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Maphead: Charting the Wide, Weird World of Geography Wonks (edition 2012)

by Ken Jennings

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Member:MsScarletB
Title:Maphead: Charting the Wide, Weird World of Geography Wonks
Authors:Ken Jennings
Info:Scribner (2012), Edition: Reprint, Paperback, 304 pages
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Maphead: Charting the Wide, Weird World of Geography Wonks by Ken Jennings

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Showing 1-5 of 29 (next | show all)
I borrowed this from a friend, and wasn't expecting much from it, but it's a clear, lighthearted look at the role of maps in modern life. ( )
  MikeRhode | Feb 21, 2014 |
The three stars are there because I'm a maphead! To give some objectivity to the book, KJ says right out that he dislikes my favourites, the Hypsometric, or Colour=height maps, so we don't get a chapter on them, which is a loss. But if you are looking for a factoid book, proceeding chapter by chapter , about many of the threads of map-collecting, you will like this entry in the field. ( )
  DinadansFriend | Oct 2, 2013 |
This has been on my list to read since it came out - having had both personal and professional interest in maps and geography for decades (crowned by spending the last 10 years working directly on Map Search, for MetaCarta and then Nokia.) Yes, I have the laminated world and europe maps on the wall, with wet-erase markers clipped to them to "keep score" (thick line for "been there", little airplane icon-sketch for "flew through, never really left the airport".)

Turns out that there really *are* a lot of "us" - a very broad spectrum of geographic obsession, including the geocachers and the Century Club (> 100 countries), those that collect maps-as-art, and the kids at the Geography Bee who know (not just trivia, but can reason about) vast quantities of information about the world and what's in it.

Jennings (famously obsessive himself) brings a wealth of both well-footnoted facts and very human stories to the table, including Alex Trebek's enthusiasm for the Geography Bee, and how turning off GPS Selective Availability led *directly* to the invention of the hobby/sport of GeoCaching.

If you're the sort to browse map stores, or accumulate gas station maps, or even to think "hey, google maps is pretty cool, where did it come from?" you'll enjoy MapHead; it's also easy to read in bits and pieces - while there are interesting cross-connections, it's an exploration, not a novel. ( )
1 vote eichin | May 10, 2013 |
Somewhat meandering look at people who are obsessed with maps and geography. Slightly unfocused but I found the chapters dealing with map illiteracy the most interesting. I mean honestly, we have major problems in this country if people can't find Chicago on a map. It's super easy to find. Right next to one of the five big blue things in the upper half. Also agree that GPSs are evil and never trust them. You'll end up in a lake or stuck on train tracks, right where they want you. ( )
  akmargie | Apr 4, 2013 |
3.5 stars

A quick read, similar in format and informality to Ken's inaugural [b:Brainiac: Adventures in the Curious, Competitive, Compulsive World of Trivia Buffs|79195|Brainiac Adventures in the Curious, Competitive, Compulsive World of Trivia Buffs|Ken Jennings|http://photo.goodreads.com/books/1170964693s/79195.jpg|1153503] book. All twelve chapter titles included a cartographic definition together with a quote. For example, the first chapter entitled 'Eccentricity' with the definition 'the deformation of an elliptical map projection' and the Pat Conroy quote 'My wound is geography.'

My favorite chapter falls in the center, halfway from nowhere to somewhere, Chapter 6 'Legend' with a definition of 'an explanatory list of the symbols on a map' and the [a:C.S. Lewis|1069006|C.S. Lewis|http://photo.goodreads.com/authors/1211981595p2/1069006.jpg] quote 'Most of us, I suppose, have a secret country, but for most of us it is only an imaginary country.' I did a double-take when I read on p. 113 that [a:Brandon Sanderson|38550|Brandon Sanderson|http://photo.goodreads.com/authors/1201547425p2/38550.jpg] and Ken Jennings were college roommates. I heartily agree with Brandon's assertion that 'The hallmark of epic fantasy is immersion' and that's why he always includes maps in his books. Brandon goes on to relate to Ken that he 'started to look and make sure a book had a map. That was one of the measures of whether it was going to be a good book or not." When Brandon first read [b:The Lord of the Rings|33|The Lord of the Rings|J.R.R. Tolkien|http://photo.goodreads.com/books/1298411336s/33.jpg|3462456] he thought, 'Oho, he [Tolkien] knows what he's doing. A map and an appendix!' Ken states a few paragraphs later that 'Fantasy readers like that abrupt drop into the deep end and the learning curve it takes to keep up' further affirmed by Brandon's confirmation that 'By the end of a big epic fantasy novel, you'll have to become an expert in this world that doesn't exist. It's challenging.'

I felt affirmed and validated for years of pouring over maps of fictional non-existent realms. I once thought to recreate the map of Middle Earth as a tapestry to hang proudly in my living room or library. One of the first prints I purchased from a newly favorite epic fantasy author, [a:Janny Wurts|8591|Janny Wurts|http://photo.goodreads.com/authors/1311431926p2/8591.jpg], was a large format (40x30 inches) map of Athera, solely because I wanted to be able to trace (without squinting or resorting to a magnifying glass and the loss of the center of the map to the no man's land in the binding of the books) the routes of Arithon, Elaira, Dakar, Lysaer and other characters intrinsic to her Wars of Light and Shadow epic fantasy series. The first thing I did upon receiving the next Wheel of Time novel was to skim through for any new maps interspersed in the chapters and sections. Back in the mid80s, I purchased both the [b:Atlas of the Land|1008277|Atlas of the Land|Karen Wynn Fonstad|http://photo.goodreads.com/books/1194120270s/1008277.jpg|158065] and the [b:The Atlas of Pern|127582|The Atlas of Pern|Karen Wynn Fonstad|http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51ugAbUHXIL._SL75_.jpg|122865] by [a:Karen Wynn Fonstad|11590|Karen Wynn Fonstad|http://www.goodreads.com/images/nophoto/nophoto-U-50x66.jpg] so I could pour over even more imaginary maps while waiting for the next Pern or Thomas Covenant novel to be published. But I digress, tangentially, from the book at hand.

In Chapter 9 'Transit' (definition: 'a piece of surveying equipment used by mapmakers: a theodolite with a reversible telescope'), Ken sparked my interest in road rallies (something I always wanted to do when my husband was a member of the local SCCA). I always excelled at those trick-question instruction test in school, so I might just try Jim Sinclair's annual St. Valentine's Day Massacre (a contest by mail where you travel a circuitous course across American from the Golden Gate Bridge to the Statue of Liberty entirely by maps) next year. That is if I can find a way to sign up; an Internet search came up oddly sparse.

Ken introduced me to 'geocaching' in Chapter 10 'Overedge' (definition: 'the portion of the map that lies outside the neatline border'), which so intrigued me that I grabbed my Nook Color and signed up at Geocaching.com, even though I don't even own a GPS unit (outside of the one in my dumbphone which doesn't have any 'free' software associated with it to assist in finding or placing geocaches).

Overall, I enjoyed the few hours I spent geeking over cartography and geography with Ken Jennings as my tour guide. I learned a few things and I laughed out loud a couple of times. I can't think of a better way to spend a weekend, especially if cold November rain greets you on the other side of the door. ( )
  mossjon | Apr 1, 2013 |
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Epigraph
My wound is geography. - Pat Conroy
Dedication
For my parents. And for the kid with the map.
First words
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.
Quotations
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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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Haiku summary
Geography geeks,
Map nerds and the maps they love
Wittily profiled
(jbd1)

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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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