A Burglar's Guide to the City

by Geoff Manaugh

Paperback, 2016




FSG Originals, (2016)


Encompassing nearly 2,000 years of heists and tunnel jobs, break-ins and escapes, A Burglar's Guide to the City offers an unexpected blueprint to the criminal possibilities in the world all around us. You'll never see the city the same way again. 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. With the help of FBI Special Agents, reformed bank robbers, private security consultants, the L.A.P.D. Air Support Division, and architects past and present, the book dissects the built environment from both sides of the law. Whether picking padlocks or climbing the walls of high-rise apartments, finding gaps in a museum's surveillance routine or discussing home invasions in ancient Rome, A Burglar's Guide to the City has the tools, the tales, and the x-ray vision you need to see architecture as nothing more than an obstacle that can be outwitted and undercut. Full of real-life heists--both spectacular and absurd--A Burglar's Guide to the City ensures readers will never enter a bank again without imagining how to loot the vault or walk down the street without planning the perfect getaway.… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member BookConcierge
Manaugh looks at architecture and the central role it plays in the crime of burglary.

The book begins and ends with the 19th-century New York superburglar George Leonidas Leslie, who used his training as an architect to figure out new and unexpected ways to gain entry to building.

There were parts of this book that I found completely fascinating, and it made me look at our own efforts at home security differently. However, Manaugh has a tendency towards repetition. He’s very fond of lists: for example, “burglar, thief, robber, bandit, gang member, miscreant, delinquent” etc. This seemed a little like padding to me.

My own background as a former Probation/Parole Officer kept me reading, however. My interest was further piqued when I came across a reference to a particular criminologist … a man to whom I was once engaged! (We never married, but have remained friends for 40 years.) Well, I tell you I read much more closely after that name popped out at me.
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LibraryThing member paulkeller
very disappointing. had expected much more than a collection of stories. not entirely sure though what i expected (more of a theory of navigating urban space?). in the end this is an entertaining and informative series of stories that are more about burglary and less about architecture
LibraryThing member andreas.wpv
The title indicated an interesting perspective, and the book has some really nice insights, anecdotes, stories. The writing is at times quite pompous, and at times could have been more concise. While it was interesting and entertaining, it left the feeling to have just scratched the surface of an extensive topic.
LibraryThing member cjordan916
A lot of repeating, not very informative
LibraryThing member modioperandi
The book is, first, very well-written, with a witty, intelligent narrative that is entertaining yet clear and informative. Substance-wise, the book is equally rich, offering a pleasing assortment of case studies, histories, anecdotes, architectural novelties, and much else involving burglary and related subjects (including some hard-won, firsthand research -- no slouch, this author). However, what I found most interesting was 'Burglar's' insight into the psychology of burglars and burglary, as well as that which lies behind architecture and place in general. There's much to be learned from 'Burglar's Guide,' on several levels.

Additionally, the book makes one really good, notable point, seen in it's reasonably balanced treatment of the burglar. That is, the author avoids casting burglars in any kind of traditional, black-and-white light, neither condemning them as simple, regrettable criminals nor glorifying them as praise-worthy supermen. Instead, we are shown a more grounded, realistic picture of the burglar, as, simply, just a person, with certain skills and certain shortcomings, who happens to make the conscious decision to violate their fellow man. Likewise, burglary is treated as something which has indirectly benefited society by exposing problems and forcing us to correct them, while not ignoring the fact that burglary is still a highly damaging crime, both physically and psychologically (and, also, that burglars remain responsible for that damage, whatever unintended benefit they might bestow in the process). Once again, much food for thought, and much to be learned here.

Overall, 'Burglar's Guide' has a lot to offer, and I came away from it feeling enriched.

My thanks goes out to this book's author, subjects, and publisher. I am grateful for, and have benefited from, your work and service.
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LibraryThing member jen.e.moore
Although a little academic in tone sometimes, this book is far from boring. It's a thought exercise, not a thriller, and not quite a popular science book (although it's closer to that than anything); an exploration of the various ways criminals circumvent the intentions of architecture. What constitutes a building? What constitutes an entrance, or a pathway? What constitutes burglary, and why is it such a serious crime? There's a lot to think about, and a lot of interesting trivia along the way.… (more)
LibraryThing member ThomasPluck
An airy read for neophytes that focuses more on architecture but does have some interesting finds, and good references.


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