Sunday 24 December 2017

Guest Review: Map Addict by Mike Parker

Another in my series of guest reviews of non-fiction titles...

'My name is Mike and I am a map addict. There, it's said…'
Maps not only show the world, they help it turn. On an average day, we will consult some form of map approximately a dozen times, often without even noticing: checking the A-Z, the road atlas or the Sat Nav, scanning the tube or bus map, a quick Google online or hours wasted flying over a virtual Earth, navigating a way around a shopping centre, watching the weather forecast, planning a walk or a trip, catching up on the news, booking a holiday or hotel. Maps pepper logos, advertisements, illustrations, books, web pages and newspaper and magazine articles: they are a cipher for every area of human existence. At a stroke, they convey precise information about topography, layout, history, politics and power. They are the unsung heroes of life: Map Addict sings their song.
There are some fine, dry tomes out there about the history and development of cartography: this is not one of them. Map Addict mixes wry observation with hard fact and considerable research, unearthing the offbeat, the unusual and the downright pedantic in a celebration of all things maps. In Map Addict, we learn the location of what has officially been named by the OS as the most boring square kilometre in the land; we visit the town fractured into dozens of little parcels of land split between two different countries and trek around many other weird borders of Britain and Europe; we test the theories that the new city of Milton Keynes was built to a pagan alignment and that women can't read maps. Combining history, travel, politics, memoir and oblique observation in a highly readable, and often very funny, style, Mike Parker confesses how his own impressive map collection was founded on a virulent teenage shoplifting habit, ponders how a good leftie can be so gung-ho about British cartographic imperialism and wages a one-man war against the moronic blandishments of the Sat Nav age.

Review: This, as its name suggests, is a book about maps and the collecting of maps, which has been a passion of the author, Mike Parker, since his childhood. This book pre-dates another book, "The Wild Rover", by the same writer. After finishing reading "The Wild Rover", I decided to re-read "Map Addict". Although the two books are on different subjects, there are similarities between them, most notably the author's love of the countryside.

Mike Parker is a passionate champion of British maps and of the Ordnance Survey, the government department that produces maps. The first chapter of the book describes the richness of the countryside of the British Isles and the excellence of British cartography. Subsequent chapters deal with such diverse subjects as the history of the Ordnance Survey; the establishment of the Greenwich Meridian as the prime meridian; the way men and women allegedly read maps differently; and the merits, or otherwise, of satellite navigation systems (satnavs).

I found this book very readable and enjoyed the humour throughout. Like the author I too was given the task of navigating journeys when my father first bought a car, and I still like, when a passenger in a car, to follow the route on a map or road atlas.

To order your copy now, just click the link: UK or US

1 comment:

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