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Book Review: On the map

Posted by Pascal Landshoeft

Aug 6, 2014 11:00:00 AM

Book review: On the map

To be on the map or off the map gets more important and easy in the 21st century through Google, facebook, youtube and Linkedin. But how did you get on or off the map in the past?

Did you ever stroll through the streets of your hometown and marveled who came up with these street names? Did you ever ask yourself why America is called America? Did you ever wonder on your way to work who came up with the design for the map pinned to the ceiling of the carriage ? Simon Garfield goes to the bottom of these questions and beyond in his book "On the map: Why the world looks the way it does".

Book Review: On the map

Simon Garfield is a well established journalist who wrote for the The Independent and The Observer. "On the map" is the latest of his fourteen books which are mainly topic focused like "Expensive Habits: The Dark Site of the Music Industry". Through my best friend I acquired an interest for maps of all sorts and could not resist the title while skimming through the English book display at Munich airport. 

Several myths and stories about Explorers, maps, trade and ghost ships unfold during the 445pages of this book salted with British humor and finished with a groundwork of historical facts. You will learn about the lives of Ptolemy, Mercator & Amerigo Vespucci and end with the maps of facebook and Skyrim in the time of GPS where the map trade was already declared to be dead.

Garfield assembles a collection of stories around maps and looks at it from a commercial, adventure, historical and comical viewpoint. The reader will gain many anecdotes to tell at a dinner party or the next meeting with his class from the old days. The division in little parts which are presented in a chronological chain of events makes it easy to follow Simon Garfield in his journey across the globe.

This book is Infotainment at its best. Very observant readers would be inclined to write a letter of complaint asking the book title to be changed into "On the map: why the western world looks the way it does". Someone who is not from Europe or northern America might not enjoy the read as much as Garfield's research mainly focuses on Europe and northern America. But this is just a minor bump in the road to a very pleasant read.


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Topics: Think Deeper