Scott's Reviews > Maphead: Charting the Wide, Weird World of Geography Wonks

Maphead by Ken Jennings
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Mar 20, 12

Read in March, 2012

When I was in 9th grade, I wasn't interested in school. I didn't try at all and so, not surprisingly, I got terrible grades. And yet, I qualified to go to the regional Geography Bee at Westminster College in Salt Lake City, Utah. That Bee solidified my passion for Geography and for maps. I was so interested in the Bee that I stayed outside orienteering to different map coordinates (this pre-dates GPS) while my friends there skipped much of the Bee to go to the adjacent gymnasium and watch Karl Malone, John Stockton, and the rest of the Utah Jazz practice for an upcoming game.

My history as a geography geek makes me a captive audience for Ken Jennings' book. Second, I am a huge fan of Ken Jennings, ever since his mind-bogglingly amazing run on Jeopardy. So naturally, I knew beforehand that I would love the book. But I was surprised at how compelling the book is. It's well-researched and charming. I am a Ph.D. candidate who is accustomed to reading a lot of social science research, and I found some of Jennings' theorizing about the implications of global and technology to be on par with the scholarly rigor I find in published journals.

Further, I'm a huge pop culture geek. Very few people are as conversant in the grammar of pop culture as is Ken Jennings, and yes, he makes good use of that in his book. These asides are little rewards for the reader, especially if they know their pop culture. He is very gifted as a writer and his book was a fascinating and entertaining read. Incidentally, in my journey through the book, it got me started on Geocaching and the books of his former college roommate Brandon Sanderson.

Today, when I finished the book, I went down in my basement and brought up my old atlas to share my love of maps with my four year-old daughter. Maybe she'll end up going to the Geography Bee too someday.
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message 1: by Tom (new) - rated it 4 stars

Tom Emory Jr. Wonderful review, Scott. The day after I finished "Maphead" I made sure I used a U.S. map placemat for my 4 1/2-year-old granddaughter's breakfast, carefully noting to her that her milk was on the states of Oregon and Washington, her fork was along the Eastern seaboard and her knife and spoon were placed over California. Who knows? Maybe this is how an appreciation of maps begins.


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