The best atlas books

4 authors have picked their favorite books about atlases and why they recommend each book.

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21st Century Atlas of the Moon

By Charles A. Wood, Maurice J. S. Collins,

Book cover of 21st Century Atlas of the Moon

Stargazers find out pretty quickly that the Moon can be a nuisance. After first quarter, the Moon illuminates the entire sky, and washing out all but the brightest stars and deep-sky objects like galaxies and nebulae. Seasoned astronomers soon learn that if the Moon is up, it’s what you should be observing! The challenge is to appreciate what you’re seeing.

When I was doing research for my book, 50 things to see on the Moon, I observed the Moon every chance I got, making notes about what I saw. But early on, I had no idea what I was looking at! This lunar atlas helped me appreciate the Moon’s topography, geography, geology, and so much more.


Who am I?

My journey into astronomy began with a small and rickety telescope purchased at a local pharmacy. I found it fascinating to observe the Moon and Saturn with their rings using such meager equipment. I decided to share these views with others by writing my first book, 50 Things to See with a Small Telescope, an easy-to-understand beginner’s guide which I self-published and sold through Amazon starting in 2013. I have since published a number of other books on space for children. Besides writing, I work as the telescope operator at Burke-Gaffney Observatory. In 2020 I was awarded the Simon Newcomb Award for excellence in science communication.


I wrote...

50 Things to See with a Telescope: A young stargazer's guide

By John A. Read,

Book cover of 50 Things to See with a Telescope: A young stargazer's guide

What is my book about?

50 Things to See with a Telescope covers everything you need to know to identify constellations, planets, stars, galaxies, nebulae, and more. Beginner stargazers will find star hopping easy with clearly plotted routes on images of the sky and detailed views from a backyard telescope. 

This easy-to-read, fully illustrated stargazing book will enrich your experience of the skies above. For those living south of the equator, a Southern Hemisphere edition of this book is also available. This book is part of an award-winning series, including: 50 Things to See on the Moon, 50 Animals that have been to Space, 50 Space Missions that Changed the World, and 110 Things to See with a Telescope (coming July 2021).

An Atlas of Anatomy for Artists

By Fritz Schider,

Book cover of An Atlas of Anatomy for Artists

This is the artist's anatomy book I grew up studying throughout high school and college, and it goes deep into the structural and anatomical anatomy of the body. It gives good illustrative examples of the skeletal and muscular systems as well as providing a few photographic references for both male and female anatomy. It is a pretty old volume, having been originally published in 1957, but the principles remain the same and it holds up pretty well. For anyone serious about learning to not only draw or paint from life, but also the imagination, I highly recommend this foundational and educational reference guide.


Who am I?

Born at the base of the beautiful Wasatch Mountains, I began exploring and sketching the world—as most children do—at a very early age. I continued to pursue not only my artistic path through traditional schooling, higher education, and endless hours of practice, but also my love of storytelling. Intrigued by Science Fiction and Fantasy, many of my projects reflect elements of the fantastic, but I also appreciate the beauty and elegance in fine art masterpieces. I studied illustration and graphic design at Utah State University and the Academy of Art University in San Francisco. I currently live in Salt Lake City with my beautiful wife and four boys, where I continue to write, paint and draw regularly.


I wrote...

Draw It With Me - The Dynamic Female Figure: Anatomical, Gestural, Comic & Fine Art Studies of the Female Form in Dramatic Poses

By Brian C. Hailes,

Book cover of Draw It With Me - The Dynamic Female Figure: Anatomical, Gestural, Comic & Fine Art Studies of the Female Form in Dramatic Poses

What is my book about?

Draw It With Me: The Dynamic Female Figure art book explores anatomical, gestural, comic/anime, and fine art/life drawing studies of the human female form in dramatic poses and angles, offering step-by-step examples and process descriptions using these varied artistic approaches. To help inspire and educate the novice and master artist alike.

With over 200 full colorfully illustrated pages by award-winning artist/illustrator and #1 Amazon bestselling author, Brian C. Hailes, this book features supine, standing, seated, leaping, flying, crouching, fighting (and more) dynamic female figure sketches and masterpieces, using varying media and from differing angles / light sources with many photo references of the models included.

The Animal Atlas

By DK, Kenneth Lilly (illustrator),

Book cover of The Animal Atlas: A Pictorial Guide to the World's Wildlife

I love to see beautifully drawn animals and this book has it in abundance. For animal lovers who want to know more about animal habitats worldwide. Find out interesting facts about hundreds of rare and common species and enjoy the detailed and beautiful artwork of Kenneth Lilly. This book is a delight for any age group.


Who am I?

Being a children’s illustrator and writer, I have built up a well-loved collection of childen’s books over the years. They must have great drawings and imaginative concepts. They are books I can come back to again and again. The books I have chosen are ones where you can lose yourself in their intricate detailed worlds and forget about day-to-day troubles for a while. These books can also help reluctant readers by enticing them into a visual world first and then into appreciating the written word. 


I wrote...

Annie's Chair

By Deborah Niland,

Book cover of Annie's Chair

What is my book about?

First published in 2005 this picture book has been consistently popular, mainly due to the common theme of sharing and how compromise can be the best workable solution for everyone. Young children can have a tough time sharing and they can be passionate about certain possessions. This story covers the frustrations and obstinacy involved when battling it out. Who will win?

This book has won the Children's Book of the Year - Early Childhood, several Children's Choice Awards, and the Speech Pathology Australia, Best Book for Language Development for Young Children.

A

By Jim Enote (editor), Jennifer McLerran (editor),

Book cover of A:shiwi A:wan Ulohnanne, The Zuni World

In the introduction to this book and catalog that features map art by Zuni artists, Jim Enote writes, “these maps are like relatives, like aunts and uncles that entrance us with narrations of places they have been to or heard about.” I love this way of thinking about maps as relational. As a non-Indigenous person viewing these maps, they help me to think about mapping and representations of place in new ways, and they challenge Western and colonial mapping traditions and cartographic practices that have often historically been put to the use of empire, land grabs, and greed.


Who am I?

I love field guides. I can vividly picture my first copy of Peterson’s Field Guide to Birds, tattered and weather-beaten. I also love poetry and literature, so it seemed natural to me to bring the two together in my work. I’m from New England, but I've lived in the U.S. Southwest for over twenty years. Place is important to me: I think a lot about how we get to know and care for the places we live and call home and how we can work to be good neighbors. I worked for about a decade as a hiking guide and have also taught environmental education. I now teach geography at New Mexico State University. 


I wrote...

The Sonoran Desert: A Literary Field Guide

By Eric Magrane (editor), Christopher Cokinos (editor), Paul Mirocha (illustrator)

Book cover of The Sonoran Desert: A Literary Field Guide

What is my book about?

Both literary anthology and hands-on field guide, The Sonoran Desert is a groundbreaking book that melds art and science. It captures the stunning biodiversity of the world’s most verdant desert through words and images. More than fifty poets and writers—including Christopher Cokinos, Alison Hawthorne Deming, Ken Lamberton, Eric Magrane, Jane Miller, Gary Paul Nabhan, Alberto Ríos, Ofelia Zepeda, and many others—have composed responses to key species of this striking desert. Each creative contribution is joined by an illustration by award-winning artist Paul Mirocha and scientific information about the creature or plant authored by the book’s editors.

From the saguaro to the mountain lion, from the black-tailed jackrabbit to the mesquite, the species represented here have evoked compelling and creative responses from each contributor. 

The Human Brain Coloring Book

By Arnold B. Scheibel, Marian C. Diamond,

Book cover of The Human Brain Coloring Book

This title is designed to help student neuroscientists grasp the staggeringly complicated anatomy of the brain by -literally – coloring-in its parts in a way that shows up their connections. Colouring- will take you straight into the Zone, and using this book will allow you to do it in public without people looking around for your carer. If it leaves you with a better idea of how the bits join up, count it as a bonus.


Who am I?

I was hooked on brain science from the moment in the 1980s when I saw the first blurry images that revealed the physical markers of thought. I set out to find out all I could about this astonishing new area of discovery, but there was practically nothing to be found – neuroscience as we know it barely existed. I pounced on every new finding that emerged and eventually wrote what was one of the first books, Mapping the Mind, that made brain science accessible to non-scientists. There are hundreds of them now, and these are some of the best.


I wrote...

Consciousness

By Rita Carter,

Book cover of Consciousness

What is my book about?

Is consciousness merely an illusion, a by-product of our brain's workings, or is it, as the latest physics may suggest, the basis for all reality? Your perception of the world around you, your consciousness, should be the one thing you could talk about with absolute confidence. But nothing about consciousness is clear-cut and understanding it is perhaps the hardest problem facing modern science.

Cessions of Land by Indian Tribes to the United States

By Charles C. Royce,

Book cover of Cessions of Land by Indian Tribes to the United States

This book is not so much one to read, being more of an atlas. And atlases are expensive. Except this one. It’s free! Published by the U.S. Government in 1899 but still available online, it’s an extraordinary collection of Native American borders that got changed...and changed...and changed. It is history in the raw, from back in that time. More importantly, it is history we all need to know, if we are to know who we are as a nation today.


Who am I?

As a teenager, I wondered why my state, Maryland, didn’t include Delaware. Later, at the University of Wisconsin, I wondered why its northeastern peninsula was part of Michigan. Then I started wondering about boring borders -- why Colorado’s and Wyoming’s lines are where they are and not a mile or so so this way or that? I ended up writing How the States Got Their Shapes, followed by The People Behind the Borderlines.


I wrote...

How the States Got Their Shapes

By Mark Stein,

Book cover of How the States Got Their Shapes

What is my book about?

Why does Oklahoma have that panhandle? Did someone make a mistake? We are so familiar with the map of the United States that our state borders seem as much a part of nature as mountains and rivers. Even the oddities—the entire state of Maryland(!)—have become so engrained that our map might as well be a giant jigsaw puzzle designed by Divine Providence. But that's where the real mystery begins. Every edge of the familiar wooden jigsaw pieces of our childhood represents a revealing moment of history and of, well, humans drawing lines in the sand.

How the States Got Their Shapes is the first book to tackle why our state lines are where they are. Here are the stories behind the stories, right down to the tiny northward jog at the eastern end of Tennessee and the teeny-tiny (and little known) parts of Delaware that are not attached to Delaware but to New Jersey.

Atlas of the Invisible

By James Cheshire, Oliver Uberti,

Book cover of Atlas of the Invisible: Maps and Graphics That Will Change How You See the World

This atlas beautifully demonstrates how geography is crucial to making sense of patterns and relationships in the world. I sat down and read it cover to cover, though it also would work well as a coffee table book. If you dig maps and data, this book is for you. If you’re interested in design, this book is for you. If you want to really visualize how putting interesting data on a map can help you to look at the world in new ways, this book is for you. Heck, if you’re curious about the world, this book is for you. 


Who am I?

I love field guides. I can vividly picture my first copy of Peterson’s Field Guide to Birds, tattered and weather-beaten. I also love poetry and literature, so it seemed natural to me to bring the two together in my work. I’m from New England, but I've lived in the U.S. Southwest for over twenty years. Place is important to me: I think a lot about how we get to know and care for the places we live and call home and how we can work to be good neighbors. I worked for about a decade as a hiking guide and have also taught environmental education. I now teach geography at New Mexico State University. 


I wrote...

The Sonoran Desert: A Literary Field Guide

By Eric Magrane (editor), Christopher Cokinos (editor), Paul Mirocha (illustrator)

Book cover of The Sonoran Desert: A Literary Field Guide

What is my book about?

Both literary anthology and hands-on field guide, The Sonoran Desert is a groundbreaking book that melds art and science. It captures the stunning biodiversity of the world’s most verdant desert through words and images. More than fifty poets and writers—including Christopher Cokinos, Alison Hawthorne Deming, Ken Lamberton, Eric Magrane, Jane Miller, Gary Paul Nabhan, Alberto Ríos, Ofelia Zepeda, and many others—have composed responses to key species of this striking desert. Each creative contribution is joined by an illustration by award-winning artist Paul Mirocha and scientific information about the creature or plant authored by the book’s editors.

From the saguaro to the mountain lion, from the black-tailed jackrabbit to the mesquite, the species represented here have evoked compelling and creative responses from each contributor. 

Earth

By Charles F. Gritzner,

Book cover of Earth: The World Atlas (Concise)

Finally, I can’t go past recommending the biggest book ever produced on this planet—and by big, I mean physically enormous. Earth Atlas comes in a variety of sizes, all of them big, with the biggest being The Earth Platinum Limited Edition. Measuring a whopping 6ft x 9ft (1.8m x 2.7m) and weighing 150 kg, it needs six people just to carry it around and two to turn its pages. It was the lifelong dream of Gordon Cheers of Millennium House to produce this Guinness-Book-of-Records-winning atlas with the help of a team of over 88 cartographers from around the world. I have had the pleasure of working with Gordon on a number of his other big publications including Scientifica, Geologica, and Maritimea.


Who am I?

I‘m a Sydney-based exploration geologist and science writer, travelling the world in search of gold, exotic metals, gemstones, and the stories they have to tell — writing is my tool to bring alive ideas and concepts important to me, and my popular books include Rocks, Fossils and Dinosaurs; Natural Disasters; and Geologica. Working in the world's poorest regions has also sparked a strong humanitarian interest. I'm the founding president of FreeSchools World Literacy – Australia, a charity dedicated to education of underprivileged children, and towards which earnings from my writing go. It is my belief that education for all, not just a privileged few, is key to solving the world's problems. 


I wrote...

Rocks and Fossils: A Visual Guide

By Robert R. Coenraads,

Book cover of Rocks and Fossils: A Visual Guide

What is my book about?

Rocks and Fossils' predominantly pictorial treatment lures even newcomers to the subjects of geology and paleontology. Packed with glossy color photographs of rocks, fossils, and landscapes, this book is a beauty—including a series of double-page ancient-life artworks depicting creatures from different geologic time periods, from the Precambrian forward. I describe how plate tectonics works, how life evolved, how minerals, rocks, and fossils are formed, and even give clues that people on fossicking trips should look out for. I strive to inspire the readers’ imagination of the ancient landscapes that the exciting discovery of a fossil, mineral, or gemstone conjures. A science work suitable for all ages and schooling, and available in multiple languages.

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