“Maphead” Charts the Wide, Weird World of Geography Wonks

March 22, 2023

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If there is a geographer out there who isn’t a Jeopardy! Fan, I have yet to meet one. Ken Jennings is the all-time Jeopardy! champion and the current host of the show. He is also the author of several books, including one of my favorites, “Maphead.” If you have seen Jennings on stage, you know that he is humble, incredibly knowledgeable and always smiling. His writing reflects this in the 12 chapters of the book, which starts with “ECCENTRICITY” and ends with “RELIEF.”

With my copy in hands, here are some of the quotes and topics I have flagged.

“It’s misleading to think of geography as a single discipline at all.” — Chapter 3, “FAULTS”
“If you never opened a map until you’re lost, you’re missing out on all the fun.” —Chapter 6, “LEGENDS”

The topics are eclectic, from the National Geography Bee to the origins of cartography and modern digital mapping. There is certainly personal commentary in there, but all supported by facts.

The many facts and quotes are all cited and referenced with a nine page index and 15 pages of footnotes. There is also a reading group guide with discussion points, and the book ends with a quiz: Are you a Maphead?

This is another one of those rainy day books you can just pull off the shelf, open randomly and laugh while you learn. My own copy is dog-eared, coffee-stained and stuffed with bookmarks, Post-its, turned over page corners and margin notes. If you read this book, I’m sure your copy will end up the same.


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