Book Review: Londonist Mapped

It was only the second day of our long trip across Great Britain and Europe and here I was at Waterstones in Kensington purchasing a large-format book. Bless my wife for putting up with my impulse to buy it. (But she made it clear that I was the one who would have to stow it until we had a chance to send it home.)

Gordon Meyer Londonist Mapped Book

The hassle of hauling, and eventually mailing, “Londonist: Mapped” was worth it. It’s a self-described book of “Hand drawn Maps for the Urban Explorer,” which is accurate, but it isn’t until you page through the book that you discover how quirky and enchanting the contents truly are. Londonist.com commissioned many artists to create the maps and each one offers and different style and perspective on the city. It’s impossible to pick a favorite, but “Things you might not have done near Brick Lane,” “A banker’s pub crawl,” and “A guide to tube pedantry” are all fascinating. And as a visitor, the brief but enlightening text that accompanies each map made me feel more knowledgable than I am.

Now that we’re back home in the U.S. — and locked in our mandated self-quarantine — opening this book not only takes me back to happy memories, it also reminds me that things to love and appreciate are everywhere underfoot.

If you’re fortunate enough to be a Londoner, I suspect that you’ll love this book. If, like me, you only get to enjoy London occasionally, get this book now and you’ll have a greater appreciation when you’re there, and happy daydreams of visits until you return. You can order a copy here at Amazon.


I do not accept advertising, but the Amazon want you to know that some links may contain affiliate codes that dangle the promise of earning me a few pennies towards running this site (at no additional expense to you). Humbly, Gordon Meyer

Book Review: Homicide — Bucktown

Gordon Meyer with book

This book by Samuel T. Logan features police reports and post-factual location photographs of nine neighborhood murders. I was fortunate to review a prepublication copy and wrote the text below, which Mr. Logan opted to include on the back cover.

“The Chicago neighborhood of Bucktown is known for its tree-lined streets, family-friendly attitudes, and easy access to downtown. All in the shadows of the working-class factories that are now high-end condos. But there are darker shadows too, which neighbors only speak of in hushed tones (or private Facebook groups). Like all such gossip, much of it is exaggerated or just plain wrong. In Homicide: Bucktown, Sam Logan has done the painstaking work of shaking loose the actual facts from the government authorities. But if the cold procedural descriptions make you feel uneasy, the accompanying in situ photographs provide reassurances that, despite horrific events, life goes on. But do take heed, you can’t unlearn what you’re about to discover.”

Get your copy (and its earlier published sibling “Murder: Wicker Park”) at Quimby’s Bookstore.

I do not accept advertising, but the Amazon want you to know that some links may contain affiliate codes that dangle the promise of earning me a few pennies towards running this site (at no additional expense to you). Humbly, Gordon Meyer

Book Review: The Soft Atlas of Amsterdam

This delightful large-format paperback by Jan Rothuizen, subtitled Hand Drawn Perspectives from Daily Life, is one of the most charming and fascinating books in my library. My fondness for maps, hand artwork, participant observation, and Amsterdam coalesce perfectly in this book.

Gordon Meyer holding book

Each two- page spread is a “map” of a mundane (or sometimes famous) area of the city. The artwork is engaging, but it’s the annotations and details that draw you in. You’ll laugh, you’ll cringe, and you’ll frown. Having spent a little time in many of the areas, the art brought new details to light, and also (because the book is a couple of years old) let me consider how the area has changed since being captured.

It’s hard for me to decide on a favorite, but his drawing of an Albert Heijn supermarket certainly stands out. I was instantly transported back to the aisles of the one near our apartment at The Wittenberg. And the annotations resolved a few unanswered questions that puzzled American me. (Such as why Kellogg’s boxes are smaller — it’s to fit the Dutch shelves, which are shorter on the bottom rows. Duh.)

Other maps, such as Rokin, Vondelpark, and a canal houseboat stand out too. Having personal experience, I found these were honest representations, so it leads me to trust the others I didn’t get to see, such as a methadone clinic, a delivery room, and commune-style home.

I bought my copy of the book at the gift shop at Our Lord in the Attic (Ons’ Lieve Here op Solder) and proceeded to haul it around in my briefcase for the next several weeks. It was well worth the effort and is now one of my favorite souvenirs of the city. You can get a copy from Amazon, too. If this sounds like something you might dig, don’t hesitate. You can imagine me waving at you from the nave in Oude Kerk.

I do not accept advertising, but the Amazon want you to know that some links may contain affiliate codes that dangle the promise of earning me a few pennies towards running this site (at no additional expense to you). Humbly, Gordon Meyer

National Coloring Book Day

Today (Aug 2) is National Coloring Book Day! No better time to grab your free Bucktown Blocks — color, cut, and fold to create your own neighborhood stories. Fun for kids, and kid-like adults. Get a free PDF at bizarrechicago.com/blocks/ or pre-printed at Quimby’s Bookstore on North Ave. #BucktownBlocks


Bucktown Blocks

I do not accept advertising, but the Amazon want you to know that some links may contain affiliate codes that dangle the promise of earning me a few pennies towards running this site (at no additional expense to you). Humbly, Gordon Meyer

Book Review: Chicagoing Straight to Hell

Subtitled “The Unofficial Secret Insider Guide to Nonexistent Chicago Tours” this booklet by “Mr. Dan Kelly” (clearly a pseudonym) of Highland Park (of all places) demonstrates a fun and snarky sense of humor. The publication makes a compelling case for tours that are beyond the downtown area (“Rahmsylvania”) and cover more than just the insipid “touristy crap.” Examples include a walk along The 666 elevated cattle shoot, a survey of the Lake Michigan Lizard People who, having bred with humans, are responsible for a race of ensconced Alderpersons, and a stroll through neighborhoods where residents pound out paranoid NextDoor posts.


Gordon Meyer with book

I thoroughly enjoyed this inexpensive self-published monograph (available at Quimby’s) and I was rather sad at the end that these tours exist only in Mr. Dan’s warped and hilarious imagination. For more of that, don’t miss his website.


I do not accept advertising, but the Amazon want you to know that some links may contain affiliate codes that dangle the promise of earning me a few pennies towards running this site (at no additional expense to you). Humbly, Gordon Meyer

Book review: Superstitions

Superstition: Black Cats and White Rabbits by Sally Coulthard offers a history of common folk beliefs, and being a UK publication, many of the tales are heretofore unknown to most Americans. And even those you might already know — such as “touch wood” or avoiding sidewalk cracks — are illuminated with nuance and history. I found several new superstitions to add to my usual repertoire of practices.

Gordon Meyer with book

But aside from Coulthard’s content, the production and design of the book are both outstanding. The illustrations by K.J. Mountford are lovely. (Don’t you think that “Coulthard & Mountford” sounds like a Broadway team?) And I guarantee you’ll appreciate Hardie Grant’s clever, and perfectly executed, two-books-back-to-back design. The “white rabbit” side of the book covers superstitions that bring good fortune, while the “black cat” pages feature practices we should all avoid.

Well, as you can tell by now, I think this book is simply delightful. It might be difficult to find in a US bookstore (provided you can still find a US bookstore) but it’s available at Amazon. If you read it, I promise you’ll never look at a rainbow in the same way.

I do not accept advertising, but the Amazon want you to know that some links may contain affiliate codes that dangle the promise of earning me a few pennies towards running this site (at no additional expense to you). Humbly, Gordon Meyer

Book Review: Chicago Gets Four Stars

Gordon Meyer

Local writer Joe Mason (of The Chicago Reader, among other publications) has new zine titled Chicago Gets Four Stars that offers succinct and interesting summaries of offbeat Chicago history. Mason has chosen (if the book were more expensive I’d say “curated”) some really good stories, and tells them in a way that makes you feel like you’re two old friends chatting over a beer at a local pub. Even if you’ve heard some of the bits before, he’ll shed new light and make you nod your head with respect for the telling. I’m happy to give Chicago Gets Four Stars …wait for it…five stars. (The only downside is that his passionate argument for Chicago’s claim to the jibarito might make you hungry to eat one.) Get your copy of Mason’s zine at Quimby’s.


I do not accept advertising, but the Amazon want you to know that some links may contain affiliate codes that dangle the promise of earning me a few pennies towards running this site (at no additional expense to you). Humbly, Gordon Meyer

Book Review: The Little Winter Book of Gnomes


Gordon Meyer with Book

This charming book artfully combines two meanings of the word “gnome.” That is, it features not just woodland wee-folk, but also wise and pithy sayings. (Interestingly, the latter definition is the oldest, according to the O.E.D.)

The author of the book, Kirsten Sevig, is a Minneapolis designer with (as if you haven’t guess from her name) Nordic roots. Her watercolor paintings perfectly complement the wisdom, such as “She who chops her own wood will be warmed by it twice.”

Also included are a handful of Norwegian recipes (such as Gløgg) and crafts (such as Woven Heart Baskets) that she grew up with. My favorite is the rice porridge recipe, which Sevig helpfully adds is also useful for earning the favor of Gnomes. By the time you reach the end of this small volume you’ll agree with the parting apophthegm: “The journey is the reward.”

I do not accept advertising, but the Amazon want you to know that some links may contain affiliate codes that dangle the promise of earning me a few pennies towards running this site (at no additional expense to you). Humbly, Gordon Meyer

The Silver Ingot: A Las Vegas Text Adventure Game

I've written a short text adventure game you can play in your web browser. It's called "The Silver Ingot: A Las Vegas Adventure" and it's based on actual events.

To play, just click this link: Play Now

It has been decades since I last wrote a "choose your own adventure" game, and I used this opportunity to learn a more modern authoring and coding approach. (It's written using Twine2.) I hope you like it. If you've ever played ZORK or Colossal Cave, you'll feel right at home.IngotLogo

I do not accept advertising, but the Amazon want you to know that some links may contain affiliate codes that dangle the promise of earning me a few pennies towards running this site (at no additional expense to you). Humbly, Gordon Meyer

Book Review: Why You Should Read Children’s Books

It was almost as if this book was following us around the bookstores of London, almost like a lost puppy. There it was, near the cash register at every store we visited (which was, frankly, too many to count), waiting for us to finally adopt buy it. (Who could resist that cute cover?) At The London Review Bookshop, I finally gave in.

gordon with book

Boy am I’m glad that I did! What an utterly charming, earnest, and convincing book. The author, Katherine Rundell, makes a compelling argument that adults should allow themselves to enjoy children’s fiction. We can rediscover our childhood selves (with the benefit of wisdom earned) and enjoy reading for pleasure, not obligation. As I read her arguments, memories of the joy that the Scholastic Book Catalog would bring to the school year came rushing back.

So pick up a copy of Why You Should Read Children’s Books, Even Though You Are So Old and Wise, then the next time you’re in a bookstore, stop and linger (but not creepily, of course) in the young fiction category. I dare you to allow yourself to pick out a title. You have my, and Rundell’s, permission to do so.


I do not accept advertising, but the Amazon want you to know that some links may contain affiliate codes that dangle the promise of earning me a few pennies towards running this site (at no additional expense to you). Humbly, Gordon Meyer