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I’m a Maphead. So’s This Book.

I grew up reading National Geographic magazines. I pinned maps to the walls of my room. I studied Civil War battle maps and memorized things like Sherman’s troop movements between Atlanta and Savannah.

I read blogs like Strange Maps and spend hours in places like Seattle’s Metsker Maps.

I go to auctions so that I can fill my shelves with old geography textbooks, 1800s State of Kansas textbooks, and antique atlases. And I’m still in search of the Holy Grail – an original, inexpensive copy of the 1887 Official State Atlas of Kansas.

I’m a maphead. And I’m okay with that. Cause now there’s a book just for me.

Maphead: Charting the Wide, Weird World of Geography Wonks by Ken Jennings. Yes. That Ken Jennings. The all-time Jeopardy champion.

There must be something innate about maps, about this one specific way of picturing our world and our relation to it, that charms us, calls to us, won’t let us look anywhere else in the room if there’s a map on the wall. I want to get to the bottom of what that is. I see it as a chance to explore one of the last remaining ‘blank spaces’ available to us amateur geographers and cartographers: the mystery of what makes our consuming map obsession tick. I will go there.

Maphead is a book about maps. But more than that, it’s a book about people who love maps. Jennings goes from the London Map Fair to the football field sized Library of Congress Map Division, from the National Geographic Bee to Google Earth engineers.

You’re gonna get world travelers, highpointing, geocaching, road atlas rallying, road geeks, GPS, even maps of fiction and fantasy. Jennings also talks about the ways that maps affect our history and future.

If you teach geography (or history), take some time over the holiday break for Maphead. You’ll walk away smarter, you’ll love geography more, you’ll have great stories for your students and you just might be a better teacher.

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