On the Map by Simon Garfield
A Mind-Expanding Exploration of the Way the World Looks

73%

22 Critic Reviews

A fine, fun presentation of the brand of cartography that continues to whet our imaginations.
-Kirkus

Synopsis

Cartography enthusiasts rejoice: the bestselling author of Just My Type reveals the fascinating relationship between man and map.

Simon Garfield’s Just My Type illuminated the world of fonts and made everyone take a stand on Comic Sans and care about kerning. Now Garfield takes on a subject even dearer to our fanatical human hearts: maps.

Imagine a world without maps. How would we travel? Could we own land? What would men and women argue about in cars? Scientists have even suggested that mapping—not language—is what elevated our prehistoric ancestors from ape-dom. Follow the history of maps from the early explorers’ maps and the awe-inspiring medieval Mappa Mundi to Google Maps and the satellite renderings on our smartphones, Garfield explores the unique way that maps relate and realign our history—and reflect the best and worst of what makes us human.

Featuring a foreword by Dava Sobel and packed with fascinating tales of cartographic intrigue, outsize personalities, and amusing “pocket maps” on an array of subjects from how to fold a map to the strangest maps on the Internet, On the Map is a rich historical tapestry infused with Garfield’s signature narrative flair. Map-obsessives and everyone who loved Just My Type will be lining up to join Garfield on his audacious journey through time and around the globe.

 

About Simon Garfield

See more books from this Author
Simon Garfield is the author of fourteen acclaimed books of nonfiction, including Just My Type and On the Map. He lives in London and St. Ives, Cornwall.
 
Published January 1, 2012 by Profile Books. 464 pages
Genres: Political & Social Sciences, Education & Reference, Nature & Wildlife, Science & Math, History, Travel. Non-fiction
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Critic reviews for On the Map
All: 22 | Positive: 17 | Negative: 5

Kirkus

Good
on Oct 31 2012

A fine, fun presentation of the brand of cartography that continues to whet our imaginations.

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NY Times

Above average
Reviewed by Janet Maslin on Dec 18 2012

Maps aren’t as revelatory here as fonts were in “Just My Type.” Still, this is a fine and fruitful moment for thinking about cartography.

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Guardian

Good
Reviewed by Andrew Martin on Sep 28 2013

...Garfield is like the schoolteacher who made the time fly, a one-man Blue Peter team for intelligent adults, a great British explainer.

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Guardian

Good
Reviewed by Henry Krempels on Nov 10 2012

Garfield has put together some curious cartographic milestones and laden them with personality, insight and intrigue.

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Guardian

Good
Reviewed by Rachel Hewitt on Oct 19 2012

If On the Map is intended as a cartographical exhibition, then it is a boisterous and bustling one. Garfield is at his best when describing the human face of map history.

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Publishers Weekly

Above average
on Nov 12 2012

Garfield’s coverage of this terrain, lavishly illustrated with reproductions of famous maps, is broad but paper-thin—more a meandering guided tour than a systematic survey. Still, his droll humor and infectious curiosity will keep readers engrossed.

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NPR

Good
Reviewed by John Wilwol on Jan 02 2013

On the Map delivers a loose narrative of cartographic history, but this book is better read as a collection of marvelous anecdotes that explore the role maps have played in shaping human culture since ancient times.

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NY Journal of Books

Good
on Dec 20 2012

Mr. Garfield has a gift for mixing such freighted subject matter with lighter material, thanks to his impish sense of humor and his airy, flowing prose.

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Toronto Star

Below average
on Jan 04 2013

For someone enamoured of maps, Garfield also has an ironic tendency to run off on tangents...Awkward phrasing and bad grammar are another problem.

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National Post arts

Good
on Jan 18 2013

There are a number of great stories in this outstandingly readable narrative...There is certainly no need at present to mourn the passing of paper maps, no matter how obsolete.

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The Washington Post

Below average
on Jan 05 2013

Garfield seems like that most frustrated of soldiers, the general who has to deal in the field with a battle to be fought at that nightmare spot...where no soldier ever wants to be: He is floundering in a sea of facts, lost at the join of four maps.

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The Telegraph

Good
on Oct 30 2012

Rather than over-romanticise the experience of map-reading, Garfield allows his varied, expertly researched stories to speak for themselves, and...helps us see that there are fewer things in life more useful, rewarding and beautiful than a map.

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Booklist Online

Good
on Jan 01 2013

Garfield follows up to the best-seller Just My Type [is] engrossing, endlessly fascinating.

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The Bookbag

Good
on Oct 31 2012

Alternating between full chapters which tell the stories of cartographers and their maps...and shorter entries bearing the title 'Pocket Map' which pick out particularly interesting trivia, there's not a dull entry in the book.

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USA Today

Below average
on Jan 04 2013

But Garfield's historiographic narrative buckles under the weight of so much arcane detail and tidal enthusiasm that we begin to gasp for air.

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The Seattle Times

Above average
on Dec 30 2012

One criticism: The book is Eurocentric. There’s little discussion of, say, ancient Chinese or Japanese mapmaking...Apart from that, “On the Map” is a treasure: exhilarating, witty, compulsively readable and just plain fun.

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We Love This Book

Excellent
on Oct 04 2012

From Robert Louis Stevenson’s plan of Treasure Island, where X first marked the spot, to the regions charted in computer games like Skyrim...Garfield has gathered together many of the best of these in this hugely readable book.

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St. Louis Today

Above average
on Jan 12 2013

To be sure, some parts of this book make for a tough slog. I got lost in a chapter on mapping Albert Einstein’s brain, and American readers may wish Garfield had focused more on North America and less on Great Britain.

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Bookmarks Magazine

Good
on Dec 23 2012

Map-obsessives and everyone who loved Just My Type will be lining up to join Garfield on his audacious journey through time and around the globe.

Read Full Review of On the Map: A Mind-Expanding ...

Literary Review

Good

Surely the point of maps, as demonstrated by Simon Garfield, is not to strip our world of all its mysteries, but to help reveal them.

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Wharf

Good
on Nov 15 2012

Simon Garfield has an eye for the curious and quirky facts - such as the crushing news that Here Be Dragons is a fiction and how the A-Z lost all its Ts out the window - and this a joyfully plotted journey from Ptolemy to Googleplex.

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National Post arts

Good
Reviewed by Philip Marchand on Jan 18 2013

No definitive answer is given. It doesn’t matter. The fun of the book is its wide-ranging history of maps in their various forms since the first great map was produced around 194 BC...

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Reader Rating for On the Map
75%

An aggregated and normalized score based on 76 user ratings from iDreamBooks & iTunes


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