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Maphead: Charting the Wide, Weird World of…

Maphead: Charting the Wide, Weird World of Geography Wonks

by Ken Jennings

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I originally begrudged Jennings' ability to make me laugh because I couldn't imagine a great sense humor could exist in the mind of such a "Brainiac." Boy was I wrong, the book is downright hilarious and filled to suitcase-bursting proportions with glorious geeky minutiae. This book reawakened a dormant appreciation for all things mappy. Long live the Geek God. ( )
  MartinBodek | Jun 11, 2015 |
Loved this book! If you read moonwalking with Einstein, this is an even better written, quirky deep dive into the world of mapnerds. Awesomely fun. ( )
  lincolnpan | Dec 31, 2014 |
To read and enjoy such a great book only to realize that one fully qualifies as a "Maphead" oneself is a bit of a shock. Do you mean that - just because like the author - one kept an Atlas by the childhood bedside, just because one could read a compass before actual reading, one's hippocampus node is extended? What a shock! Whatever can we do?

Did you know that a London "cabbie' who has passed that strenuous test of 'The Knowledge' so he can vocally drive the examiner from any destination to another without a single mistake ("Ah no Lad, sorry. That street became one-way last month. Come back in three months and try again')not only has a larger hippocampus but that it continues to grow as long as he keeps to his trade?

Did you know that a lady, unable to navigate her husband from a Rand McNally road atlas without 'turning it up the right way' when heading south (or north) invented and published a two-page (Noth left, South right) atlas series for fellow suffers? (see http://www.librarything.com/work/88210).

Well yes, I did and I have 30 or so books about maps, charts, latitude and other 'spatial skills' that I reread. I can still (thanks to my Royal Naval Dad) plot a "cocked hat" navigation fix, based on DED reckoning from charts (maps). I can read a map, find countries around the world (been there ...) But I little realized how much of a map-nerd that made me until I read this splendid, witty, book.

Do read it.
  John_Vaughan | Dec 28, 2014 |
I suspect your feelings about this book will largely be based on how much the subject resonates for you. I'm not as deeply in love with maps as some of the people described here (or the author, for that matter), but I have always loved maps. Reading about the worlds of fellow map lovers was a fun and insight-filled journey. ( )
  tlockney | Sep 7, 2014 |
Perhaps I'm not as much of a map lover as I thought I was. Ken Jenning's latest book is similar to his trivia one: he tells a short story which leads to a discussion about a bigger topic. Here, we get topics like map collectors, geocaching, and world creating. The chapters are fair -- filled with fun facts and several ideas if one wants to explore further. I am slightly relieved, though, that the mystery behind the Games-magazine advertised Valentine's Day Massacre scavenger hunt has now been revealed: if Jennings struggled with finding answers for the map game, how can any of us mere mortals compete?

My favorite map story: My sister purchased a gigantic National Geographic world map as I headed out to college. It took up a good portion of my wall. One of my dorm-mates walked in and exclaimed, "Wow! That's like ... life-sized!"

LT Haiku:

True map geeks unite!
Secret meeting spot hidden
in endnotes. (Joking.) ( )
  legallypuzzled | Jul 23, 2014 |
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Eighteenth century English essayist Charles Lamb insightfully proclaimed, “Nothing is more important than space and time—yet nothing is less important, because I never think of them.” While geography, the social science discipline most aligned with considerations of spatial relationships over time, was of supreme importance to society in earlier centuries, in recent decades its stature has declined markedly.

Though individuals today enjoy unprecedented choices about their place choices—in which they might live and work, eat and meet and connect, learn and play, shop and travel, exercise, heal and rest, worship and prosper—and contemporary culture, society, and commerce are ever more influenced by what happens in other places, yet people’s knowledge about places is less rather than more.
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My wound is geography. - Pat Conroy
For my parents. And for the kid with the map.
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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.
Why did maps mean - why do they still mean, I guess - so much to me? Maps are just a way of organizing information, after all - not normally the kind of thing that spawns obsessive fandom. I've never heard anyone profess any particular love for the Dewey Decimal System. p.11
Falling in love with places is just like falling in love with people: it can happen more than once, but never quite like your first time. p. 15
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Haiku summary
Geography geeks,
Map nerds and the maps they love
Wittily profiled
True map geeks unite!

Secret meeting spot hidden

in endnotes. (Joking.)


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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 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 publisher description.… (more)

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