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1 Hawthorne Geography- General
1 Local Warehouse Geography- Mapping and Cartography

Maphead: Charting the Wide, Weird World of Geography Wonks


Maphead: Charting the Wide, Weird World of Geography Wonks Cover




Chapter 1


n.: the deformation

of an elliptical map projection

My wound is geography.


They say you're not really grown up until you've moved the last box of your stuff out of storage at your parents'. If that's true, I believe I will stay young forever, ageless and carefree as Dorian Gray, while the cardboard at my parents' house molders and fades. I know, everybody's parents' attic or basement has its share of junk, but the eight-foot-tall mountain of boxes filling one bay of my parents' garage isn't typical pack-rat clutter. It looks more like the warehouse in the last shot of Raiders of the Lost Ark.

The last time I was home, I waded into the chaos in hopes of liberating a plastic bucket of my childhood Legos. I didn't find the Legos, much to my six-year-old son's chagrin, but I was surprised to come across a box with my name on the side, written in the neater handwriting of my teenaged self. The box was like an archaeological dig of my adolescence and childhood, starting with R.E.M. mix tapes and Spy magazines on top, moving downward through strata of Star Trek novelizations and Thor comics, and ending on the most primal bedrock of my youthful nerdiness: a copy of Hammond's Medallion World Atlas from 1979.

I wasn't expecting the Proustian thrill I experienced as I pulled the huge green book from the bottom of the box. Sunbeam-lit dust motes froze in their dance; an ethereal choir sang. At seven years old, I had saved up my allowance for months to buy this atlas, and it became my most prized possession. I remember it sometimes lived at the head of my bed at night next to my pillow, where most kids would keep a beloved security blanket or teddy bear. Flipping through its pages, I could see that my atlas had been as well loved as any favorite plush toy: the gold type on the padded cover was worn, the corners were dented, and the binding was so shot that most of South America had fallen out and been shoved back in upside down.

Today, I will still cheerfully cop to being a bit of a geography wonk. I know my state capitals--hey, I even know my Australian state capitals. The first thing I do in any hotel room is break out the tourist magazine with the crappy city map in it. My "bucket list" of secret travel ambitions isn't made up of boring places like Athens or Tahiti--I want to visit off-the-beaten-path oddities like Weirton, West Virginia (the only town in the United States that borders two different states on opposite sides) or Victoria Island in the Canadian territory of Nunavut (home to the world's largest "triple island"--that is, the world's largest island in a lake on an island in a lake on an island).* But my childhood love of maps, I started to remember as I paged through the atlas, was something much more than this casual weirdness. I was consumed.

Back then, I could literally look at maps for hours. I was a fast and voracious reader, and keenly aware that a page of hot Roald Dahl or Encyclopedia Brown action would last me only thirty seconds or so. But each page of an atlas was an almost inexhaustible trove of names and shapes and places, and I relished that sense of depth, of comprehensiveness. Travelers will return to a favorite place many times and order the same dish at the same café and watch the sun set from the same vantage point. I could do the same thing as a frequent armchair traveler, enjoying the familiarity of sights I had noticed before while always being surprised by new details. Look how Ardmore, Alabama, is only a hundred feet away from its neighbor Ardmore, Louisiana--but there are 4,303 miles between Saint George, Alaska, and Saint George, South Carolina. Look at the lacelike coastline of the Musandam Peninsula, the northernmost point of the Arabian nation of Oman, an intricate fractal snowflake stretching into the Strait of Hormuz. Children love searching for tiny new details in a sea of complexity. It's the same principle that sold a bajillion Where's Waldo? books.

Mapmakers must know this--that detail, to many map lovers, is not just a means but an end. The office globe next to my desk right now is pretty compact, but it makes room for all kinds of backwater hamlets in the western United States: Cole, Kansas; Alpine, Texas; Burns, Oregon; Mott, North Dakota (population: 808, about the same as a city block or two of Manhattan's Upper East Side). Even Ajo, Arizona, makes the cut, and it's not even incorporated as a town--it's officially a CDP, or "census-designated place." What do all these spots have in common, besides the fact that no one has ever visited them without first running out of gas? First, they all have nice short names. Second, they're each the only thing for miles around. So they neatly fill up an empty spot on the globe and therefore make the product look denser with information.

But I also remember a competing instinct in my young mind: a love for the way maps could suggest adventure by hinting at the unexplored. Joseph Conrad wrote about this urge at the beginning of Heart of Darkness:

Now when I was a little chap I had a passion for maps. I would look for hours at South America, or Africa, or Australia, and lose myself in all the glories of exploration. At that time there were many blank spaces on the earth, and when I saw one that looked particularly inviting on a map (but they all look that) I would put my finger on it and say, "When I grow up I will go there."

When I was a "little chap," there were (and are) still a few mostly blank spaces on the map: Siberia, Antarctica, the Australian outback.* But I knew these lacunae weren't just empty because they were rugged and remote; they were empty because nobody really wanted to live there. These were the places on the Earth that, well, sort of sucked. So I never put my finger on the glaciers of Greenland and said, "I will go there!" like Conrad's Marlow. But I liked that they existed. Even on a map that showed every little Ajo, Arizona, there was still some mystery left somewhere.

And then there were those amazing place-names. My hours with maps featured lots of under-my-breath whispering: the names of African rivers ("Lualaba . . . Jumba . . . Limpopo . . . ") and Andean peaks ("Aconcagua . . . Yerupajá . . . Llullaillaco . . . ") and Texas counties ("Glasscock . . . Comanche . . . Deaf Smith . . . ") They were secret passwords to entry into other worlds--more magical, I'm sure, in many cases, than the places themselves. My first atlas listed, in tiny columns of type under each map, the populations for thousands of cities and towns, and I would pore over these lists looking for comically underpopulated places like Scotsguard, Saskatchewan (population: 3), or Hibberts Gore, Maine (population: 1).

Product Details

Jennings, Ken
Scribner Book Company
Bonnett, Alastair
General Social Science
Sociology - General
geography; google maps; atlas; gps; globe; continents; jeopardy; trivia; mormon; brainiac; geocaching; google earth; cartography; highpointing; latitude; longtitude; map fair; national geographic bee; rand mcnally;
Human Geography
Edition Description:
Publication Date:
Grade Level:
10 b/w section openers
9.25 x 6.25 in

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Related Subjects

Engineering » Civil Engineering » Cartography
Featured Titles » Culture
History and Social Science » Geography » General
History and Social Science » Geography » Mapping and Cartography
History and Social Science » Sociology » General
Reference » Trivia
Science and Mathematics » Featured Titles in Tech » General
Travel » Sale Books

Maphead: Charting the Wide, Weird World of Geography Wonks Used Hardcover
0 stars - 0 reviews
$12.95 In Stock
Product details 288 pages Scribner Book Company - English 9781439167175 Reviews:
"Staff Pick" by ,

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.

"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "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.
"Review" by , "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."
"Review" by , "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."
"Synopsis" by ,
A tour of the worldandrsquo;s hidden geographiesandmdash;from disappearing islands to forbidden desertsandmdash;and a stunning testament to how mysterious the world remains today

At a time when Google Maps Street View can take you on a virtual tour of Yosemiteandrsquo;s remotest trails and cell phones double as navigational systems, itandrsquo;s hard to imagine thereandrsquo;s any uncharted ground left on the planet. In Unruly Places, Alastair Bonnett goes to some of the most unexpected, offbeat places in the world to reinspire our geographical imagination.

Bonnettandrsquo;s remarkable tour includes moving villages, secret cities, no manandrsquo;s lands, and floating islands. He explores places as disorienting as Sandy Island, an island included on maps until just two years ago despite the fact that it never existed. Or Sealand, an abandoned gun platform off the English coast that a British citizen claimed as his own sovereign nation, issuing passports and crowning his wife as a princess. Or Baarle, a patchwork of Dutch and Flemish enclaves where walking from the grocery storeandrsquo;s produce section to the meat counter can involve crossing national borders.

An intrepid guide down the road much less traveled, Bonnett reveals that the most extraordinary places on earth might be hidden in plain sight, just around the corner from your apartment or underfoot on a wooded path. Perfect for urban explorers, wilderness ramblers, and armchair travelers struck by wanderlust, Unruly Places will change the way you see the places you inhabit.


"Synopsis" by ,
The real-life answers to Italo Calvinoand#8217;s Invisible Cities, Unruly Places explores the most extraordinary, off-grid, offbeat places on the planet. Alastair Bonnettand#8217;s tour of the planetand#8217;s most unlikely micro-nations, moving villages, secret cities, and no manand#8217;s lands shows us the modern world from surprising new vantage points, bound to inspire urban explorers, off-the-beaten-trail wanderers, and armchair travelers. He connects what we see on maps to whatand#8217;s happening in the world by looking at the places that are hardest to pin down: inaccessible zones, improvised settlements, multiple cities sharing the same space.

Consider Sealand, an abandoned gun platform off the English coast that a British citizen claimed as his own sovereign nation, issuing passports and making his wife a princess. Or Baarle, a patchwork city of Dutch and Flemish enclaves where crossing the street can involve traversing national borders. Or Sandy Island, which appeared on maps well into 2012 despite the fact it never existed. and#12288;

Illustrated with original maps and drawings, Unruly Places gives readers a new way of understanding the places we occupy.

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