2016 Holiday Gift Guide: Books

Every year at about this time I post a gift guide that lists some of the noteworthy books about maps that have been published this year. If you have a map-obsessed person in your life and would like to give them something map-related—or you are a map-obsessed person—this guide may give you some ideas.

This year, as you will see, I’ve organized the books by theme: we have five atlases of unusual and non-existent places, several colouring books, and a large number of historical map collections, among other books.

This is by no means a complete list of what’s been published in 2016. The Map Books of 2016 page includes many, many other books that might also suggest themselves as gift possibilities.

Atlases of the Unusual and Non-Existent

Books that call themselves atlases, but really aren’t, are thick on the ground this year: these are illustrated compendiums of fascinating, unusual or simply made-up places around the world. In The Spectator, Alex Burghart looks at three of themAtlas Obscura (which I reviewed here), Edward Brooke-Hitching’s Phantom Atlas, and Travis Elborough’s Atlas of Improbable Places. To which I’d add Aude de Tocqueville’s Atlas of Lost Cities, a catalogue of abandoned places that came out last April, and Malachy Tallack’s Un-Discovered Islands.

Children, crafts and colo(u)ring Books

Colouring books (or, if you’re American, coloring books) have been all the rage lately, and the past year has seen several such books with maps as their subject matter: A-Z Maps came out of the gate early back in October 2015, with Maps: A Colouring Book. Since then, we’ve seen Gretchen Peterson’s City Maps: A Coloring Book for Adults, the Ordnance Survey’s Great British Colouring Map, and the re-emergence of William Hole’s 17th-century illustrations of Michael Drayton’s poetry, repackaged as a 21st-century colouring book called Albion’s Glorious Ile—which is available both as a single volume and pamphlet-sized sections.

If colouring books aren’t for kids any more, but you’re looking for something child-sized, consider Justin Miles’s Ultimate Mapping Guide for Kids.

If making art is your thing, but you’re not so much about the colouring books, look at Jill Berry’s latest book on personal mapmaking, Making Art From Maps.

Historical Maps

These books explore some aspect of old and historical cartography. (Maps of the 20th Century and Great Britain get their own sections, below.) Cartographic Japan is a collection of essays exploring Japanese maps from the late 1500s. China at the Center (reviewed here) accompanies an exhibition of two pivotal Chinese world maps. Great City Maps collects historical and contemporary city maps. Jeremy Black’s Maps of War is a history of war cartography. Treasures from the Map Room is a diverse sampling of the Bodleian Library’s extensive cartographic holdings (I’m currently working on a review).

The Twentieth Century

Art, marketing and propaganda meet in the 20th Century. Paul Jarvis’s Mapping the Airways draws from the British Airways archives to provide a history of aeronautical cartography. War Map is the companion volume to an exhibition of pictorial conflict maps that wrapped up earlier this month. And speaking of companion volumes, don’t forget the big one: Maps and the 20th Century: Drawing the Line accompanies the British Library’s current map exhibition.

Great Britain in Maps

Old maps of Britain, particularly at the city and county level, continue to find a renewed existence in book form. Birlinn continues its line of regional atlases of historical maps with Oxford: Mapping the City and Scotland: Mapping the Islands. Also seeing print this year was Somerset Mapped and a reprint collection of John Speed’s county maps called Britain’s Tudor Maps.

New York, New York: Maps and the City

New York City is the subject of two new books in which art, story and cartography intersect: Katherine Harmon’s third volume of map art, You Are Here: NYC: Mapping the Soul of the City; and Rebecca Solnit’s third city atlas, Nonstop Metropolis. (A review of You Are Here: NYC is forthcoming.)

Data into Maps

Where the Animals Go provides beautiful maps of animal tracking data, People and Places is a human atlas of the United Kingdom, and Speaking American maps the American vernacular: “who says what, and where they say it.”

World Atlases

When it comes to big, satisfying world atlases, the most recent to come out are the Oxford Atlas of the World, which is updated every year, and the Times Concise Atlas of the World. The Concise is the second-largest of the Times world atlases: see the comparative chart. (The largest atlases—the Times Comprehensive and the National Geographic—were last revised in 2014.)

(Links go to Amazon. If you buy something, I get a cut.)

Iwan Bala’s Controversial Brexit Exhibition

iwan-balaRunning until 30 November at the Penarth Pier Pavilion in Penarth, Wales, Dyma Gariad (fel y moroedd)/Here is a love (deep as oceans) is an exhibition by Welsh artist Iwan Bala. It’s an angry, provocative collection of caricatures and maps about Brexit, from a strongly Remain perspective, done in a style described by the Penarth Times as “the rapid often stumbled, crossed out, corrected, blotted, re-adjusted rush to put thoughts on paper and the attempt of a poet to capture a line before it ebbs in the memory.” As the Pavilion describes the exhibition:

Responding to the result of the electorate’s vote on the UK’s EU membership, Bala began to make (alongside politicized ‘maps’), satirical caricatures of the principle [sic] players in the lead up to and result of Brexit. An Artist has a duty to comment, protest and become an agent provocateur through the medium of visual communication. Cartoons have a long and illustrious history, and have always lurked somewhere in the background environs of his artwork.

They may have been anticipating some pushback—the exhibition also had a content warning—and indeed the exhibition has gotten some angry responses sufficient that the Pavilion had to issue a statement defending their decision to host it. That alone tells me it was a success: art provokes. [WMS]

Missing Maps

Quartz takes a look at the Missing Maps project, which I suppose can best be described as a way to jumpstart mapping the unmapped developing regions of the world with OpenStreetMap. What’s interesting about Missing Maps is how it systematically deals out tasks to people best able to do them: remote volunteers trace imagery, community volunteers do the tagging and labelling. There’s even an app, MapSwipe, that gives its users “the ability to swipe through satellite images and indicate if they contain features like houses, roads or paths. These are then forwarded onto Missing Maps for precise marking of these features.” [WMS]

Great Circles in Cardboard

The Global Map (The Global Map Company, 1940). David Rumsey Map Collection.
The Global Map (The Global Map Company, ca. 1940). David Rumsey Map Collection.

The Global Map is a neat toy from the 1940s. The whole thing is just under one by two feet in area, and consists of two rotating hemispheres that touch at a single point, with the purpose of showing the shortest distance by air or sea between two points—a quick and dirty way of showing a great-circle route with a bit of cardboard and no math. From the David Rumsey Map Collection. [Maps on the Web]

Where the Animals Go

From James Cheshire and Oliver Uberti, Where the Animals Go (Particular Books, 2016), pp. 100-101.

Co-authored by James Cheshire and Oliver Uberti, Where the Animals Go: Tracking Wildlife with Technology in 50 Maps and Graphics (Particular Books, 2016) is a book of maps by wild animals. It’s a compendium of tracking data from field biologists’ research projects, ably curated and turned into some spectacular maps (if the excerpts on the authors’ website are any indication). Greg has written a piece at All Over the Map.

where-the-animals-goWhere the Animals Go is available now in the U.K.; the U.S. edition comes out in September 2017.

Cheshire and Uberti first teamed up to produce London: The Information Capital (2014), which should be out in paperback any time now.

3D Election Maps

Mapping U.S. election results by county and state is a bit different than mapping results by electoral or congressional district, because counties and states don’t have (roughly) equal populations. Choropleth maps are often used to show the margin of victory, but to show the raw vote total, some election cartographers are going 3D.


Max Galka of Metrocosm has created an interactive 3D map of county-level results (above) using his Blueshift tool. The resulting map, called a prism map, uses height to show the number of votes cast in each county.

Here’s a similar 3D interactive map, but using state-level rather than county-level data, by Sketchfab member f3cr204. [Maps on the Web]

Globemaking Films

This short film on globemaking from 1955 has been making the social media rounds:

Compare it to this short film from 1949:

It’s nearly identical in its turns of phrase and factoids, though there are slightly different emphases. Though the firm is unnamed, it’s clearly the same one: it’s even the same guy doing the varnishing.

These films fascinate me because they describe a kind of globemaking—layers of plaster, paper globe gores, and varnish—that I don’t think happens any more. There are some similarities to Bellerby’s globemaking methods, but Bellerby’s underlying globe isn’t a plaster shell. And most of us don’t have the money for a Bellerby globe: if we have a globe, it’s almost certainly a Replogle. As this short video from the Chicago History Museum reveals, Replogle’s globes are a combination of paper, cardboard and glue:

Migrations in Motion


Migrations in Motion models the average directions wildlife will need to move in order to survive the effects of climate change. As Canadian Geographic explains, “As climate change disrupts habitats, researchers believe wildlife will instinctively migrate to higher elevations and latitudes, but for many species, that will mean navigating around, over or through human settlements and infrastructure.” The map, the design of which is modeled on the hint.fm wind map, covers both North and South America and does not purport to model the path of individual species; rather it’s an average based on computer modelling.

The New York Times Maps the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election

The New York Times

The New York Times has a first-rate graphics department, and they’ve come up with some stunning ways to depict the 2016 U.S. presidential election results. They updated their maps of so-called “landslide counties” (see previous entry), which was straightforward enough. Their feature on how Trump reshaped the election map, with arrows showing the county-by-county swing (red and to the right for Trump, blue and to the left for Clinton), was unexpectedly good. But their maps of the Two Americas (above), imagining Trump’s America and Clinton’s America as separate countries, with bodies of water replacing the areas won by their opponents—Trump’s America is nibbled at the edges by coastlines and pockmarked by lakes; Clinton’s is an archipelago—is quite simply a work of art. Incredible, incredible work.

U.S. Presidential Election Cartogram


I’ve delayed posting maps of the 2016 U.S. presidential election results because—well, because like many of you I’m still recovering. But here we go. We’ll start with Benjamin Hennig’s cartogram of the results which, as cartograms tend to do, correct for the urban concentrations that made up Hillary Clinton’s vote, and demonstrate the rural nature of Donald Trump’s support. See it at Geographical magazine and Hennig’s website.