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A burglar's guide to the city

I cross the street at the crosswalk. I use the entrance and exit doors as marked, even when they take me a long way around. Sometimes, I wait forlornly on deserted street corners for the sign to indicate that it is finally all right to “WALK”. So, like Geoff Manaugh, author of A burglar's guide to the city, I was thrilled to learn that there were other ways to understand and move through urban spaces. This is not an instruction manual or safety guide. It doesn’t teach you to be a burglar. Instead the book explores the ways that burglars, thieves, and assorted miscreants see and take advantage of urban architectural space. After all, nobody knows more about a building than the person who is going to dress up in a black catsuit, jump off a second-story balcony next store, sneak across the roof, and rappel down the wall, just to get inside when no one is there.  Most of us would just use the front door, and knock or ring the bell. But the burglars that Manaugh writes about don’t let what most of us do stop them from tunneling through the floor. Manaugh calls them, “idiot masters of the built environment” and “drunk Jedis of architectural space.”

But this book is not about revering criminals. Manaugh writes candidly about the violation people feel after their homes are broken into, so it is definitely not about glory. It is an exciting survey of the history of cops and robbers, burglary and capers (some smart ones and other downright ridiculous capers), and how criminals are determined to get inside a building, other than at the legitimate time and manner. In fact, A burglar's guide to the city reads a little like a caper film (in book format):  a smart, frothy summer blockbuster. So if you find yourself missing the television show Leverage, or yearning for another Ocean’s Eleven film, or cheering along with the adventures of Marcus Yallow in Cory Doctorow’s Little Brother, give A burglar's guide to the city a try.