Amazon Best Books of the Month, September 2011 Ken Jennings, best known for his epic winning streak on Jeopardy! in 2004, returns to the writing world with Maphead, a charming, funny, and of course, informational book about the world of maps and the people who love them. Even if maps are not your thing, Jennings writes about them with such affection and humor that the topic becomes fascinating; the clever captions for the maps in the book alone are worth the read (the first map in the book compares shapes of places that were “separated at birth” and are therefore soul mates. Included: Lake Michigan and Sweden). From the politics of geocaching to the ups and downs of the contestants participating in the National Geographic Bee (which, according to Alex Trebek, should have its own prime-time show like the spelling bee), Jennings captures the excitement and wonder of places.
Ken Jennings takes readers on a world tour of geogeeks from the London Map Fair to the bowels of the Library of Congress, from the prepubescent geniuses at the National Geographic Bee 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. Jennings 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 the “Here be dragons” parchment maps of the Age of Discovery to the spinning globes of grade school to the postmodern revolution of digital maps and GPS, Maphead is filled with intriguing details, engaging anecdotes, and enlightening analysis. If you’re an inveterate map lover yourself—or even if you’re among the cartographically clueless who can get lost in a supermarket—let Ken Jennings be your guide to the strange world of mapheads.