Picture of author.

Mark Ovenden

Author of Transit Maps of the World

12 Works 1,234 Members 26 Reviews

About the Author

Includes the name: Mark Ovenden

Image credit: Annie Mole


Works by Mark Ovenden


Common Knowledge

Canonical name
Ovenden, Mark
Places of residence
London, England, UK
news presenter
radio producer



Almost everything a fan of the Paris Metro could want is here. Although a lot of background on the genesis of the subway is presented, along with some of the hurtles of digging the tunnels, the main focus is on the maps, most of which are small illustrations that only give one an overall idea of its presentation and utility. Many of the photos of stations and their entrances are postage-stamp in size, which is a shame, because the art deco/art nouveau detail is often very attractive and interesting. Early on in the book there are design and construction details that only whet one's appetite for more (such as the decision to use beveled-edge tile to help reflect light).

The book is most useful for Paris residents with a curiosity about when certain "lignes" were added, or how a particular station design came about. The system is organic, a monster of engineering design that keeps expanding over the decades. A cutaway diagram of one "correspondence", where several lignes come together, shows just how complex the problem is of getting passengers from one to another.

But my eyes started to glaze over at a certain point; one can only stare at hundreds of subway maps rendered in a 3"x4" size for so long.

I had wanted more detail on station design and innovation. I remember taking the Paris subway in the 80's and the use of the magnetic-strip tickets. This is one case of automation with unattended consequences. These little yellow tickets littered the ground of stations, the steps, and the entrance/exits.

By the way, one reviewer listed what they thought were the greatest subway systems in the world. Having used the London tube, the New York subway, and the Paris system over multiple visits, I have to add Berlin to their list. I have made many extended visits to Berlin and lived there for a while (my spouse is a native), and their system is first-rate: the U-Bahn connects to the regional S-Bahn system, and bus stops are present at every station. I don't know about other cities, but I could also take my bike on the train. Many stations have elevators that help folks in wheel chairs as well as those with bikes, cumbersome parcels, or luggage. And the stations and trains are clean. I'd like to see a book like this on the Berlin U-Bahn!
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nog | 2 other reviews | May 29, 2023 |
Underground Cities by Mark Ovenden is an interesting view at what is beneath many of the cities of the world. While most such books concentrate on one city, often in mind-numbing detail, this one covers 32 cities in enough detail to pique interest in the topic more generally. It makes me curious about other cities as well as offers a few instances here that I will likely seek more details about.

My initial interest in the book was as something I could read in those brief moments when I have time to read a little but not enough time to get back into a novel or nonfiction work that requires concentration. It would have served that function well, much the way I use collections of short stories or essays, but I just kept reading because I was curious what some of the differences were between cities.

I would recommend this both to readers already with an interest in underground cities as well as those simply curious about the topic. Those already interested just need to understand this is not an in-depth look at any of these cities, it is an overview from which you can research or explore further.

Reviewed from a copy made available by the publisher via NetGalley.
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pomo58 | Aug 31, 2020 |
The strength of this book lies in the photos and poster reproductions. If you are a visual person, you will enjoy this book. If you are like me, and you enjoy looking at old time vintage images, then you will like the book as well. Most of the text is pretty interesting, especially, the first part of the book that contains the historical things. However, text is often pretty small (the font they chose), making it a little hard to read. Overall, this is a book to browse and enjoy for the visual appeal. Railroad buffs will very likely enjoy it.… (more)
bloodravenlib | 3 other reviews | Aug 17, 2020 |
This is a gorgeous collection of maps and other advertising materials from the early days of aviation to the present. It’s a nice oversize book, not too heavy, perfect for spreading out on a table and poring over. The authors accompany all photos with captions that provide details of the artists, trends in the industry and in society at the time, and explain at a very high level the histories of the various airlines. There were many I hadn’t heard of, and a lot of beautiful illustrations. My favourites were the Canadian Airlines “pinball machine” poster, with close seconds being the Air Canada and Swissair “wiring diagram” ones.

And while I liked the explanatory text in the photo captions, I found the running commentary had layout issues—this book must have been a challenge to lay out. There wouldn’t be a lot of room on the page for the commentary, so sometimes it would cut off mid-sentence and be continued six pages later. This made it hard to keep the narrative thread. So perhaps my only suggestion for another book of this type would be to provide an essay for each chapter at the beginning, then just present the photos and their captions.

I would recommend this for people who like travel posters and airplanes.
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rabbitprincess | Jan 30, 2020 |


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Associated Authors

Lucy Day Produced by, Designer
Paul E. Garbutt Consulting editor
Lise Amy Hansen Book layout
Hans Rat Foreword
Kate Parker Copy editor
Michael Wolff Foreword
Flip van Doorn Translator
Alan Foale Front cover globe and front plate diagram
Pierre Mongin Introduction
Maggie Payette Cover designer



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