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Maphead: Charting the Wide, Weird World of Geography Wonks

3.85  ·  Rating Details  ·  5,257 Ratings  ·  791 Reviews
It comes as no surprise that, as a kid, Jeopardy! legend Ken Jennings slept with a bulky Hammond world atlas by his pillow every night. Maphead recounts his lifelong love affair with geography and explores why maps have always been so fascinating to him and to fellow enthusiasts everywhere.

Jennings takes listeners on a world tour of geogeeks from the London Map Fair to th
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Published September 27th 2011 by Tantor Media (first published 2011)
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Jan 28, 2012 Scott rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 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
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,
Oct 11, 2011 Sarah rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
May 07, 2013 Riku Sayuj rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: r-r-rs
It at least got me to look up some stuff on some maps that I am embarrassed to admit I had no clue about.
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
May 31, 2013 John rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Feb 12, 2012 Jules rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Oct 16, 2011 Darrenglass rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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
4.5 stars. I found this in a Little Free Library in my neighborhood! :) This was an extremely enjoyable look at many things map-related, from the National Geographic Bee to geocaching to Google Earth to maps in fantasy novels (Brandon Sanderson fans take note, as Sanderson and Jennings were college roommates). Jennings' writing is filled with delightful footnotes and irresistible tidbits of information and at times definitely reminded me of the writing of Bill Bryson.
Oct 23, 2012 Bandit rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 is clever, erudite, funny, e ...more
Jan 30, 2013 Zach rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Oct 08, 2012 Becca rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Apr 07, 2014 Jeff rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
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
Joaquin Garza
Feb 25, 2014 Joaquin Garza rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ciencias
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
Oct 09, 2012 Scott rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Ralph McEwen
Apr 29, 2012 Ralph McEwen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 08, 2013 Kay rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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!)"

David Bales
Jun 02, 2012 David Bales rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2012
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
Trevor Higbee
Sep 06, 2015 Trevor Higbee rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved this book.

It's not a book about maps or geography. It's a book about the love of maps and geography -- about Ken Jenning's love of maps in particular. And for everybody who loves maps, it's a book about their love of maps as well. Which is why it was such a rewarding read for me.
Sep 03, 2011 Jay marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
I'd read a book by Ken Jennings.
Feb 10, 2015 Crowinator rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Crowinator by: Katie K
I'm here to answer the question, can people who are not into maps and geography get into this book? Yes, yes they can.

In fact, they might even look up a world atlas on real paper just because it's been a while since they looked at a map of anything not involving directions from Point A to Point B on a smartphone. They might also sign up for a geocaching site because suddenly it sounds like a sorta fun thing to do on all those walks they take in the non-winter months. They might not feel so host
Jul 02, 2012 Emily rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
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
Aug 11, 2013 Sara rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Nov 23, 2011 Mike rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 04, 2012 Alison rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
May 25, 2012 Vanessa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: cols-lib
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
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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...

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