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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
It comes as no surprise that, as a kid, Jeopardy! legend Ken Jennings slept with a bulky Hammond world atlas by his pillow every night. Maphead recounts his lifelong love affair with geography and explores why maps have always been so fascinating to him and to fellow enthusiasts everywhere.
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.
"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.)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
"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
New York Times bestselling author and well-known Jeopardy! contestant Ken Jennings explores the world of maps and map obsessives.
About the Author
Ken Jennings was born outside Seattle, but grew up overseas where he watched Jeopardy! every afternoon. He first appeared on Jeopardy! in June 2004 and continued to win every show until November 30 of that year. In total, Jennings won seventy-four games and $2.52 million, both U.S. game show records. He appeared on shows, from The Late Show with David Letterman to Sesame Street, and Barbara Walters named him one of the ten most fascinating people of the year. Jennings’s book, Brainiac, about his Jeopardy! adventures, was a critically acclaimed New York Times bestseller, as was his follow-up, Maphead: Charting the Wide, Weird World of Geography Wonks. He is also the author of Ken Jennings’s Trivia Almanac. Jennings lives in Washington with his wife Mindy, his son Dylan and daughter Caitlin, and a deeply unstable Labrador retriever named Banjo.
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