The Burglar’s Guide Has Arrived

At long last, after more than three years of research and travel, A Burglar’s Guide to the City is finally shipping.

It is a book about crime, policing, and the built environment, and how these forces mutually influence one another, from ancient Rome to contemporary Los Angeles, with a specific focus on the spatial peculiarities of breaking and entering.

I’ve already posted about the book at some length here on the blog—with many more posts available under the Burglar’s Guide tag—and there is also a standalone website worth checking out, as well, with links to reviews, book tour information, and some great blurbs.

However, for now, especially if this is the first you’ve heard of it, consider checking out an excerpt from the book over at The New York Times Magazine, an author profile over at the Wall Street Journal, a short segment about burglary and Los Angeles on NPR’s Marketplace, or a great review published in the Los Angeles Times.

There, Annalee Newitz writes that, “Despite its title, Geoff Manaugh’s A Burglar’s Guide to the City won’t teach you how to break into houses. It won’t help you outsmart wily cat burglars with ingenious home alarm systems, either. Instead, it explores something a lot weirder and more interesting: Manaugh argues that burglary is built into the fabric of cities and is an inevitable outgrowth of having architecture in the first place.”

Writing for the Barnes & Noble Review, meanwhile, Sarah Weinman—editor of the recent collection Women Crime Writers: Eight Suspense Novels of the 1940s and 1950s—said that, after reading the book, “my worldview is altered a little bit more, and far for the better, as a result.” Patrick Lyons at VICE found the book “an exhilarating, perspective-shifting read,” and the BBC recommended it as one of their “Ten books to read in April,” calling it “a surprising and fascinating true-crime epic.”

Most fun of all was doing an interview with Gastropod—a podcast about food, science, and history cohosted by my wife, Nicola Twilley, and journalist Cynthia Graber—discussing food heists, potato bombs, fast-food burglaries, and much more.

Amazon chose A Burglar’s Guide as one of their “Best Books of April 2016,” adding that it is a “caper of a book.” *Update: I also got to speak about the book with Curbed for their recently launched podcast, on “why panic rooms are going to outlast the pyramids.”

In any case, I’d be over the moon if you picked up a copy, and I would love to discuss the book’s many ideas—and people and tools and scenes and histories—in more detail here. However, I’m also aware that I can’t just post about this book over and over—and over—again, so I’ll also get back to regular blogging soon.

Thanks! And enjoy the book.

6 thoughts on “The Burglar’s Guide Has Arrived”

  1. Congratulations and the reviews are great. Now will your next book be on how El Chapo uses his built environment to escape- his house when necessary or prison? Your outlook on architecture is fascinating.

  2. Thanks, Ches! I am definitely interested in El Chapo’s escape, and would love to write more about border tunnels, escape tunnels, smuggling tunnels, etc., but I won’t be focusing on crime for my next book. Hope you get a chance to check out the Burglar’s Guide some time, and thanks again for the nice note.

  3. As an urban explorer the law enforcement aspect of city design came into clear view one summer night for me when we tried to order pizza to a suburban sewer grate where we were having a party beneath the street many years ago. Somebody tipped off the authorities and we were forced to make a run for it with police chasing us every step of the way.

    Pulling up a map of the neighbourhood we realized that despite all the roads and avenues there were only two ways to get to the freeway. We felt well trapped, so we went into “silent running” mode, parked, turned off the lights, and waited.

    Of course the designed environment works both ways. The police expected us to emerge from the manhole we went into, not another manhole half a mile away in another community all together.

    Ahh the excitement of youth.

    Looking forward to your reading here in SF.

  4. A few years back I watched a scruffy youth casually walk past a derelict pub. He glanced around, didn’t see me & suddenly took a few running steps toward a vertical wall & jumped upward like a basketball player about to slam dunk. Grabbing the top of the wall (at least eight feet high), he pulled himself up onto the top of it. The move was so fast & smooth. Had I looked away for three seconds it would have been as if he had dissolved into thin air. As he put his foot onto the wall he looked back at me & I waved. He jumped down, light as a feather & continued on his way as if it was the usual way of things. For him, I guess it was.

    Those of us who are less agile with a different set of values are blinkered to much of the world that the burglars inhabit. Geoff’s research combines a number of unique perspectives, formulated into a coherent line of thinking that presents the reader with many questions. In some ways it’s the ultimate home security guide – if you know how a burglar thinks perhaps you can make your dwelling less appealing. It’s also a social commentary on the minds of the burglars, the police who pursue them & the designers of the cities in which we inhabit. The book is much more than that though. Regular readers of BLDGBLOG already enjoy Geoff’s style & may expect more of the same. I for one had high expectations – they were exceeded. The book is something special, maybe the only one of it’s kind.

    The only problem is the title: my friends & family see it & ask if I’m planning to take up burglary.

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