The back door was unlocked when you got home last night.
It was locked when you left the house; you remember checking it. And though you're trying not to panic, things are slightly moved and it's unsettling … so don't read "A Burglar's Guide to the City" by Geoff Manaugh. It'll just make you feel worse.
The house under construction down the street is going to be a nice one - plenty of big windows, fancy landscaping. You've noticed many expensive details.
Burglars have noticed, too. And they "understand architecture," says Manaugh, "better than the rest of us.
They know that sliding doors are easy to remove and that a C-note spent at a hardware store can get them inside pretty much any building. They know that doors and windows aren't the only way into your house.
But, says Manaugh, it's not just that burglars steal things, "it's how they move that's so consistently interesting." They'll cut through walls, hide in appliances, sleuth out floor plans, wiggle through doggy-doors or up garbage chutes, down chimneys or sewers and sneak through roofs. They're patient; they'll study a building until they find a way in. They'll study your habits and your schedule. They'll wait until they know your building better than you do.
Call the police? Sure, they've got equipment that can see in the dark and through walls. But as quickly as they devise ways to thwart criminals, criminals try to be one step ahead. Buy a security system? Alarms will only slow a burglar down. Ultimately, when it comes to burglary, "… you just might not be able to do much about it."
Oh, my. It's been a long time since I've read a book more fascinating or more creepy than "A Burglar's Guide to the City."
But here's the surprise: This isn't a true crime book.
Sure, there are crimes described here. Manaugh discusses burglary throughout history, and he writes of boneheaded, bungling burglars. Those great stories mostly serve to highlight the reason for this book, though, which is that the buildings in which we live and work have an influence on the way burglars operate. Cities, Manaugh says, are almost built with thieves in mind; in fact, he offers a challenge: Look closely at any random building you've driven past many times. How would you get inside? Try it. You'll be shocked.
But don't think that this is a book of instruction. Manaugh cautions that even if you're genius at breaking-and-entering, officials are usually smarter. He also goes on to explain how homeowners can lessen the chances of a burglary and why B&E guys aren't interested in your expensive door locks.
This book is informative, fun to read and a must-have for anyone with real estate. If that sounds like your kind of book, then "A Burglar's Guide to the City" will be a steal.
You can't stop with just one quirky book this summer, can you? That's why you need these books, too.
'Neither Rain Nor Snow'
Remember the excitement of getting birthday cards from Grandma or a letter from your grade-school pen pal? How those cards and letters came to your door is just part of the story in "Neither Snow nor Rain: A History of the United States Postal Service" by Devin Leonard.
Starting with the Assyrians and their message-relay system for upper-class citizens, Leonard follows the USPS from Ben Franklin's day through the Pony Express, Air Mail, the ZIP code and parts between. Leonard delivers a lot here and moves fast as he entertains; there are surprises in this book and that quirkiness you just have to have sometimes.
'Cake: A Slice of History'
If you're of the mind to have your cake and read it, too, then you need "Cake: A Slice of History" by Alysa Levene. Here, you'll see how "bread" became cake (or vice versa) and the things you can tell from a mere slice of deliciousness: the box it came from, the culture it's baked in, the fruit that's ripe, and the tradition you hold dear.
This book is a lighthearted look at the confection you must have at weddings and birthdays because you're hungry or just because you need some chocolate frosting on your nose.