The 1-minute book review: On the Map

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…

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All texts and pictures © Justine Houyaux

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