2019 Holiday Gift Guide

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 and would like your broad hints to have something to link to—this guide may give you some ideas.

As before, this guide is organized loosely by theme. Its focus is on books of interest to the general reader: even though a lot of good academic work was published this year, it’s not the sort of thing to put under the tree. I’ve been maintaining a somewhat more complete list of books published over the year at the Map Books of 2019 page.

Also, this is not a list of recommendations: I haven’t even seen most of the books on this list, much less reviewed them (this has not been a good year for my reviewing). These are simply books that, based on the information available, seem fit for giving as gifts.

Travel and Tourism

Two books published this year explore the ways in which maps have been used to promote travel and tourism, and in the process collect a number of stunning examples. Airline Maps: A Century of Art and Design (Particular Books/Penguin), Mark Ovenden and Maxwell Roberts’s book about the history of the airline map, collects many examples of network maps as advertising (see blog post). In The Map Tour: A History of Tourism Told through Rare Maps (André Deutsch), Hugh Thomson explores the evolution of tourism through maps dating from the late 1600s to the present day.

Historical Maps of Cities

Three books explore the history of London and Boston through maps. Charles Booth’s London Poverty Maps (Thames & Hudson) bundles Charles Booth’s detailed maps of poverty and social class in late 19th-century London with a ton of additional contemporary and modern material (see blog post). In The A to Z History of London (Collins), Philip Parker looks at the last century of maps in London (see blog post). And The Atlas of Boston History (University of Chicago Press), edited by Boston historian Nancy Seasholes, is a modern historical atlas that traces the city’s history from the post-glacial period to the present day (see blog post).

Unusual and Nonexistent Places

Over the past few years, books collecting unusual and nonexistent places have been making regular appearances: the 2017 gift guide listed four such books. For 2019 we have two more examples of the genre, and some overlap in remit is inevitable. Dirk Liesemer’s Phantom Islands (Haus), now translated into English, explores thirty islands that turned out not to exist. It’s in the same vein as Alastair Bonnett’s Beyond the Map or Edward Brooke-Hitching’s Phantom Atlas. And The Atlas of Unusual Borders (Collins), Zoran Nikolic’s compendium of anomalous borders, enclaves and other illogical frontiers, mines the same vein as Malachy Tallack’s 2016 book, The Un-Discovered Islands.

Celestial Maps

I love astronomy. I love old maps. Three books this year cover both those obsessions with heavily illustrated collections of celestial cartography from across the centuries. Let’s start with Edward Brooke-Hitching’s latest, The Sky Atlas (Simon & Schuster UK): it’s out in the U.K. only for now; the North American edition will be released in February 2020. There’s also Elena Percivaldi’s Celestial Atlas (White Star), which covers celestial cartography from the 16th to the 19th centuries. The third edition of Nick Kanas’s Star Maps: History, Artistry and Cartography (Springer Praxis) was also released this year (I have the first edition).

World Atlases

A nice world atlas can make an awfully nice gift, and there’s usually a new atlas published just in time for that.

This year, that new atlas is the eleventh edition of the National Geographic Atlas of the World. I’m fond of the National Geographic, and own two editions of it myself: the National Geographic house style is at the very least unique among world atlases. It’s also the biggest and the most expensive ($215/£170) of the atlases out there, topping even the Times Comprehensive, ($200/£150), whose latest edition came out last year (see my review) and is still an option.

Other than that, the Oxford Atlas of the World ($90) has its annual update, and two smaller and more affordable members of the Times line of atlases got updated this year: the Universal ($50/£80) and the Desktop ($35/£20). (See blog post.)

Something Else

If you’re looking for something more academic or specialized, check out the  Map Books of 2019 page. Or take a look at the 2018 or 2017 guides: just because something came out more than a year ago doesn’t mean it’s not viable as a gift.

(Note that as an Amazon Associate, I earn income from qualifying purchases made via these links.)

Author: Jonathan Crowe

Jonathan Crowe blogs about maps at The Map Room. His nonfiction has been published by AE, The New York Review of Science Fiction, the Ottawa Citizen and Tor.com. His sf fanzine, Ecdysis, was a two-time Aurora Award finalist.