I have become a sucker for superhero videogames.

I recently went on a Thor binge again because of our recently ended superhero summer reading program. Confession: The movies, both Thor  and Thor: The Dark World, are not my favorite superhero movies, primarily because I love a lot of actiony fights in my movies and the first of a superhero’s movie or graphic novel usually always generates around his origin story, which can be tedious, to me. (This girl is not a fan of origin stories.)

What I found lacking in the Thor movies, I found in Thor: God of Thunder. This game is available in both the Xbox 360 and Wii formats. In this game, all of the action I was missing in the movies came alive. Here, I am able to heft Mjolnir, Thor’s massive hammer, and release all of his powers of wind, thunder, lightning, and storms to fight against 25-foot-tall, 12-ton weighing frost giants and trolls that were plaguing the Norse worlds during the Thor movie. Talk about awesome! There are a variety of combinations that you can release upon your enemies from hammer throws to melee combos to all of those storm powers that I mentioned previously. What I found interesting was that you could scale the giants! You could climb them using a grappling system and multiple points to try and find their weaknesses in order to defeat them. The game also allows you to collect runes in order to pick new powers and abilities and even upgrade your weapons.

Yes, this game is repetitious, but there’s really only so much variety you can do with frost giants and trolls. Those Norse worlds didn’t exactly have many different enemies to fight. It’s important to remember that this videogame was made to be a “movie tie-in,” so it was to be released around the time when the movie actually came out. Graphics and controls are not going to be as up-to-par as if they had taken the time and released this a while after the movie came out. I still enjoyed it and I’m hoping that fellow fans of Thor will enjoy this game too.


Want to check out some other cool Thor related items that the library has? Click on the pictures below to be directed to the Thor items(movies, graphic novels, etc.) in our catalog!

thor 1thor 2thor gnlady thorthor mi

the reaper

With the release of American Sniper(both as a book and movie), there has been an increase both in requests for military nonfiction and in new releases of books available to the public. We have many available for check out at the library! My newest military nonfiction read was The Reaper: Autobiography of One of the Deadliest Special Ops Snipers. Just like any specialized nonfiction book, be they medical, military, science, or sports, I approached this one with caution as I was expecting to be hit almost immediately with acronyms and terminology specific to the military that can be overwhelming to civilians. Irving does a fairly decent job of explaining what each acronym means, which I found to be a relief.

In this book, Nicholas Irving details for readers the many operations that he went on as a sniper that allowed him to garner 33 confirmed kills, while also spreading in details about his life and just how he eventually became the 3rd Ranger Battalion’s deadliest sniper. Irving focuses mostly on his deployment to Afghanistan in the summer of 2009, where he gathered the majority of the kills that earned him the nickname, the Reaper.

What I found most interesting in this book were the descriptions that Irving laid out about just what the entire unit went through during those specialized combat missions and how he was able to notice changes within himself as he became more comfortable with the job that he had to do. Among the revealing descriptions of their operations, readers gain a behind-the-scenes look into day-to-day life in the military, Irving’s life before he joined the military, and the lives of the many men and women that he interacted with on a day-to-day basis. I found this book to be an informative read that allowed me to catch just a tiny glimpse into the stories of combat and brotherhood that many special operations forces are going through during war.

Irving discusses everything from the decision to take a life to protect another, dealing with the loss of fellow soldiers during battle, and how the bonds of brotherhood within the military as a whole, his specific unit, and with the different people he came into contact with throughout his military career helped form the sniper that he became.


If you’re interested in other military nonfiction, check out the books below. Click on the covers to learn more information about the book and to place a hold on the item. If you are looking to walk the shelves, the Armed Forces fall around the Dewey number of 350, while specific battles or moments in history can be found in the 900s.

navy sealslone survivor bookseal team sixno easy daythe outpostblack hawk down

 

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Psst, hey there, would you like to see something cool? Down by the arboretum in Dubuque, if you hike to the very back, climb over the old barbed wire fence and head west (watch your step for sink holes) you’ll find what remains of an old park, destroyed 100 years ago by a flash flood that killed five people. Here’s the old limestone bandstand and pavilion, and, if you look hard enough, the decaying remains of the roller-coaster. Be careful, though, since no one is sure if anyone’s allowed here.

Intrigued? So was I, way back when my curiosity easily overruled my common sense. It led me and my friends to the old Union Park, abandoned houses and zinc mines, caves and the subterranean network of cisterns and cellars underneath my neighborhood (don’t tell my mom, though.) It’s the same curiosity that drives the book “100 Places You Will Never Visit: The World’s Most Secret Locations,” by Daniel Smith. The places photographed and described in Smith’s book tend to fall more into the “you’ll never visit because it’s illegal/top-secret/destroyed/radioactive” and not “you’ll never visit because you’ve never heard of it” category, but the locations described are interesting, especially if you’re a fan of government conspiracies.

The book is heavy on speculation when describing places such as The Skunk Works, Mount Weather and – of course – Area 51. Smith also takes a turn at the politics of some off-limits areas, like Bohemian Grove (a California camp where the world’s most powerful meet, away from the public eye), the Guantanamo Bay Detention Center or the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

The more interesting places described are those not located in North America (or, at least, are outside of the U.S.’s collective imagination) like La Basse Cour (“The Farmyard”) in Belgium, the unidentified structures in China’s Gobi Desert or the temple vaults of Sree Padmanabhaswamy in India. Again, most of these places are known, just off-limits to the public. But, the photographs, maps, and illustrations give the reader enough to at least pique curiosity.

If you looking for more lost cities and urban exploration, check out “Hidden Cities: Travels to the Secret Corners of the World’s Great Metropolises” by Moses Gates or “Explore Everything: Place-Hacking the City” by Bradley Garrett. Or, if abandoned places are more your style, try the TV series “Life After People,” Abandoned America” by  Matthew Christopher or my personal favorite “The World Without Us” by Alan Weisman.