Car Park Life by Gareth E. Rees

Car Park Life is a book about car parks. Not any old car parks, but the car parks found with supermarkets and other chain stores in retail parks. Yes, really. After something of an epiphany in a Morrison’s car park that car parks might be something more than they seem, Rees sets on a journey to explore car parks, on foot, and look at the landscapes we ignore, battle for spaces in, and dash across. There’s litter, wildlife, dodgy deals, fights, and a whole lot more, as Rees travels through car parks and also highlights the strangest news stories about them.

In its essence, this is very readable psychogeography combined with Brexit and capitalist horror, all covered in a wry and mocking veneer. Rees knows he’s just walking around car parks looking for meaning, but that doesn’t stop him doing it. The book is strangely fascinating, even to someone (like me) who doesn’t drive, and for whom car parks are always approached on foot. At times you might think ‘oh, another Sainsbury’s car park, fascinating’, but actually that feels like the point: these places should be so mundane, but so many things—sex, drugs, violence—happen in car parks. The ending brings together a bit of the environmental future with the fact that looking at car parks raises more questions than it answers, and leaves the reader open to taking what they want from it: an amusing tale of obsession, a chance to muse on what a landscape feature says about capitalism, or a bleak look at the country.

Part story of a weird obsession, part look at neoliberalism and capitalism through a psychogeography lens, and part satirical image of modern Britain, this is a book that forces you to think about car parks and why so many strange things happen in them. And it can’t help but make you think about the major car parks in your life, too.