To me On the Map by Simon Garfield is a great addition to the world of map books. ‘Why the world looks the way it does’ suggests this book will entertain the reader. And it does.
The book wanders through history in a relaxed way, and Garfield really takes the reader along on the discovery journey he takes. You can almost hear him speak out loud about every map. Whether it is about the Vinland map -and the discussion about it in the cartography field- or about Google Maps, Garfield gives you the feeling that each map story is a very special one. Of course I was happy to see a chapter included on stereotype mapping in the nineteenth century (my own thesis subject).
The part about women’s inability to read maps was also fun to read. Usually I get in defense mode the minute someone starts that discussion, but that proved not to be needed with Garfield. He does have a point though when he says women usually rely on landmarks to find their way, and men are slightly better in using spatial clues to find their way. Fair enough.
This book is a perfect gift for anyone intrigued by maps. I can’t say I read a lot of map topics that were new for me, but I like the broad variety of maps that are included. The fact Garfield even included the recent Apple Maps developments makes this book very up to date. That completeness of the book (plus the over 60 illustrations in it) makes it your perfect partner for a cold winter day on the couch.
‘A pub quizzer’s dream . . . Rather than over-romanticise the experience of map-reading, Garfield allows his varied, expertly researched stories to speak for themselves, and in so doing helps us see that there are fewer things in life more useful, rewarding and beautiful than a map that does what it’s supposed to. Perhaps if Apple had read the book a few months ago, today’s iPhone users would have a much better idea of where they’re going.’, David Clack, Daily Telegraph
On the Map
(In Dutch: Op de kaart will be published in June by Podium, ISBN: 978-9057595714)