Frank Bures



Frank Bures is the author of The Geography of Madness: Penis Thieves, Voodoo Death and the Search for the Meaning of the World’s Strangest Syndromes, which Newsweek called one of the best travel books of the decade, and the editor of Under Purple Skies: The Minneapolis Anthology. His stories and essays have appeared in Harper’s, Aeon, Lapham’s Quarterly, Runner’s World, The New Republic, The Washington Post Magazine and other places. They have also been included in the Best American Travel Writing and selected as “Notable” picks for the Best American Sports Writing and the Best American Essays. He is a contributing writer for The Rotarian and a contributing editor for Poets & Writers. He speaks Swahili, Italian and a few other languages less well and lives in Minneapolis. You can sign up for his news, stories, classes, etc. over at Substack.

Praise for The Geography of Madness:

Best Travel Books of the Decade” (Newsweek)


“With The Geography of Madness, Frank Bures has created a literary, thoughtful study that explores the connections between culture and psychology, storytelling and health.  It’s also, to my knowledge, the most pleasant and least painful way to learn about penis theft.” —Peter Hessler, author of Oracle Bones and Strange Stones

“Frank Bures has some of the widest (and wildest) curiosities of any writer out there. This is a man who truly wants to know the world, in all its strange and beautiful variations. He is fearless in his reporting, generous in his spirit, and brilliant in his prose. I would follow him anywhere.”—Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love  and The Signature of All Things

“Penis theft. Vampires. Black magic. These are not exactly prime ingredients for a hilarious, empathetic travel book, but Frank Bures has pulled off something incredible in The Geography of Madness. In demonstrating how culture-bound concepts of ‘madness’ and ‘sickness’ really are, he reminds us what we human beings have in common, which is to say, we’re all beautifully, fascinatingly nuts.” —Tom Bissell, author of Extra Lives: Why Video Games Matter and Apostle: Travels Among the Tombs of the Twelve

Reviews and Interviews:

The Atlantic: Is My Electric Fan Going to Kill Me in My Sleep?

MPR: ‘Under Purple Skies’ highlights great breadth of Minnesota writing

Rain Taxi: The Fluidity of the Human Brain

The Atlantic:  The Diseases You Only Get if You Believe in Them

Selected Stories:


A Mind Dismembered: In Search of the Magical Penis Thieves

The Fall of the Creative Class

Five Hundred and One Pounds (Original Title)

Runner, Interrupted

The Secret Lives of Stories

Teaching a Stone to Fly

Branding Guyana

How to Use a Squat Toilet

Test Day