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Maphead: Charting the Wide, Weird World of Geography Wonksby Ken Jennings
Ken Jennings's Maphead: Charting the Wide, Weird World of Geography Wonks is an intriguing (dare I say, captivating?) look into the realm of maps, geography, and cartophiles. Jennings writes remarkably well, infusing his engrossing subject with a surprising amount of both wit and humor. Each chapter of Maphead offers insight into a different aspect of map lore, from the historical to the hypermodern. Collectors, cartographers, geocachers, fantasy authors, explorers, and geography professors are but some of the many map-connected characters Jennings sought out to include in the book. His own lifelong love affair with all things map-related obviously informed his subject a great deal, and the enthusiasm with which he conveys the book's many anecdotes is quite nearly contagious. With sometimes unbelievable facts and trivia aplenty, it is evident Maphead was well-researched and logically laid out. If you were the type of child who pored over the pages of an atlas, or drew maps of make-believe fantasy islands, or was in any way inclined to geographical pursuits, you'll revel in the liveliness of Ken Jennings's fun and informative book.
There must be something innate about maps, about this one specific way of picturing our world and our relation to it, that charms us, calls to us, won't let us look anywhere else in the room if there's a map on the wall.
Recommended by Jeremy, Powell's City of Books
Synopses & Reviews
Record-setting Jeopardy! champion and New York Times bestselling author Ken Jennings explores the world of maps and map obsessives, "a literary gem" (The Atlantic) now available in paperback.
It may come as no surprise that as a kid, Ken Jennings slept with a Hammond World Atlas under his pillow. Now, with Maphead, he delivers "a delightful mix of lore and reportage that illuminates the longing to know where we are." (Publishers Weekly)
Jennings takes readers on a world tour of geo-geeks from the London Map Fair to the librarians in the bowels of the Library of Congress, from the pre-pubescent geniuses at the National Geographic Bee to the computer programmers at Google Earth. In each chapter, Jennings delves into a different aspect of maps, culture, and history, including the maps of fiction and fantasy and hobbies like highpointing and geocaching. Maphead also explores the way cartography has shaped our history, suggesting that the impulse to make and read maps is as relevant today as it has ever been.
"Whether you're a casual cartography ogler or a hardcore geography geek, Maphead will whisk you away into a wonderland that exists where two of the greatest horizons of the human condition, humor and curiosity, converge." (The Atlantic)
'I admit,— I'm a geographic klutz, constantly turned around the wrong way. But I never felt lost for a moment inside Maphead. Forget new worlds: Jennings's charming, witty account reveals a whole other universe."; Sam Kean, author of the New York Times bestseller, The Disappearing Spoon
"Ken Jennings offers an engaging excursion through the worlds of map making, map collecting, and map use. If you enjoy maps, don't miss it." Mark Monmonier, author of How to Lie with Maps
"A literary gem . . . Whether you're a casual cartography ogler or a hardcore geography geek, Maphead will whisk you away into a wonderland that exists where two of the greatest horizons of the human condition, humor and curiosity, converge." The Atlantic
"It's a fun read that's not just for wonks." The Salt Lake Tribune
Ken 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. Jennings 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.
About the Author
Ken Jennings won seventy-four games and $2.52 million on Jeopardy!, both U.S. game show records. His book, Brainiac, about his bizarre Jeopardy! adventures and the phenomenon of trivia in American culture, was a national bestseller. He currently lives outside Seattle, with his family and a deeply unstable Labrador retriever named Banjo.
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