I am directionally challenged. If you say “turn east at the traffic light,” or “the exit is located on the north side of the building,” I will get a deer-in-the-headlights look on my face. My husband, on the other hand, is a master at getting from point A to point B, so that’s why he is the designated navigator when we travel. He also loves to read maps. When we recently visited family living near Austin, Texas, he wanted to buy a road map of the area (which, by the way, is not as easy as it used to be — thanks a lot, Google Maps). A real live map was eventually found, and between the map and a smartphone we had a great time exploring Austin and its environs.
When I discovered that the second week of November is Geography Awareness Week, I knew that this was the perfect time to highlight books about maps. I have to admit that maps and I do not always get along. The reason for this is tied to childhood road trips, and someday I might work it out in a psychologist’s office. But here is what happens: Give me enough time to study a map, I can comfortably plan a route or identify which lakes and mountains we’ll see on a trip; ask me on the fly to figure out which street we need to take to get to such-and-such, a silent scream will fill my head. Luckily, asking my phone for directions is easy (if I’m without my designated navigator), and the results usually get me to where I’m going. So, now when I look at a map it’s usually just to satisfy a point of curiosity — and that means no screaming.
Jump on that Geography Awareness Week bandwagon by checking out some fun reads about cartography. Learn a little something about mapmaking (globe making, too), the influence and function of maps, and why the some of the earliest maps could be so wrong. (Hint: As much as one might want it to be true, Atlantis doesn’t exist.)
Enjoy the trip!
• “All Over the Map: A Cartographic History,” by Betsy Mason.
• “The Art of the Map: An Illustrated History of Map Elements and Embellishments,” by Dennis Reinhartz.
• “Globes: 400 Years of Exploration, Navigation, and Power,” by Sylvia Sumira.
• “Great City Maps: A Historical Journey Through Maps, Plans, and Paintings,” by DK Publishing, Inc.
• “On the Map: A Mind-Expanding Exploration of the Way the World Looks,” by Simon Garfield.
• “The Phantom Atlas: The Greatest Myths, Lies and Blunders on Maps,” by Edward Brooke-Hitching.
• “Theater of the World: The Maps That Made History,” by Thomas Reinertsen Berg.
Jan Johnston is the collection development coordinator for the Fort Vancouver Regional Libraries. Email her at email@example.com.