Whether you call yourself a geonerd, geogeek or geowonk, you're probably a "maphead." Yet you really don't need to be a lover of maps to truly appreciate how well crafted and written this book is on people's love of maps. Ken Jennings (yes, THAT Ken Jennings of winning mega bucks on the TV quiz game show "Jeopardy") has put together a book that reveals a lot about who we are and why humankind is obsessed with mapping things.
The book veers off into wonderful tangents with quirky facts (dare I say "trivia") that pop up during the course of the discussions. For instance, we learn in the chapter where Jennings visits the Geography and Map Division of the Library of Congress why the map room is located underground (HINT: their maps fill two entire football fields and would break the floorboards with their weight if stored on an aboveground floor).
I'll admit I have a geography background so this book is right in my wheelhouse. Even so how learning of people who like to visit the highest elevation in every state of the U.S. (yes, Iowa's highest point is in some cornfield) or the love of geocaching (Google it...but don't Google Earth it as there's a whole other chapter just on Google Earth and the rise of GPS technology).
Plus, who knew Ken Jennings could give this Echo & the Bunnymen (if you have no idea of who they are--download the Heaven Up Here album and thank me later) fan new insight into why they toured the Outer Hebrides in the '80s or why the route chosen for their cycling tour of their hometown of Liverpool formed the shape it did on a map of the city.
Mindblowingly fun book that everyone on planet Google Earth really should read.
on November 16, 2012
Well, I am. A map geek. Perhaps not on the level of Jennings but geeky enough. And the book is kind of a fever dream of maphead geekiness. But it's also funny, full of great insight into the meaning not just of maps but of geography, and also, perhaps, ultimately, about our sense of place. Meaning I've just told you a deep part of Jennings's own thesis: maps are incredibly human. And makes us even more human. Highly recommended.