Geoff Manaugh | Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2016

A Burglar’s Guide to the City

Studying architecture the way a burglar would, Geoff Manaugh takes readers through walls, down elevator shafts, into panic rooms, and out across the rooftops of an unsuspecting city.

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.

Encompassing nearly 2,000 years of heists and break-ins, the book draws on the expertise of reformed bank robbers, FBI Special Agents, private security consultants, the L.A.P.D. Air Support Division, and architects past and present.

Whether picking locks 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 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.

Out now, from FSG Originals.

“This is a marvelous wonder-room of a thing, an intricate, deeply researched, and brilliantly-written mad scientist’s tour of crime and how it’s bound to the world we’ve built. Revealing, spectacular and riveting.”

Warren Ellis, New York Times bestselling author of Gun Machine

Read an excerpt from A Burglar’s Guide to the City in The New York Times Magazine and a profile of the author in The Wall Street Journal. Listen to the author on NPR’s Marketplace, on Forum from KQED, on DnA from KCRW, or on The Current from the CBC. 

A Burglar’s Guide to the City was one of Amazon’s “Best Books of 2016,” as well as a “summer reading” pick (2016) for the Financial Times. It spent two consecutive months on the New York Times Monthly Bestseller list for crime. 

In 2016, A Burglar’s Guide to the City was optioned for television by CBS Studios

Geoff Manaugh is the author of BLDGBLOG, one of the most acclaimed architecture & design sites on the web.

Buy it: Amazon | Barnes & NobleIndieBoundiTunes | Powell’s | Canadian Edition: Chapters

“Reading Geoff Manaugh is like donning night-vision goggles at the edge of a dark forest — you are suddenly aware of, and alive to, a world that was always there but occluded. A Burglar’s Guide to the City is a crackerjack intellectual caper.”

Tom Vanderbilt, New York Times bestselling author of You May Also Like and Traffic

“Who knew urban studies could be so riveting? Manaugh excels at finding new, illicit, and fresh angles on a subject as loved as it is overexposed — the city. In his new book, elegant, perverse, sinuous supervillains maneuver and master the city like parkour champions. I see the TV series already.”

Paola Antonelli, Senior Curator of Architecture & Design, Museum of Modern Art

“This burglar’s guide isn’t for ordinary smash & grab burglars, it’s for the rest of us — who like to steal in, steal out and get away with glorious dreams. A spectacularly fun read.”

Robert Krulwich, co-host, Radiolab

“Murphy’s Law — anything that can happen will happen — is especially true for architecture. Geoff Manaugh’s liaisons with burglars and bank robbers reveal the unexplored niches and loopholes of our cities, and through the eyes of urban hackers we find new possibilities for reinterpreting the built environment. A Burglar’s Guide to the City shows that architecture is too important to leave to just the architects.”

Bjarke Ingels, architect, BIG


“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.”

Annalee Newitz, Los Angeles Times

“An exhilarating, perspective-shifting read.”

Patrick Lyons, VICE

“For years, Geoff Manaugh has entertained and fascinated us with his BLDGBLOG, and now he's even better at full-length, with A Burglar's Guide to the City, a multidisciplinary, eclectic, voraciously readable book that views architecture, built environments, and cities themselves through the lens of breaking-and-entering... Manaugh's work is characteristically far-ranging and eclectic, and always fascinating... Come for the true crime, stay for the education in architecture and urban planning.”

Cory Doctorow, Boing Boing

“Intriguing... a surprising and fascinating true-crime epic.”


“Studying brilliant bank robbers and bungling burglars, this is a fascinating look at the city from its underworld that will change the way you look at buildings.”
Edwin Heathcote, Financial Times

“I cannot think of a more informed, enthusiastic, and knowledgeable tour guide through the historical and contemporary intersection of burglary and architecture than Geoff Manaugh. A Burglar’s Guide to the City makes disparate connections seem obvious in hindsight, and my worldview is altered a little bit more, and far for the better, as a result.”

Sarah Weinman, Barnes & Noble Review

“Geoff Manaugh’s A Burglar’s Guide to the City gives the realm of architecture the kinetic thrills of a heist film.”

Alex Bozikovic, The Globe and Mail

“Architecture blogger Geoff Manaugh’s fascinating book A Burglar’s Guide to The City posits that our living and working spaces, no matter how seemingly secure, are proving grounds for small-time crooks and sophisticated criminals alike; a smart thief will calibrate his routine based on the way a specific structure is designed. Manaugh’s book locates the spot where architecture and crime intersect.”

Marc Weingarten, The Guardian

“A compelling review of the ingenious ways that burglars negotiate the built environment—and what we can learn from their infrastructural ingenuity.”

Robbie Gonzalez, Wired

“Smart, original... delirious with ideas... it’s hard to argue with Manaugh’s contention that burglary is ‘a new science of the city, proceeding by way of shortcuts, splices, and wormholes.’”

The Boston Globe

A Burglar’s Guide to the City is a masterpiece of mad ideas, pouring out one after another. The book is one of the most enjoyable volumes of the year.”

The Washington Free Beacon

“May just be the most accessible piece of contemporary architectural literature out there... We rarely think of the subversive uses of structures. A Burglar’s Guide to the City shows us with informative wit why we should.”
Surface Magazine

“Manaugh turns the building world inside out in this fascinating view of the modern city as seen through the eyes of a potential burglar... Readers of this illuminating study will never look at the buildings and cities they live in the same way.”

Publishers Weekly

“It takes a lot these days to write a truly original book on cities. Geoff Manaugh, well known as the author of BLDGBLOG, has pulled it off... His premise is fairly high-concept: Let's look at a city the way a criminal sees it. Buildings are not shelters; they are targets. Blueprints are not guides; they're maps. Storm drains and streets aren't infrastructure; they are escape routes... a refreshing change from the ponderous, often disingenuous, concerns we hear about ‘safety’ and ‘security’ in the age of terrorism.”

Planetizen, “Top Planning Books for 2017”

2016 book tour dates:
April 5: Book launch at the John M. Mossman Lock Collection, New York City, with Robert Krulwich from Radiolab and beer from Sixpoint Brewery
April 12: Berkman Center, Harvard University (noon)
April 12: Harvard Book Store, Cambridge (7pm)
April 21: Skylight Books, Los Angeles
April 27: Kepler’s Books, Menlo Park, with Robin Sloan
April 28: SPUR, San Francisco with Green Apple Books
May 3: Powell’s, Portland
May 5: Town Hall Seattle
May 9: AIA New York Center for Architecture, New York City, with Tom Vanderbilt and Greenlight Bookstore
May 18: National Building Museum, Washington D.C., with Ross Andersen
May 27: Studio Gang, Chicago, with MAS Context and the Seminary Co-op Bookstore
June 10: Architectural Association Bookshop, London, UK
July 20: MCA Denver, with Nick Arvin
September 26: Libreria, London, with Rory Hyde, co-sponsored by the V&A

If you are interested in hosting an event or scheduling an interview, please contact Stephen Weil, below.

A Burglar’s Guide to the City

Author: Geoff Manaugh
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Press Contact: Stephen Weil |