I don’t read much for pleasure these days, what with reading a lot for my dissertation and whatnot, but I am still trying to get through my “To Read” stack, and I need to tell you about this absolute masterpiece of a book.
In a nutshell, On The Map by Simon Garfield is a history of cartography. But it is so much more than that, because it tells History through stories, which is a fantastic strategy if you don’t want uninitiated readers to doze off.
I don’t remember picking it up at the bookstore, and honestly, I am about as interested in the topic as the next person (though I have developped an obsession for azimuths and bearings lately), but I thank past Ms. Houyaux for buying it because it is a work of genius (the book, that is, not the fact of buying it).
And it does take a genius to make a treatise on cartography such a compelling read. The whole book is a proper page-turner. You’ll catch yourself thinking “Just one more page; just one more chapter. Oh, what the heck, I’ll just finish the book already… Who needs sleep anyway?”
It is quirky, well-documented, highly quotable, and more generally, utterly brilliant.
If you only read one book this month, then read On The Map. You’ll be taken on a journey you won’t regret, from the Hereford Mappa Mundi to Claudius Ptolemy, passing by Greenland and Trinidad — and back. A proper must-read.
Garfield, Simon (2012). On The Map. Why The World Looks The Way It Does. London: Profile Books. 464 p. £9.99.
Psst! While you’re here…
Liked this? Let me know in the comments, join the conversation on Facebook or help me continue devoting myself to good writing by checking out my Patreon. You can also receive The Unexpected Ms. Houyaux’ monthly newsletter for free.