• Caitlyn Lynch

Book Review: An Atlas of Extinct Countries by Gideon Defoe


I think probably the best way to take this book is as a guidebook to what you might want to start looking into if you’re interested in countries which no longer exist - and a warning to take anything you read about them with a grain of salt, because history is inevitably written by the victors, and every one of these countries was, in the grand scheme of things, definitely on the losing side. Some of the countries featured you’ll probably have heard of - Yugoslavia, the German Democratic Republic - and others sound too ludicrous to ever have existed, such as Cospaia or the Free State of Bottleneck.


The author’s writing style is irreverent and funny, and I found myself laughing multiple times throughout the book. He seems to be going for what I’d call the Bill Bryson audience, people who like their factoids pithy and humorous - it’s definitely not aimed at kids, who I’m pretty sure wouldn’t get things like references to Monty Python and the Holy Grail.


It’s also not for anyone who takes themselves too seriously or happens to support conservative ideas - the author pokes fun at Trumpism among many other targets - and if white guys with delusions of grandeur absolutely stuffing up indigenous people and their land for generations hits a bit too close to home, you might want to give this one a miss too.


I’d say this is the perfect book to dip in and out of, with the sections being short as they are and the entries capable of being read in any order. Keep it in your bathroom and you may find your guests laughing uproariously when they come out!

An Atlas of Extinct Countries is available now.


Disclaimer: I received a review copy of this title via NetGalley.

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