Have you ever found a book you didn't even know you were looking for? That's how Maphead: Charting the Wide, Weird World of Geography Wonks by Ken Jennings felt to me. I didn't know I was looking for this book, but I am so glad I found it.
I love, or geek, if you prefer, maps and globes. I can remember spending indoor recesses with a couple of classmates and the pull-down maps in the classroom just looking and talking about what we were looking at. When I was nine years old and in the third grade, I had one of the best Christmases I can remember. Santa Claus brought me my very own globe and a puzzle that was also a map of the United States of America. It was wonderful. When I was 13 and in 8th grade, I got a stuffed globe that I named Globie. In high school, I had an enormous map of North America on my wall. Currently, I have a about a half-dozen globes around my house, including the one I got when I was nine and Globie, of course.
Enough about me, though, let's get on to this awesome book. Ken Jennings takes readers along for a tour of the Library of Congress' Geography & Map Division, to the National Geography Bee in Washington D.C. with Alex Trebek, to a map sale in London, to meet world travelers, on his own adventures in geocaching, and more. I enjoyed every chapter, as they were all packed with geographical goodness, but I especially enjoyed the Geography & Map Division chapter and the Geography Bee chapter. The Library of Congress' map collection sounds like a dream. I hope to maybe visit it the next time I'm in Washington D.C. The Geography Bee chapter was vaguely personal, since one upon a time, I was a school geography bee winner and could have (but did not) advance to the National Bee. It was interesting to get such a close look at what that would have been like. Of course, having read about the kids who make it that far, I also now have a pretty good understanding of why I did not make it that far, or even close, really. Another great chapter discussed the fun and importance of fantasy maps to go along with games and literature that take place in imagined worlds.
If you love maps, or if even if you used to love maps, or if you wonder how modern mapping technologies like GPS and Google Earth are likely to affect paper maps and us, the people who use maps, well, these are good reasons to pick up this book. I found Ken Jennings to be a fun writer and I now plan to read his first book, Brainiac: Adventures in the Curious, Competitive, Compulsive World of Trivia Buffs.
Ken Jennings is also the author of Ken Jennings' Trivia Almanac: 8,888 Questions in 365 Days. Maphead is available as an unabridged audiobook on CD, read by Kirby Heyborne.