Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Review: All Over the Map by Betsy Mason and Greg Miller

When was the last time you set out on a journey to an unknown place, driving or walking, that you didn't have your GPS directing you? And prior to the advent of GPS, if you're anything like me and can get lost trying to find your way out of an open paper bag, you probably had a variety of atlases and city maps tucked into every seat pocket of your car. But it's not just the utility of maps that I love, there's something about their lines and additional features too. I remember learning to read different kinds of maps my freshman year of college in Geology 101. Not only did we learn to read them, but we also got to see speculative maps of what the world used to look like before the continents took their current position. We talked about how we knew that and what that meant geologically. It was the first time I really considered the reason behind the making of a map. Betsy Mason and Greg Miller have collected a simply gorgeous set of maps in All Over the Map: A Cartographic Odyssey and not only shared the reason behind the making of the maps, but their history, what they got correct and what they missed, and I have now spent hours poring over the beautiful pictures of maps, ancient and recent, artistic, scientific, and both, from all corners of the world that are found in this stunning collection.

Divided into sections of Waterways, Cities, Conflict and Crisis (aka War), Landscapes, Economics, Science, Human Experiences, Worlds, and Art and Imagination, Mason and Miller have chosen maps with interesting stories behind them, maps that are visually beautiful, maps that tell us things about past societies, maps that reflect us as we live now, and maps of places only found in our imagination. Some of the maps are very simple while others are more elaborate. Some, like the maps that the Ottoman Turks drew are pieces of hand drawn artwork, while others are much more technological computer modeled maps. Some of the maps show things that you would expect to find on maps, like the map of all the US waterways while others map things you might never have given a thought to, like the Urban Smellscape map. As you would expect of a book produced by National Geographic, this is a gorgeous coffee table book, heavy, top quality, and incredibly informative. The short pieces about each map elevate each entry from simply beautiful pictures, adding truly fascinating commentary. Did you know that the map of the Battle of Gettysburg was produced soon after the battle was over and only after the amateur cartographer, John Badger Bachelder, interviewed people who had been there. It's signed by US Army commanders attesting to its accuracy. Cool, right? And this is only one of the many stories contained here.

If you love maps, if you wish you'd been a cartographer, if you appreciate both the science and the artistry behind maps and map making, this is the book for you. If you ever spent time drawing your own childish maps of the imaginary lands in books or your head, this is the book for you. If you, even today in the era of GPS, secretly want to hold an atlas in your hands and trace a route with your finger, this is the book for you. Here Be Dragons. My soul will forever thrill to this phrase. Clearly this is the book for me.

For more information about Betsy Mason and Greg Miller and the book, follow either of them on Twitter Betsy or Greg. Check out the book's Goodreads page, follow the rest of the blog tour, or look at the reviews for others' thoughts and opinions on the book.

Thanks to Trish from TLC Book Tours and National Geographic for sending me a copy of the book for review.


  1. Be still, my heart! This book is for me!

    I loved being the navigator with a lap full of maps. GPS has taken all the fun out of traveling.


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