Charting the Wide, Weird World of Geography Wonks

By Ken Jennings

Scribner Book Company, Hardcover, 9781439167175, 276pp.

Publication Date: September 20, 2011


It comes as no surprise that, as a kid, Jeopardy! legend Ken Jennings slept with a bulky Hammond world atlas by his pillow every night. Maphead recounts his lifelong love affair with geography and explores why maps have always been so fascinating to him and to fellow enthusiasts everywhere.

Jennings takes readers on a world tour of geogeeks from the London Map Fair to the bowels of the Library of Congress, from the prepubescent geniuses at the National Geographic Bee to the computer programmers at Google Earth. Each chapter delves into a different aspect of map culture: highpointing, geocaching, road atlas rallying, even the “unreal estate” charted on the maps of fiction and fantasy. He also considers the ways in which cartography has shaped our history, suggesting that the impulse to make and read maps is as relevant today as it has ever been.


From the “Here be dragons” parchment maps of the Age of Discovery to the spinning globes of grade school to the postmodern revolution of digital maps and GPS, Maphead is filled with intriguing details, engaging anecdotes, and enlightening analysis. If you’re an inveterate map lover yourself—or even if you’re among the cartographically clueless who can get lost in a supermarket—let Ken Jennings be your guide to the strange world of mapheads.

About the Author
Ken Jennings Ph.D. is a senior partner at VentureWorks and is a former codirector of the Global Leadership Program at the University of Michigan Business School. He also currently serves as managing partner at Third River Partners, a consultancy that specializes in leadership development and strategy execution and was formerly a managing partner at Accenture in change management.

Praise For Maphead

“Jennings is a very witty, insightful writer and has written an entertaining and educational book about maps and the geeks who obsess over them.” —Pauline Frommer, travel writer and founding editor of

“It’s a fun read that’s not just for wonks.” —The Salt Lake Tribune

“[A] spirited layman’s history of cartography.” ­—Harpers

Wednesday, Sep 21, 2011

Former Jeopardy! champ Ken Jennings charts what he calls "the wide, weird world of geography" in his latest book, Maphead. He profiles Google Maps engineers, geocachers, imaginary mapmakers, map collectors, geography bee contestants and "road geeks." More at

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