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How to Lie with Maps

3.52  ·  Rating Details ·  473 Ratings  ·  61 Reviews
Originally published to wide acclaim, this lively, cleverly illustrated essay on the use and abuse of maps teaches us how to evaluate maps critically and promotes a healthy skepticism about these easy-to-manipulate models of reality. Monmonier shows that, despite their immense value, maps lie. In fact, they must.

The second edition is updated with the addition of two new ch
Paperback, 207 pages
Published May 1st 1996 by University Of Chicago Press (first published 1991)
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Feb 02, 2014 Erin rated it did not like it
One of my professors recommended reading this, and with its flashy cover and catchy title, I thought I would give it a try. The book was easy to read and had some interesting examples of cases in which maps had been manipulated for all sorts of reasons, but the book is very outdated. I have the 1996 version, and it was amusing to read the parts that describe technology as something people had no grasp on (How monitors and cursors work, for instance) Further, many of the secrets to spotting a mis ...more
Michael Scott
Jul 13, 2009 Michael Scott rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction, teaching
Monmonier's How to Lie with Maps follows in the footsteps of Darrell Huff's How To Lie With Statistics, focusing on the tricks of mapmaking. In short, maps are depictions of information with geographical meaning and as such they may misreport with or without intent. Monmonier introduces the most important cartography notions and gives many examples of "lying with maps" for various purposes. Despite the use of smart phrase-turns and of coining interesting words such as "cartopropaganda"--the use ...more
Sep 15, 2010 Andrew rated it really liked it
How to Lie with Maps reviews the various ways maps can deceive percipients who don’t interpret maps carefully. As stated in chapter one, this book is not meant to help mischievous cartographers. Rather, its purpose is to encourage the general public to be more critical and selective in their map interpretation. The book includes twelve main chapters that explain general categories of cartographic deception. Due to this large amount of specific ideas in the book, it is easiest to divide a critiq ...more
Margaret Sankey
Jul 31, 2015 Margaret Sankey rated it really liked it
Students are always amazed that maps are not perfectly objective sources of information, but carefully constructed documents with agendas of their own--Monmonier explores the spectrum of map deception, from prank locations inserted by cartographers to the very dangerous drawing of contentious borders.
Jeff Aldrich
Dec 03, 2009 Jeff Aldrich rated it really liked it
Do not let the title fool you - this is one of the best primers on how all maps are - one way or another - a distortion of facts - and how to see the errors in maps. A must read for anyone who makes any type of map or spends time interpreting maps. A Classic!
Justin Gilstrap
Apr 09, 2013 Justin Gilstrap rated it really liked it
Considered to be one of the most influential books in the history of the study of geography. Monmonier captures a really significant movement in cartography from the conception of maps as objective representations of reality to inherent reflections of cartographic choice and focus. Though dated, I have read it several times- both the first and second editions. Monmonier does a decent job of making what could be a very abstruse topic accessible to a general audience with his breezy, though someti ...more
Feb 24, 2014 Zioluc rated it really liked it
Shelves: saggio
L'approccio "come mentire con..." è sempre il migliore per comprendere i meccanismi di un mezzo e saperlo leggere e usare consapevolmente.
Questo testo non fa eccezione con le mappe, che mentono per molti versi: innanzi tutto perché sono rappresentazioni sintetiche della realtà e quindi devono ometterne alcuni aspetti per essere leggibili.
Ma mentono anche perché sono il complesso frutto di un lavoro di elaborazione che può voler trasmettere un messaggio piuttosto che un altro (propaganda, pubbl
After learning some great map design ideas from Edward Tufte's books I thought How to Lie with Maps would be a good contrast of what not to do when making maps. The book did cover a number of topics warning map viewers of the kinds of manipulation that takes place in map making. Monmonier's entire thesis almost comes off as cynical but I think that is the nature of such a critical book.

The focus is on the unavoidable fact that all maps are a "white lie" there is always strategic omission of info
Jul 03, 2016 Kate rated it it was amazing
"...users must be wary that maps, however realistic, are merely representations, vulnerable to bias in both what they show and what they ignore."
Fascinating and readable account of good, bad, propagandistic, distorted and otherwise tricky maps, although the author's legitimate concerns about mapmaking software could use some updates. Educational as well as fun (but requires use of your brain) and boy howdy! quotable!
"The wise map user is this a skeptic, ever wary of confusing or misleading dist
Oct 03, 2009 Stephen rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
What I remember most about this book is its first line:

"Not only is it easy to lie with maps it is ESSENTIAL." Maps have to distort some information and omit so much else.
Sherry Schwabacher
Jul 15, 2014 Sherry Schwabacher rated it it was ok
Too dry. Filled with math and really BAD illustrations. For a book that is trying to show what good maps and bad maps look like, the graphics were terrible.

Aug 16, 2012 Andrew rated it did not like it
Disappointing book. Not written in an engaging style. It had potential to be very interesting, but I think the author blew it.
Mar 15, 2016 Quentin rated it really liked it
A very clear critical introduction to the problems and possibilities of mapmaking. The book starts with a central conceit--all maps lie, and must, because no map can completely provide a one-to-one depiction of the earth. Therefore, the author (geographer Mark Monmonier) argues, we need to understand both some standard lies (i.e. choices) that mapmakers use to highlight different kinds of information, and to be honest about how such choices must necessarily go into making all maps.

The book is a
Matthew Selvaggio
Jun 24, 2009 Matthew Selvaggio rated it liked it
Everything I learned about Geography was a lie.
Nov 02, 2014 Harrison rated it liked it
Shelves: did-not-finish
I'm a geography major focusing on cartography. I was excited about this book as Monmonier hails from the geography powerhouse Penn State. But as with several other reviewers, I found the book to be somewhat outdated, and thus, a bit of a slog.

I think it would've been more interesting to read when it came out, but cartography has advanced so much in the past 23-24 years that, while many of the theories and principles in the book are still worthy of discussion, the context in which the information
Tjibbe Wubbels
Feb 16, 2013 Tjibbe Wubbels rated it liked it
I'm doubting whether this book is meant as a warning or a guide. As an occasional map maker I certainly stored parts of it in my memory as a how-to.

The book offers a nice overview of the ways in which maps do not exactly represent real life. I always thought that was the whole point of maps (for one, it's smaller). This book lists a great number of ways in which map makers influence the perception of a map by the viewers. Some of these (maps, not the viewers) are rather small, others have a huge
Thomas Paul
Aug 08, 2013 Thomas Paul rated it it was ok
Any book that calls itself, "How to Lie with..." is simply begging for a reviewer to compare it to, How to Lie with Statistics. The latter is a classic that is fun and educational. Unfortunately, this book falls short of deserving the title but it is still an interesting read. One of the main problems is that rather than being a guide to help avoid being fooled by maps, the author uses the book as an introduction to the science of cartography. It seems that a large portion of the book is aimed t ...more
Aug 30, 2016 Phil rated it really liked it
Great book, accessible and fun to read. Covers basic cartography principles and is written in an amusing tone. The cartographic elements described in the book are timeless, yes there are references to technology that are outdated but that would be true of a book written 5 years ago with how fast Geographic Information Systems are moving. The cautions given remain the same with digital mapping so it's still a good read.

Great for those beginning cartography/geography/GIS, or just those interested
May 29, 2010 Eliza rated it really liked it
Shelves: geo-med-env
This was a great presentation on how people can be manipulated by maps. It is a cautionary book to inform the reader of sources of misinformation & error so the reader can then take the map with a grain of salt and not as "truth". The book dealt with issues of power. Issues covered included map manipulations used in advertising, development, national security, the military, and politics. For me, the most interesting parts related to national-level maps such as the USGS topographic maps, and ...more
Mark Kloha
Feb 22, 2015 Mark Kloha rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Anyone interested in maps
This is an amusing read. It states how maps are manipulated to communicate the information the "author" wants to communicate. Anyone who uses maps should read this book.
Benjamin Sigrist
Oct 03, 2014 Benjamin Sigrist rated it liked it
some interesting factoids about past lies told with maps.

not a bad book, but there are many other better books on the practice I would read first.
Muhammad al-Khwarizmi
Neat book but kind of dated in the age of QGIS, etc. Also mentions spatial autocorrelation and the MAUP but doesn't name either of them outright.
Jul 14, 2014 Kaethe rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
Good introduction to the topic, but I already know this stuff. It's neither as specific nor as contemporary as I had hoped.
Apr 07, 2015 Dan rated it liked it
Shelves: science, geography
This book is cleverly Machiavellian. It educates the lay person about cartography as if seducing them to join in sinister plots. Each chapter, however, ends with a concise summary outlining the serious points in a matter of fact way, clearly showing proper ethics.
A lot of what was in this book, I already knew from course work, what I enjoyed most were the fascinating case studies and examples from history. Most of the book was good for the lay man, but some of the more technical chapters at the
Dec 14, 2015 Yue rated it it was amazing
very interesting extension of text book reading for cartography.
Nov 19, 2013 EC rated it liked it
Shelves: textbook, own, mapping
This was a textbook for my Intro to Cartography class. Specifically for the module on map misuse. I thought it was well written and a pretty easy read. Includes some great information on ways that maps can be used to tell lies. Most often white lies, maybe by omission and many times simply because the purpose of a particular map is simply advertising, but they can also be blatant, in the case of political propaganda or promoting some cause. In addition, this book helped me to understand some map ...more
Oct 20, 2012 Charles rated it it was amazing
Shelves: thinking, cartography
A very interesting book. I had thought that maps were some kind of visual truth. That idea turns out to be incorrect. Maps are an artistic conception. For example, take a geo centric American traveler, me, on a trip in Australia. I walked past a map shop window and prominently displayed was a map of Australia with that continent in the center of the map and America sliced in half on either side of the page. I tell you it rocked my world. Doesn't everybody know Americas in the center and the divi ...more
Aug 22, 2014 Kate rated it liked it
Recommends it for: cartographic mystics
Recommended to Kate by: G 108.7 M66 1996
"Like quoting a public figure out of context, extracting soils data from a photomap invites misinterpretation."

"Map blunders make amusing anecdotes."
Feb 01, 2010 Tim rated it liked it
Monmonier, a geographer, provides an accessible introduction to the elements and risks of the map-maker's trade. With maps, as with any images, the image-maker will shape audience perceptions in how she fashions the image. She may do this consciously or not, truthfully or not, beautifully or not, for good or for ill. Monmonier advocates the conscious creation and consumption of truthful, beautiful, and morally salutary maps, recognizing full well the essential element of reasoned art on which th ...more
Feb 02, 2015 Mauri rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Interesting, but really out-of-date and it veered from elementary explanations of maps ("maps typically represent places larger than their own area") to eye-crossing math explanations. The examples, when drawn from real life, were compelling. The more "say you own a plumbing firm and want to drum up business" examples were a snore.

Though it did teach me that the US invaded Grenada in 1983, something that my "history ends after WWII or maybe the civil rights movement" US history class neglected
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Mark Stephen Monmonier is an American author and a Distinguished Professor of Geography at the Maxwell School of Syracuse University.

He specializes in toponymy, geography, and geographic information systems. His popular written works show a combination of serious study and a sense of humor. His most famous work is How To Lie With Maps (1991), in which he challenges the common belief that maps inhe
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