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Jennings takes readers on a world tour of geogeeks from the London Map Fair to the bowels of the Library of Congress, from the prepubescent geniuses at the National Geographic Bee to the computer programmers at Google Earth. Each chapter delves into a different aspect of map culture: highpointing, geocaching, road atlas rallying, even the "unreal estate" charted on the maps of fiction and fantasy. He also considers the ways in which cartography has shaped our history, suggesting that the impulse to make and read maps is as relevant today as it has ever been.
From the "Here be dragons" parchment maps of the Age of Discovery to the spinning globes of grade school to the postmodern revolution of digital maps and GPS, "Maphead "is filled with intriguing details, engaging anecdotes, and enlightening analysis. If you're an inveterate map lover yourself--or even if you're among the cartographically clueless who can get lost in a supermarket--let Ken Jennings be your guide to the strange world of mapheads.
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2011-04-11
- Reviewer: Staff
Maps reveal not just the lay of the land but the imagination of the beholder, according to this charming investigation of the allure of geography. Jeopardy! phenom Jennings (who recently returned to play against IBM's computer, Watson) surveys all manner of charts, from rudimentary animal maps—ants, he notes, navigate by counting their paces, a fact discovered when entomologists had them walk on stilts—to augmented reality maps that let you revise the world. But his main interest is the humans who pore over maps. They are a colorful lot: preteen National Geographic Bee contestants who spend seven hours a day studying atlases; hobbyists intent on visiting every state's maximum elevation; and Tolkienesque fantasists who condense whole imaginary civilizations into a map. Jennings (Brainiac), who admits to being "a geography wonk" himself, is their bard, and his enthusiasm for everything from bizarre and off-color place names to the mystic intersection points of lines of latitude and longitude is infectious. He's also alive to the larger meaning of maps as they overlay knowledge, desire, and aspiration onto the mute reality of terrain. The result is a delightful mix of lore and reportage that illuminates the longing to know where we are. Illus. (Sept.)