100 books like The Story of Maps

By Lloyd A. Brown,

Here are 100 books that The Story of Maps fans have personally recommended if you like The Story of Maps. Shepherd is a community of 11,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of The Imaginative Landscape of Christopher Columbus

Toby Lester Author Of The Fourth Part of the World: An Astonishing Epic of Global Discovery, Imperial Ambition, and the Birth of America

From my list on geographical ideas behind the age of discovery.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a writer and an editor with eclectic interests. I’ve published two books of popular history—Da Vinci's Ghost (2012), about Leonardo da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man, and The Fourth Part of the World (2009), about the map that gave America its name. I’ve also written extensively for national publications on such topics as the sociology of new religious movements, privacy protection in the Internet age, the Voynich manuscript, the revisionist study of the Qur’an, the revival of ancient Greek music, and alphabet reform in Azerbaijan. I’m presently a senior editor at the Harvard Business Review and a contributing editor at The Atlantic. From 1988-1990, I served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Yemen.

Toby's book list on geographical ideas behind the age of discovery

Toby Lester Why did Toby love this book?

This is a lapidary introduction to the stories and ideas that prompted Columbus to sail away from Europe into the Atlantic in search of a direct sea route to Asia—and that determined how he interpreted what he came across after making landfall in the Americas. In just 200 pages, Flint nimbly covers all sorts of material: Christian theories of cosmology and eschatology; medieval conceptions of geography; the travel stories of St. Brendan, Sinbad the Sailor, Sir John Mandeville, and Marco Polo; the books that Columbus read, and the notes he made in them to himself; and more. In doing so, she reanimates a fascinating landscape of the imagination.

By Valerie Irene Jane Flint,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Imaginative Landscape of Christopher Columbus as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Rather than focusing on the well-rehearsed facts of Columbus's achievements in the New World, Valerie Flint looks instead at his imaginative mental images, the powerful "fantasies" that gave energy to his endeavors in the Renaissance. With him on his voyages into the unknown, he carried medieval notions gleaned from a Mediterranean tradition of tall tales about the sea, from books he had read, and from the mappae-mundi, splendid schematic maps with fantastic inhabitants. After investigating these sources of Columbus's views, Flint explains how the content of his thinking influenced his reports on his discoveries. Finally, she argues that problems besetting…


Book cover of The Tropics of Empire: Why Columbus Sailed South to the Indies

Toby Lester Author Of The Fourth Part of the World: An Astonishing Epic of Global Discovery, Imperial Ambition, and the Birth of America

From my list on geographical ideas behind the age of discovery.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a writer and an editor with eclectic interests. I’ve published two books of popular history—Da Vinci's Ghost (2012), about Leonardo da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man, and The Fourth Part of the World (2009), about the map that gave America its name. I’ve also written extensively for national publications on such topics as the sociology of new religious movements, privacy protection in the Internet age, the Voynich manuscript, the revisionist study of the Qur’an, the revival of ancient Greek music, and alphabet reform in Azerbaijan. I’m presently a senior editor at the Harvard Business Review and a contributing editor at The Atlantic. From 1988-1990, I served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Yemen.

Toby's book list on geographical ideas behind the age of discovery

Toby Lester Why did Toby love this book?

When the story of Christopher Columbus gets told, it’s typically as a tale of his having sailed west to get quickly to the east. But in this gorgeously produced, exhaustively researched study, Nicolás Wey-Gómez argues that to understand Columbus and his story properly, you have to understand it as a story about voyages to the south. Columbus inherited a powerful set of assumptions about the nature and peoples found in southern latitudes, and it’s those assumptions, Wey-Gómez contends, that allowed Columbus and the many Europeans that followed him to the New World to justify their various colonial enterprises.

By Nicolás Wey Gómez,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Tropics of Empire as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A radical revision of the geographical history of the discovery of the Americas that links Columbus's southbound route with colonialism, slavery, and today's divide between the industrialized North and the developing South.

Everyone knows that in 1492 Christopher Columbus sailed west across the Atlantic, seeking a new route to the East. Few note, however, that Columbus's intention was also to sail south, to the tropics. In The Tropics of Empire, Nicolás Wey Gómez rewrites the geographical history of the discovery of the Americas, casting it as part of Europe's reawakening to the natural and human resources of the South. Wey…


Book cover of Ptolemy’s Geography in the Renaissance

Toby Lester Author Of The Fourth Part of the World: An Astonishing Epic of Global Discovery, Imperial Ambition, and the Birth of America

From my list on geographical ideas behind the age of discovery.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a writer and an editor with eclectic interests. I’ve published two books of popular history—Da Vinci's Ghost (2012), about Leonardo da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man, and The Fourth Part of the World (2009), about the map that gave America its name. I’ve also written extensively for national publications on such topics as the sociology of new religious movements, privacy protection in the Internet age, the Voynich manuscript, the revisionist study of the Qur’an, the revival of ancient Greek music, and alphabet reform in Azerbaijan. I’m presently a senior editor at the Harvard Business Review and a contributing editor at The Atlantic. From 1988-1990, I served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Yemen.

Toby's book list on geographical ideas behind the age of discovery

Toby Lester Why did Toby love this book?

In the first century A.D., the ancient Greek polymath Claudius Ptolemy produced a work known today simply as the Geography. Ptolemy described the world as the Greeks and Romans knew it at the time—and he did so using latitude and longitude. The Geography largely disappeared from view in Europe during the Middle Ages, as did latitude and longitude on maps, but in the early 1400s the humanists of Florence rediscovered and revived the work, in ways that dramatically improved their understanding of the ancient world and their ability to explore and map it in the present. Shalev and Burnett present a set of scholarly essays that trace the history and the influence of the Geography during that momentous century.

By Zur Shalev, Charles Burnett,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Ptolemy’s Geography in the Renaissance as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The rediscovery of Ptolemy’s Geography has long been hailed as a key moment in the emergence of Renaissance culture, symbolizing a new rational spatiality, and preparing the way for the Age of Discovery. And yet, the process of the Geography’s introduction, integration and impact in western Europe, as the essays in this volume collectively suggest, was more complex and less predictable than has been traditionally assumed. Whereas previously Ptolemy’s maps attracted most scholarly attention, in this volume the textual tradition of the Geography – Ptolemy’s text, added prefaces, annotations and treatises – stand at the centre. Bringing together a wealth…


Book cover of The History of Cartography, Volume 3: Cartography in the European Renaissance

Toby Lester Author Of The Fourth Part of the World: An Astonishing Epic of Global Discovery, Imperial Ambition, and the Birth of America

From my list on geographical ideas behind the age of discovery.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a writer and an editor with eclectic interests. I’ve published two books of popular history—Da Vinci's Ghost (2012), about Leonardo da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man, and The Fourth Part of the World (2009), about the map that gave America its name. I’ve also written extensively for national publications on such topics as the sociology of new religious movements, privacy protection in the Internet age, the Voynich manuscript, the revisionist study of the Qur’an, the revival of ancient Greek music, and alphabet reform in Azerbaijan. I’m presently a senior editor at the Harvard Business Review and a contributing editor at The Atlantic. From 1988-1990, I served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Yemen.

Toby's book list on geographical ideas behind the age of discovery

Toby Lester Why did Toby love this book?

You won’t be curling up in bed with this two-volume, 2,272-page encyclopedic history of cartography in the European Renaissance—but if you’ve got a passion for maps, or if you want the most comprehensive source of information on the cartography of the period, it’s a delightful and even essential work to consult. The essays are diverse and deeply informative, and the reproductions, including 80 gorgeous color plates, are a treat to spend time with.

By David Woodward,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The History of Cartography, Volume 3 as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

When the University of Chicago Press launched the land-mark "History of Cartography" series nearly thirty years ago, founding editors J. B. Harley and David Woodward hoped to create a new basis for map history. They did not, however, anticipate the larger renaissance in map studies that the series would inspire. But as the renown of the series and the comprehensiveness and acuity of the present two-part volume demonstrate, the history of cartography has proven to be unexpectedly fertile ground. "Cartography in the European Renaissance" treats the period from 1450 to 1650, long considered the most important in the history of…


Book cover of Mapping an Empire: The Geographical Construction of British India, 1765-1843

Pamela K. Gilbert Author Of Mapping the Victorian Social Body

From my list on how epidemics relate to bigger narratives.

Why am I passionate about this?

I began college as a science major, but then switched to literature from a minor to my major. In graduate school, as I worked on my dissertation (which became my first book), I found that metaphors of the body and health were everywhere in the literary field in the mid-nineteenth century. Suffice it to say that the sciences, including the rapid development of modern medicine, are both fundamental to this period and deeply shape its literary culture. In Mapping the Victorian Social Body, I became fascinated with the history of data visualization. Disease mapping completely transformed the ways we understand space and how our bodies exist within it.

Pamela's book list on how epidemics relate to bigger narratives

Pamela K. Gilbert Why did Pamela love this book?

A wonderful book on how techniques of mapping were central to the construction of both the empire and of an emerging idea of “India” as a coherent space. I love the way it clearly lays out how mapping is never simply an innocent process of measuring or describing something that exists out in the world, but is always a process of constructing that reality. And it is an essential part of the history of India, as well as the British empire. 

By Matthew H. Edney,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Mapping an Empire as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In this history of the British surveys of India, focusing especially on the Great Trigonometrical Survey (GTS) undertaken by the British East India Company, the author relates how imperial Britain employed modern scientific survey techniques not only to create and define the spacial inmage of its Indian empire, but also to legitimate its colonialist activities as triumphs of liberal, rational science bringing "Civilisation" to irrational, mystical and despotic Indians. The reshaping of cartographic technologies in Europe into their modern form played a key role in the use of the GTS as an instrument of British cartographic control over India. In…


Book cover of The Sovereign Map: Theoretical Approaches in Cartography throughout History

Roberto Casati Author Of The Cognitive Life of Maps

From my list on navigating the age of maps.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have obsessed with maps my whole life, but I guess the main drive for studying them is my enjoyment of outdoor spaces, as a hiker, a mountaineer, and as a sailor: always with a paper map at hand. If you use GPS (a wonderful innovation) you will not only lose some of your precious orientation abilities but above all you will look less at the environment around you. I feel that paper maps do a great favor to my brain and to my enjoyment of places. The books below are a great tribute to maps; they helped me understand them better, and this affected the way I use them.

Roberto's book list on navigating the age of maps

Roberto Casati Why did Roberto love this book?

This is a super-authoritative book on the historical evolution of map-making by a renowned scholar of classics. It shows a surprising variety of maps from Antiquity to the present. Yet in this variety, Jacob is able to find important commonalities that help us understand what makes a map a map.

The take-home message for me has been that maps are engines of thought. By making a territory visible, they unleash a trove of otherwise unthinkable thoughts about it. 

By Christian Jacob, Tom Conley (translator), Edward H. Dahl (editor)

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Sovereign Map as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A novel work in the history of cartography, "The Sovereign Map" argues that maps are as much about thinking as seeing, as much about the art of persuasion as the science of geography. As a classicist, Christian Jacob brings a fresh eye to his subject - which includes maps from Greek Antiquity to the twentieth century - and provides a theoretical approach to investigating the power of maps to inform, persuade, and inspire the imagination. Beginning with a historical overview of maps and their creation - from those traced in the dirt by primitive hands to the monumental Dutch atlases…


Book cover of How Maps Work: Representation, Visualization, and Design

Roberto Casati Author Of The Cognitive Life of Maps

From my list on navigating the age of maps.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have obsessed with maps my whole life, but I guess the main drive for studying them is my enjoyment of outdoor spaces, as a hiker, a mountaineer, and as a sailor: always with a paper map at hand. If you use GPS (a wonderful innovation) you will not only lose some of your precious orientation abilities but above all you will look less at the environment around you. I feel that paper maps do a great favor to my brain and to my enjoyment of places. The books below are a great tribute to maps; they helped me understand them better, and this affected the way I use them.

Roberto's book list on navigating the age of maps

Roberto Casati Why did Roberto love this book?

If you draw a map, you have many choices of symbols, colors, types of lines, sizes of characters, and so on. We may think these are just arbitrary choices perpetuated by tradition, but MacEachren successfully shows that we better conceive of those items as solutions to communication problems in a subtle dialogue with the Gestalt requirements of visual perception. Not any symbol will do. The symbols must be fit for minds like ours.

I learned a lot from this visual approach to maps.

By Alan M. MacEachren,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked How Maps Work as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Now available in paperback for the first time, this classic work presents a cognitive-semiotic framework for understanding how maps work as powerful, abstract, and synthetic spatial representations. Explored are the ways in which the many representational choices inherent in mapping interact with information processing and knowledge construction, and how the resulting insights can be used to make informed symbolization and design decisions. A new preface to the paperback edition situates the book within the context of contemporary technologies. As the nature of maps continues to evolve, Alan MacEachren emphasizes the ongoing need to think systematically about the ways people interact…


Book cover of Cartography in the Twentieth Century

Jeremy Black Author Of Maps and History: Constructing Images of the Past

From my list on for people who love maps.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a historian fascinated with maps and geography, I have produced historical atlases on the world, Britain, war, cities, naval history, fortifications, and World War Two, as well as books on geopolitics and maps. I am an Emeritus Professor of History at the University of Exeter and a Senior Fellow of the Foreign Policy Research Institute and of Policy Exchange.

Jeremy's book list on for people who love maps

Jeremy Black Why did Jeremy love this book?

A blockbuster of a reference work, but also a vital tool for all those interested the history of maps and mapping. Part of a series that is at once majestic, handsome, and full of the detailed knowledge of scholarship.

By Mark Monmonier (editor),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Cartography in the Twentieth Century as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

For more than thirty years, the History of Cartography Project has charted the course for scholarship on cartography, bringing together research from a variety of disciplines on the creation, dissemination, and use of maps. Volume 6, Cartography in the Twentieth Century, continues this tradition with a groundbreaking survey of the century just ended and a new full-color, encyclopedic format. The twentieth century is a pivotal period in map history. The transition from paper to digital formats led to previously unimaginable dynamic and interactive maps. Geographic information systems radically altered cartographic institutions and reduced the skill required to create maps. Satellite…


Book cover of Treasures from the Map Room: A Journey through the Bodleian Collections

Matt Duckham Author Of GIS: A Computing Perspective

From my list on maps and mapmaking.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve been surrounded by maps all my life. As a child, a highlight of family summer holidays was the night before, pouring over road maps, planning every step of our drive from my home in rural English midlands, via the cross-channel ferry, to a rented gîte in France, perhaps in the Dordogne or the Loire Valley. Maps are to me a paragon of design: a true marriage of science and art. In an amazingly compressed space, a well-designed map can be incredibly beautiful at the same time as containing an incredible amount of raw data, more than could be contained in reams of tables or many pages of text. 

Matt's book list on maps and mapmaking

Matt Duckham Why did Matt love this book?

Maps are powerful, useful, functional objects. But mapmaking is also an art, with a long history and tradition of design. That indelible connection between the map room and the art gallery is what I enjoy most in this book.

Each map in this selection from the Bodleian Library at Oxford University is accompanied by a thoughtful reflection on the story behind the map and its impact. But it is the maps themselves, reproduced in rich color on high-density, fine-art-book quality paper, that are the main attractions here. I can, and have, spent many hours lost in an exploration of the flourishes, nooks, and curiosities of an individual map.

Immersing myself in an artful map from this book is to be transported to another time and place that is simultaneously endlessly strange and yet comfortingly familiar.  

By Debbie Hall (editor),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Treasures from the Map Room as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This book explores the stories behind seventy-five extraordinary maps. It includes unique treasures such as the fourteenth-century Gough Map of Great Britain, exquisite portolan charts made in the fifteenth century, the Selden Map of China - the earliest example of Chinese merchant cartography - and an early world map from the medieval Islamic Book of Curiosities, together with more recent examples of fictional places drawn in the twentieth century, such as C.S. Lewis's own map of Narnia and J.R.R. Tolkien's map of Middle Earth.

As well as the works of famous mapmakers Mercator, Ortelius, Blaeu, Saxton and Speed, the book…


Book cover of Mapping the World: An Illustrated History of Cartography

Kevin Cornell Author Of New in Town

From my list on world-building.

Why am I passionate about this?

I believe stories to be our species’ instinctual tool for discovering our best selves. Sometimes those stories are about real people in the past, sometimes they’re completely imagined people in the future — sometimes we even swap out the humans for animals or aliens, or sassy anthropomorphized objects. Whatever the case, for a story to work its wonders, its details must be believable, or we reject its premise. These books help make a story believable, and, if you get the alchemy just right, those details can even help tell the story themselves.

Kevin's book list on world-building

Kevin Cornell Why did Kevin love this book?

You get a lot of insight into a culture from the maps they create. Not only how they view themselves, but how they view others around them. There have been times in history when cultures weren’t even concerned with their maps being geographically accurate— they were a tool for teaching religion, or indulging a yearning for the fantastic. This book gives an excellent overview as to the many ways humans have used, and designed, maps throughout the centuries.

By Ralph E. Ehrenberg,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Mapping the World as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Mapping the World is a one-of-a-kind collection of cartographic treasures that spans thousands of years and many cultures, from an ancient Babylonian map of the world etched on clay to the latest high-tech maps of the earth, seas, and the skies above. With more than one hundred maps and other illustrations and an introduction and running commentary by Ralph E. Ehrenberg, this book tells a fascinating story of geographic discovery, scientific invention, and the art and technique of mapmaking.

Mapping the World is organized chronologically with a brief introduction that places the maps in their historical context. Special "portfolios" within…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in cartography, the Age of Discovery, and Ancient Greece?

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