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A book about maps is something like a book about books – in a lover’s eyes

our cat bella logoIt seems to be a reasonable thing to say that a book about maps is something like a book about books.

I can think of two reasons for this –

  • Maps, and books, guide us to places that we cannot find otherwise.
  • I like books, and I like maps. It follows that I like books about books and also that I should, and do, like books about maps.

jon books in reviewThe book in question is a recent hardcover issue titled On the Map, by Simon Garfield, a British author. The subtitle is A Mind-Expanding Exploration of the Way the World Looks.

My brother would like this book.

My brother likes maps, and that is why I do, too. He taught me how to read topographic maps where we were kids. I can look at a flat topo map and imagine a world of three dimensions.

Nothing to it, once you understand contour intervals.

It’s like those who can not only read a musical score but also hear the piece in its full richness.

That sounds difficult, to me.

The map thing, though? That is second nature.

Garfield takes maps from their beginnings to the early years of the 21 century. The book, however, is not a textbook.

It is an intelligent book about maps, for map lovers.

on the map coverI appreciate that Garfield did not mine a vein of multiple magazine articles sprinkled over a number of years and call it a book. He wrote the On the Map as a piece, in a single effort. In a global fashion, if you will.

If you enjoy looking at maps, you will enjoy looking at On the Map.

Garfield in 445 pages of photos and text never says that “the map is not the territory.” For that alone, he deserves your patronage.

His style is workmanlike and helpful at all points, with an occasional and pleasing simile or similar flourish, such as this one –

There is, of course, still quite a lot to be said for getting lost.

Being British, Garfield does use the phrase spot on more than once, which he is welcome to do. My wife, however, is under orders to beat me senseless with a shovel if I ever write that phrase even once. Ever (except when my use of the phrase is meant to be derisive).

For me, it’s out damned spot.

Ya know?

If maps are not of interest to you, you can try Garfield’s penultimate title, Just My Type, an examination of type fonts. My copy is on my on-deck pile. Perched atop Team of Rivals like a top hat.

And my wife has no instructions concerning my occasional use of a word such as penultimate.

  • Simon Garfield’s book are available at Amazon.

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