Review: Map Addict

Map Addict: A Tale of Obsession, Fudge and the Ordnance Survey
by Mike Parker
Collins, 2009. Hardcover, 330 pp. ISBN 978-0-00-730084-6

Book cover: Map Addict It’s very easy for me to like Map Addict — and not just because its author, travel writer Mike Parker, calls The Map Room “one of the finest map blogs on the Internet” on page 324. Which makes it very awkward for me to say nice things about this book (good thing I paid for my copy myself instead of receiving a review copy).

It’s clear from the outset that Parker is a kindred spirit: he opens by confessing to be so obsessed by maps that he nicked Ordnance Survey maps from the local store. From there, he launches into an ADHD-esque romp through one map-related subject after another — from the origins of the Ordnance survey to his dismissal of GPS navigation systems, in a chapter called “Pratnav.” There’s a chapter on borders, exclaves and enclaves — the little niggly bits that mess up otherwise clean lines on a map. There’s also a bit on map use and gender, and another on naughty bits on the map. It’s a bit of an unfocused mess, of sorts, but it’s a fun mess, and Parker’s enthusiasm is both obvious and relentless. I don’t think I’ve ever been so entertained reading a book about maps.

Much of what he covers is familiar territory — in fact, I couldn’t help but feel that I was somehow reading the archives of my own blog in narrative form. If I’ve covered a British topic on The Map Room, it’s almost certainly in Map Addict. Familiar personalities make their appearances: John Bartholomew, Phyllis Pearsall, Mary Spence, Harry Beck, William Roy, Alfred Wainwright. It’s quite britannocentric (I can’t say anglocentric: Wales and Scotland are given their due), above and beyond his excessive, even fetishistic fondness for the Ordnance Survey and his dismissal of the Survey’s French counterpart. If you’re indifferent to the U.K., or maps thereof, you may find Map Addict a little disappointing. The rest of us will have tremendous fun.

Previously: Map Addict.