Two thumbs up for Maphead by Ken Jennings. Nonfiction.
This book brought me so much joy. Not only did it reinvigorate my childhood love of maps and geography, but the chapter about fantasy world maps directly led to the inclusion of a map in my own book. (Maphead‘s author, Jeopardy champion Ken Jennings, used to be roommates with Brandon Sanderson – what a household that must have been!) If you like maps, treasure hunts, quirky collectors, harmlessly insane hobbies, road travel, interesting facts, or any of the above, I highly recommend it.
Boundary lines can arouse stronger feelings than perhaps any other feature on a map. Marking property was the purpose of many of the earliest surviving maps, and boundary markers–piles of rocks, for example, the human equivalent of a dog peeing on a tree–probably go back millennia earlier. In medieval Europe, the surveyor was a hated figure, something like “revenuer” in mountain moonshiner lore: a corrupt lackey always looking to stick it to poor farmers. His new map might take away part of your field, or it might raise your rent or your taxes. In Poland, surveyors were so dreaded that even death couldn’t end their menace. The flickering lights of swamp gas–what we call will-o’-the-wisps–were said to be the ghosts of dead mapmakers wandering the marsh by night. Better finish your cabbage, kids, or the surveyors will come and get you!
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