Maphead: Charting the Wide, Weird World of Geography Wonks
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Maphead: Charting the Wide, Weird World of Geography Wonks

3.84 of 5 stars 3.84  ·  rating details  ·  3,651 ratings  ·  623 reviews
Maphead: Charting the Wide, Weird World of Geography Wonks is Ken's followup to his 2005 best-seller Brainiac. Much as Brainiac offered a behind-the-scenes look at the little-known demimonde of competitive trivia buffs, Maphead finally gives equal time to that other downtrodden underclass: America's map nerds.

In a world where geography only makes the headlines when college...more
Hardcover, 276 pages
Published September 20th 2011 by Scribner (first published 2011)
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Scott
Stealing a thought line from the author, Ken Jennings, Jeopardy superstar, if you the type of person who walks into a room with a map hanging on the wall and you immediately head to the map...you must read this book. I love maps, all kinds and found this book to be utterly fascinating. So, if blue was favorite category in Trivial Pursuit and you often find yourself exploring the world via Google Earth and its maps, then you, Ken Jennings and I have something in common and this book, while it doe...more
Jon
3.5 stars

A quick read, similar in format and informality to Ken's inaugural Brainiac: Adventures in the Curious, Competitive, Compulsive World of Trivia Buffs book. All twelve chapter titles included a cartographic definition together with a quote. For example, the first chapter entitled 'Eccentricity' with the definition 'the deformation of an elliptical map projection' and the Pat Conroy quote 'My wound is geography.'

My favorite chapter falls in the center, halfway from nowhere to somewhere,...more
David Dort
Ken Jennings (of Jeopardy fame) delivers a fantastic sampling of the geo-geekdom. From map lovers (where it starts) to geography bees to road geeks, to obsessive travel, to geo cachers to Google Earth's transformation of the paper to cyber world of finding where you are and devoting a great deal of energy to it. Jennings is entertaining, literate (if not annoying in his constant referrals to pop culture as well as history.) but most of all he, like me, LOVES maps. And if you LOVE maps, this is a...more
Sarah
True story: my husband and I met because of a geography bee. I was the seventh grade Geography Bee champion at our middle school; he was the eighth grade champion. We went head to head for several rounds, but ultimately he bested me -- he knew that quinine was used to treat malaria, and I did not. I got my revenge, though, in a way -- he did not qualify for the state geography bee, but the following year, when I became the school champion, I DID. (And believe me -- some twenty years later, I sti...more
Riku Sayuj
It at least got me to look up some stuff on some maps that I am embarrassed to admit I had no clue about.
John
I thought this was great, but I am a bit of a map nerd myself. And by "bit of," I mean I am a humongous map nerd. This is my most frequent tool of procrastination - I sit at the library when I should be doing work and I read the atlas. I've been doing it for years. When I am supposed to be doing work on the computer I am often tracing routes on google maps to local and far-flung donut shops. When I am driving places with friends I tend to read their road atlases when I probably should be talking...more
Bandit
In 2004 Ken Jennings became my hero. An unassuming charming nerd from Utah who absolutely conquered the trivia world via his astonishing 6 month reign on Jeopardy. I picked up Maphead at the library because it was written by Jennings and not so much because I am a maphead, although I do appreciate geography and maps and have a fairly decent working knowledge of both. This book turned out just as good as I'd expect a glimpse inside such a smart (map)head would be...it is clever, erudite, funny, e...more
Darrenglass
If a book about maps and the people who love them written by the snarky Jeopardy champion Ken Jennings sounds like the kind of book you would like, then what are you waiting for? Go get this book immediately.

If it doesn't sound like the kind of book you would like, then I would urge you to reconsider. As fans of his blog or his television appearances know, Jennings is incredibly charming as he drops witty and random asides, makes pop culture references galore, and lets his geek flag fly. And the...more
Brendon Schrodinger
Maphead is a wonderful work revelling in nerdery of the geography-kind. All of those like myself who spent hours as a child poring over atlases, lose afternoons on Google maps or Google Earth and own a globe that is not of the Earth should adore this book.

It celebrates a certain type of nerdery that a lot of us share but hardly ever discuss. I'm not the only one who can go on a mini holiday with a map and my imagination. I'm not the only one to dream of psuedo real places that stay with me for y...more
Tatiana
I found this book great reading! Entertaining, funny, and just right for dipping into on and off. I'm sad it's over. I loved the description of geocaching, and I'm tempted to tru that myself, perhaps a few of the easier ones, since I don't get around as well as once I did. Turning the world into a place of hidden treasures is such a great idea. The book is about all different sorts of map geeks, all brilliantly nerdy and fun. Makes me want to pore over my last road atlas, bought in the 90s, agai...more
Joaquin Garza
Si no hubiese estudiado administración, yo habría sido geógrafo. Este dato, que conocen bastante en mi casa, procede quizá de que uno de los grandes sueños de mi vida es ser un escritor de libros de viajes. Tengo un drive de wanderlust exagerado; siempre quiero estar en un lugar distinto al que estoy. Siempre que piso el aeropuerto de esta ciudad de regreso de un viaje termino pensando: ‘no viajo lo suficiente’. Y mi presencia en esta red social habla de otra gran parte de mí que añora viajar:...more
Tamara
Not nearly weird enough. Jennings talks to various map enthusiasts, from geocachers to Geography Bee contestants to antique map collectors, and they all turn out to be pretty normal people who like maps a lot. Ok. There are some interesting tidbits of map and geography trivia scattered around, but most of it is fairly, er, trivial. Not the good kind of trivia. The part about maps in fantasy (thanks to Jenning's college roomate, Brandon Sanderson,) was particularly weak and pedestrian, and probab...more
Scott
Ken Jennings's richly breezy (is that possible?) Maphead is one of those great, totally geeked out single-subject surveys (here: maps) that goes down a million different, usually fascinating routes to tell the tale, educates and entertains in equal measure, PLUS offers enough personal anecdote and unabashed enthusiasm on and for the subject at hand to give it context, and make it all come alive (which is why I usually don't enjoy Mark Kurlansky's histories: all facts, no heart). Jennings, appare...more
Jules
As someone who has participated in car rallies, did the semi-obligatory post-college backpacking trip around Europe, and finally relented to using a smartphone mainly for the GPS, I know the allure and interest of navigating the wide, weird world around us. But holy cow, do I not know it in the ways explored in this book! The mild pleasure I take in being my family's navigator is nothing compared to the delight found by collectors, quiz kids, geocachers, and travelers who truly dig on mapping, m...more
David Bales
An interesting look at people obsessed with maps and geography. The author takes a trip to the largest repository of maps in the world, (The Library of Congress) and peruses its rare maps, speaks of his love of atlases, and visits various geeks, nerds and "mapheads" all over the country that do things like climb the highest mountain in every country in the world, or memorize all the interstate highway interchanges or make up their own countries. I did that when I was a kid, too, and made lots of...more
Becca
I love geography. I love books. I love Ken Jennings. I love books about geography signed by Ken Jennings.

This book is perfect. Jennings explores what people really think of geography. He explains why Americans lag in geography. Why geography is classified as "unimportant."

Mostly, he tells us what geography really is. Think of this as the smart people equivalent of "An Idiots' Guide To Geography."

Wait! I take that back.

Even if geography leaves you feeling confuzzled, this book explains everythin...more
Jeff
I was worried that Jennings would just beat us over the head with his cleverness and genius throughout this book, and indeed the phrase "Proustian thrill" appears right on page 1 leading me to believe I was prophetic, but it turns out the beating is not too bad. Definitely worth the read if you have any interest in maps, geography, etc.

When I read about the obsessives in this book, I become a bit wistful, part of me wishes I had some overarching obsession to fuel me. I get onto topics for a few...more
Jay
Sep 03, 2011 Jay marked it as to-read
I'd read a book by Ken Jennings.
Emily
Jul 02, 2012 Emily rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2012
This book about geography nerds reminded me of Moonwalking with Einstein, Word Freak, and In the Land of Invented Languages. It was written by Ken Jennings, of Jeopardy fame, who is a much more nimble writer than I expected. I ended up liking this better than any of the books I named except the invented languages one, which may simply be proof that I like these books in proportion to how much they match my own obsessions.

Jennings writes about atlases, the National Geography Bee, geocaching, map...more
Ralph McEwen
I really liked this book. Ken Jennings has written this book like he is just sitting next to you and telling this most incredible story about maps, the people who love them and how they affect everyday life past, present and future. He also opens doors into himself that reflect many of the fears and thoughts in the other map lovers. The book show that there many ways that people use, love and even obsess about maps.
Even though I think Mr. Jennings has been abundantly blessed to the point of his...more
Richard
Occasionally, I like to read a book about everyday aspects of our lives that most pay little attention to. I've read books on traffic and human waste, and now I can add to that list a book about maps, or more generally the intersection of humanity with geography.

Like the author, I spent many hours as a child exploring the USA on the living room floor via the medium of service station road maps. In Maphead, Ken Jennings gives lots of information about maps themselves, their history and usage. But...more
Sara
Aug 11, 2013 Sara rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: lovers of map trivia
Shelves: gave-up
Gah, I did read a lot of this...but I never finished it, got deflected by other things, even though I am a map lover.
Like Ken Jennings, I had a USA map puzzle too and my dad used to quiz me on the shapes - what state is this, holding up the puzzle piece so I could only see the back of it. It didn't make me a Jeopardy champ but it fed my spatial skills.
It's fun to read about how Jennings helped his wife improve at map reading with a little experiment involving the Mall area of Washington, D. C....more
Mike
Funny, educational and entertaining, as was Brainiac.

Reading notes:
67 mt mckinley: ohio congressional delegation fights renaming to Denali
69 jim thorpe never set foot in jim thorpe PA
77 vespucci on Carib femmes: check it out europe. carib women are all hawt. and, like total sluts.
80 anorak: brit slang for niche obsessive
103 map collectors fall into a watching-the-history-channel-under-a-slanket demographic
156 Mallory climbed everest because it was there
159 gnome prank....Amelie
165 Teddy R the 1s...more
Alison Whittington
I expected Maphead to be dry and tedious, but felt I "should" read it since I am obsessed with maps, and make them myself. Instead, I found it to be charming and funny and lighthearted and engaging. It is definitely the work of someone who has a lot of extra time and cash on his hands (although the author, Ken Jennings, comes across as quite down-to-earth), and it rambles, but in a pleasant sort of way, from geocaching to maps in fantasy novels to the origins of Google Earth, with plenty of unex...more
Zach
I like maps. When I travel somewhere new, I open Google Maps and spend a day or two plotting museums, food, and orienting myself to the geography of the city. I've whittled away countless hours in Street View, just to get a glimpse of a spot on a map. Sometimes it's a small, Southern American 'burg. Other times it's dead-center in a Central American metropolis I never knew existed. Or if I get bored of claustrophobic concrete canyons, it's off to the farthest reaches of the map, hoping to catch...more
Vanessa
Here's the short version of my review: I found this book charming. For starters, I've been a mapophile since childhood myself. The chapter on the art of mapping in fantasy novels set my mind awhirl as I recalled trying to draw a map of Middle Earth as a child when I was dissatisfied with the version in my copy of The Hobbit (Due to a printing error or some sort of inexcusable publisher laziness, the same segment of the map was printed on facing pages so Smaug's Lonely Mountain was printed on bot...more
Keith Moser
Ken Jennings is not your average trivia nerd (see Ken Jennings's Trivia Almanac: 8,888 Questions in 365 Days) and Jeopardy! champion (see Brainiac: Adventures In The Curious, Competitive, Compulsive World Of Trivia Buffs). If you follow @kenjennings on Twitter, you know he's actually quite funny (to wit, "My kids think a turtle's shell is called a "dammitdammitshit" now thank you very much Mario Kart"). So, while you may imagine a book about maps would be a boring and difficult read, Jennings sp...more
Tuck
fairly pleasant book about geography and maps. author has a style of intermittent full on trivia flood a la simon winchester mixed with some analysis and synthesis of why maps possibly are hardwired in human brains. that is the interpretation and understanding of maps. not enough illustrations and maps though. toby lester's is better for this sort of thing The Fourth Part of the World  The Race to the Ends of the Earth, and the Making of History's Greatest Map by Toby Lester and so is winchester's map book The Map That Changed the World  William Smith and the Birth of Modern Geology by Simon Winchester as is sobel's new one A More Perfect Heaven  How Copernicus Revolutionized the Cosmos by Dava Sobel, but still, ken jennings has written an excellent book for the right crowd
Kay
Ever read a book and decide you just can't stand another minute of exposure to it? That's how I feel about Maphead.

I got 36 pages in and was reflexively wincing every time the author made a bad pun. And Jennings makes a lot of them. Here's an example:

"I wonder: how would history be different if Bunyan or Dante had chosen to represent life not as a linear journey through a geographic territory but as something a little more holistic -- a library, say? Or a buffet? (Pilgrim's Potluck!)"

Groan......more
Katie
I found Ken Jennings to be a very likeable contestant on Jeopardy and he continues to be very likable in this book. His enthusiasm for geography and the world around him is contagious. While reading this book, I realized how little I know about geography. In one chapter, Jennings is at the National Geography Bee. I couldn’t believe how hard the questions were. I don’t think I could even make an educated guess for most of the questions.

This book also made me appreciate technology more. I always...more
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TFPL Book Posse: October_Maphead 1 6 Sep 14, 2012 03:34PM  
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Kenneth Wayne Jennings III (born May 23, 1974) holds the record for the longest winning streak on the U.S. syndicated game show Jeopardy! Jennings won 74 games before he was defeated by challenger Nancy Zerg on his 75th appearance. His total earnings on Jeopardy! are US$3,022,700 ($2,520,700 in winnings, a $2,000 consolation prize on his 75th appearance, and $500,000 in the Jeopardy! Ultimate Tour...more
More about Ken Jennings...
Because I Said So! : The Truth Behind the Myths, Tales, and Warnings Every Generation Passes Down to Its Kids Brainiac: Adventures in the Curious, Competitive, Compulsive World of Trivia Buffs Ken Jennings's Trivia Almanac: 8,888 Questions in 365 Days Maps and Geography (Junior Genius Guides, #2) Greek Mythology (Junior Genius Guides, #1)

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