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How to Lie with Maps

3.58  ·  Rating details ·  711 ratings  ·  89 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
Paperback, 207 pages
Published May 1st 1996 by University of Chicago Press (first published 1991)
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Oct 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The phrase "photo shopped" or "photoshopped" has crept into our daily life. It comes from the software titled Photoshop that allow manipulation of an original photo. When used pejoratively, it means that someone has tried to fool us by changing the image that we perceive.

Maps, as graphic material, can also be used for similar ill-purposes. The way a map displays information can distort either the original data or lead the unwary to false conclusions. Some of the chapter titles:
Maps that
Nov 27, 2013 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some interesting examples of cases in which maps had been manipulated for all sorts of reasons, but the book is very outdated.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 ...more
Sep 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A lovely little book, a faux primer on how to fool the gullible with different tricks of the cartographers art and actually a guide on how not to get fooled by the same. Monmonier makes the point that all maps are compromises, that many contain errors and more than a few are produced for specific ends--sell a development project in Ethiopia, housing estate a flood plain or a war in Iraq.

Seems simple and the first chapter can be skipped by those who--unlike me-- recall their grammar school
Shane Parrish
Nov 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book is a concrete explanation of how the representation of a thing can differ wildly from the thing itself. We all use some form of map practically every day, but we can forget that maps are made by fallible humans. As a result, they can be manipulated with ease to create particular impressions of the world. How to Lie with Maps will arm you with the knowledge necessary to recognize the ways in which the maps you use may be distorting your perspective.
Jun 08, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
A bit outdated, but this book still gives a nice insight into the choices mapmakers face. Especially the chapter about map making programms was very outdated, because a lot of the things mentioned as maybe possible in the future are very common nowadays, such as interactive maps.

The book explains those choices in several chapters explainign as well what can go wrong and how mapmakers can use those choices to give a certain idea of an area. I like maps and geography a lot, so the book was
Margaret Sankey
Jul 31, 2015 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.
Sep 15, 2010 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 ...more
Michael Scott
Jul 13, 2009 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
Jeff Aldrich
Dec 03, 2009 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!
Aug 16, 2012 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.
Justin Gilstrap
Apr 09, 2013 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 ...more
Oct 03, 2009 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.
Matthew Selvaggio
Jun 24, 2009 rated it liked it
Everything I learned about Geography was a lie.
Sherry Schwabacher
Jul 15, 2014 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.

Erika RS
Nov 03, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: kindle
Note: I bought the second edition of this book before the 22-year-more-recent 3rd edition was released -- which I did not learn existed until I was all but done with the 2nd edition (thanks Amazon?). However, I had access to the 3rd edition through Scribd, so I read the updated last three chapters. I did lightly skim the earlier chapters and they looked mostly unchanged. So this review will be mostly of the 2nd edition, but I will say something about the new chapters of the 3rd edition.

Aug 06, 2017 rated it liked it
The case for Mark Monmonier’s How to Lie with Maps as a 4 or 5 star read is defensible. The non-professional cartographer will have little problem reading it and it does have good information. The very first sentence is “Not only is it easy to lie with maps, it is essential”; so maybe it was never intended to be sensational. The intended reader is a novice map maker or someone with a casual interest in making or reading maps. If you have had any training, much of it will be review.

The first 45
Daniel Morgan
Jan 25, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: geology
This was a clear, enjoyable book about the use of white lies, propaganda, subtle manipulation, and other distortions of the truth in map-making. The beginning of the book focuses on the basic fact that all maps, to be effective, need to lie - it is impossible to faithfully project a 3-D world on a flat surface, and it is impossible to record every possible detail of real life onto a map. The book describes basic visual variables and the common generalizations (smoothing, selection, displacement, ...more
Nov 17, 2018 rated it it was ok
Sharp and readable, but shockingly outdated. It hadn't occured to me when I picked it up, since the book was only written in the 90s (practically yesterday!), but it might as well have been a century ago. The discussion of errors in maps spends a great deal of time on ink transfer; color is assumed to be a luxury, computers are treated somewhat dismissively, and much of the treatment of the logistics of map production is by now hopelessly outdated, along with many of its assumptions about (for ...more
Oct 01, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: urban-studies
This was a very interesting read; I added it to my list after hearing Alex Hill mention it in a talk on mapping. Having no real background in geography/cartography, I felt like it was written at a level I could (mostly) understand.

It was originally published in the early 90s and the focus of the book is primarily on print maps. This latest edition (I should note I haven't read any of the earlier versions) has updated the content with some discussion of digital mapping, including a few new
Sep 23, 2018 rated it it was ok
I had Prof. Monmonier as a teacher while taking geography courses at Syracuse University. While I passed his course in cartography I was totally confused at the time on the process that he described for turning data into a physical map. I felt the same way in reading his descriptions of the interpretation of data and the use of colors in developing maps. I also totally agree with other reviewers that the graphics in this book leave MUCH to be desired. In the words of one reviewer the graphics “ ...more
Oct 29, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Although this engaging and readable book has often been used as a college-level textbook, author Monmonier envisions his target audience as "the intelligent lay reader who is curious about maps." His discussions range from why some things need to be deliberately fudged during mapmaking (e.g., a roadmap, for clarity, usually portrays roads as much wider than they actually are) to exposing how maps can be deliberately falsified or act as propaganda for organizations, corporations, or governments. ...more
Jan 05, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: gis, cartography
Inspired by the book "How to Lie with Statistics" Monmonier explores how maps can be used to either enhance understanding to warp it. He explores topics such as projection, color use, iconography and inclusion/omission decisions.

He's right in that all maps must lie to a certain extent. How much detail and what detail should be included in any map is subjective and a slave to its author's goals. The informed map reader must be aware that bias, and sometimes downright prejudice, play a role in
Lucas Nunno
Nov 02, 2019 rated it it was ok
In a word: antiquated. Even with the allegedly updated third edition of the book, most of the examples are about drawing maps with pen and paper, something that isn't done often in this day and age. The examples of lying with maps are also often pretty elementary -- such as a map maker adding places that don't exist or low resolution satellite images. Not very compelling to read about and there aren't good strategies mentioned for mitigating these "lies". There are some interesting thoughts on ...more
Jan 05, 2018 rated it did not like it
Shelves: abandoned
A massive map nerd, every time I see this title I think I want to read it. I've picked it up from the library and started it a couple times, but just can't seem to get through it.

Part of the problem is that, despite being an 'updated' second edition, it's now 20 years old, and it shows--I might give this another shot in a newer edition. (Preferably one with a professional illustrator. The graphics in this edition are atrocious.)
Jacob Wall
Apr 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A classic, if a bit dated, read for anyone interested in making or using maps. While there have been significant changes in GIS and cartographic technology and methods since this book's publication, the lessons Monmonier present within still ring true. In fact, in many ways I think the lessons provided within are perhaps even more relevant in 2018, as the ability to to access geospatial data and make maps has become even more accessible and common place to people.
Margo Berendsen
Apr 24, 2018 rated it really liked it
I knew all the basics about how maps white lie, i.e. projections, generalizations, aggregations, classifications, but this book did a thoughtful job of discussing even more ripe opportunities for misrepresentation, including my favorite part, the propaganda maps.

I would love to see this book updated with better quality maps and graphics but I no complaint about my favorite (tongue in cheek) map in the book, a Nazi propaganda map where the country of Germany is completely isolated, a single
♠ Tabi ♠
Jul 10, 2019 marked it as to-read
"Not only is it easy to lie with maps it is ESSENTIAL."


I'm 100% certain that misunderstanding this title and the above first-sentence was NOT the intention of my parents raising me with an understanding of biblical Old English . . .
Matthew Rohn
Jan 14, 2019 rated it it was ok
A bunch of good info in here but also plenty of redundant and extraneous stuff, and pretty much everything related to computers and mapping is incredibly outdated. Portions are a good primer if you haven't seen any map memes but not much beyond that
Sep 05, 2019 rated it really liked it
good book but outdated in some parts. basic principles of map design still apply though
May 25, 2017 rated it it was ok
The title was much more provocative than the contents. Map making and data visualizations involve lots of trade-offs, I wouldn't call these lies. Especially not in 2017
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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