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How to Lie with Maps [Paperback]

Mark Monmonier
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
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Book Description

May 1 1996
Originally published to wide acclaim, this lively, cleverly illustrated essay on the use and abuse of maps teaches us how to evaluate maps critically and promotes a healthy skepticism about these easy-to-manipulate models of reality. Monmonier shows that, despite their immense value, maps lie. In fact, they must.

The second edition is updated with the addition of two new chapters, 10 color plates, and a new foreword by renowned geographer H. J. de Blij. One new chapter examines the role of national interest and cultural values in national mapping organizations, including the United States Geological Survey, while the other explores the new breed of multimedia, computer-based maps.

To show how maps distort, Monmonier introduces basic principles of mapmaking, gives entertaining examples of the misuse of maps in situations from zoning disputes to census reports, and covers all the typical kinds of distortions from deliberate oversimplifications to the misleading use of color.

"Professor Monmonier himself knows how to gain our attention; it is not in fact the lies in maps but their truth, if always approximate and incomplete, that he wants us to admire and use, even to draw for ourselves on the facile screen. His is an artful and funny book, which like any good map, packs plenty in little space."—Scientific American

"A useful guide to a subject most people probably take too much for granted. It shows how map makers translate abstract data into eye-catching cartograms, as they are called. It combats cartographic illiteracy. It fights cartophobia. It may even teach you to find your way. For that alone, it seems worthwhile."—Christopher Lehmann-Haupt, The New York Times

". . . witty examination of how and why maps lie. [The book] conveys an important message about how statistics of any kind can be manipulated. But it also communicates much of the challenge, aesthetic appeal, and sheer fun of maps. Even those who hated geography in grammar school might well find a new enthusiasm for the subject after reading Monmonier's lively and surprising book."—Wilson Library Bulletin

"A reading of this book will leave you much better defended against cheap atlases, shoddy journalism, unscrupulous advertisers, predatory special-interest groups, and others who may use or abuse maps at your expense."—John Van Pelt, Christian Science Monitor

"Monmonier meets his goal admirably. . . . [His] book should be put on every map user's 'must read' list. It is informative and readable . . . a big step forward in helping us to understand how maps can mislead their readers."—Jeffrey S. Murray, Canadian Geographic

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From Library Journal

Monmonier (geography, Syracuse Univ.) reveals how and why maps "lie." He explains the methods cartographers must use to distort reality in representing a complex, three-dimensional world on a flat sheet or screen, and how they exclude information and geographic features in order to create a readable and understandable map. In addition to explaining the "white lies" told by every competent mapmaker and the errors caused by "cartographic carelessness," Monmonier explores the use of maps for advertising and propaganda, and the deliberate errors employed to confuse potential enemies or to trap copiers. Valuable for both students of cartography or geography and interested laypersons, this is recommended for academic and larger public libraries.
- Peter B. Kutner, Univ. of Oklahoma, Norman
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Mark Monmonier is distinguished professor of geography at Syracuse University’s Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs.

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thought-Provoking and Comprehensive Jan. 19 2012
Format:Paperback
Mark Monmonier''s "'How to Lie with Maps"' gives a comprehensive approach to understanding how maps distort reality. Monmonier explains that maps must necessarily tell white lies, because they are only a representation of reality and cannot replicate the world exactly. However, through specific examples, he shows the differences between necessary, unintentional, and deliberate 'lies' that maps make, stressing that the viewer must use a certain level of skepticism when evaluating a map.

Monmonier's book is helpful both for cartographers and a general audience. He explains the elements of the map (scale, projection, and symbolization), giving specific examples to illustrate how all parts of the map introduce varying degrees of distortion. The maps integrated into the text make for an easy read. When discussing deliberate map falsification, Monmonier includes a wide variety of maps to show the viewer how many different authors can manipulate maps. Including such diverse examples as political, advertising, and development maps gave me a better idea of what to look for when analyzing a new map. Though maps are often deliberately manipulated, Monmonier also highlights the challenges that well-intentioned cartographers face when attempting to produce fair map representations. Ultimately, however, it is usually better to have more than one map in order to gain different perspectives.

The book as a whole, with its many examples, puts the reader in a mindset to examine maps more critically. It is difficult to come up with specific principles or rules of determining map bias, but perhaps Monmonier could have compiled some general guidelines for evaluating maps, particularly for viewers without specialized cartographic training.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback
This book is about maps in general, which must, as a matter of necessity, reduce the level of detail from the reality they represent. So all maps "lie" in that regard. This book then explains how maps can be made that distort the perception of reality through a variety of methods, both unintentional and otherwise. Along the way, the reader will learn about many different types of maps and the kinds of problems to look out for when using maps.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars valuable for all Jan. 20 2003
Format:Paperback
I originally bought this book for a GIS class, but blew through it before I even knew what our reading assignments were, just because it was so interesting. Its generally matter-of-fact tone and abundance of illustrations make it rewarding for cartography specialists and laypersons alike.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A useful tool for mapping professionals. May 9 2000
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
Although this book teaches how to manipulate maps in order to mislead an audience, it is more valuable as a reference to avoid having others do the same to you. Also of interest is the fact that mistakes are often responsible for the lie. This is a good buy for those who are involved with the creation of GIS maps (and those who view them!).
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Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
J'ai dû lire ce livre dans un cours de géographie universitaire, il est intéressant de voir à quel point nous remettons très peu en question les cartes que nous voyons.

Ce livre démontre clairement à l'aide d'images et d'exemples concrets à quel point il est facile de faire mentir les cartes.

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I had to read this book in a course of academic geography, it is interesting to see how we do not question the very few maps that we see.

This book clearly demonstrates with pictures and examples of how easy it is to lie with maps
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