The most recommended geography books

Who picked these books? Meet our 32 experts.

32 authors created a book list connected to geography, and here are their favorite geography books.
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Book cover of Home Ground: A Guide to the American Landscape

David B. Williams Author Of Stories in Stone: Travels Through Urban Geology

From my list on geology that aren’t really about rocks.

Who am I?

For the past two decades, I have written about the intersection of people and place, particularly as viewed through the lens of geology and how it influences our lives. My nine books include Too High and Too Steep: Reshaping Seattle’s Topography, Cairns: Messengers in Stone, and Homewaters: A Human and Natural History of Puget Sound. All of them have a goal of helping people develop a better connection with the natural world around them.

David's book list on geology that aren’t really about rocks

David B. Williams Why did David love this book?

Barry Lopez and his 40 plus contributors dive deep into the language of the land, providing colorful, literary, and sometimes opinionated definitions for more than 850 landscape terms, many of which owe their existence to geology, such as ‘a’a, erg, slickrock, and yardang. The book is an essential and timely contribution to the myriad ways that geology affects not only place but language as well. This is a book for anyone who wants to learn more about America, the nature of its landscape, and its history, and to develop a better connection to place. Or for anyone who wants to use correctly such fine terms as chickenhead, nubble, boondocks, and thank-you ma’am.

By Barry Lopez (editor), Debra Gwartney (editor),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Home Ground as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Hailed by book reviewers as a "masterpiece," "gorgeous and fascinating," and "sheer pleasure," Home Ground: Language for an American Landscape was published in fall 2006 in hardcover. It was met with outstanding reviews and strong sales, going into three printings. A language-lover's dream, this visionary reference revitalized a descriptive language for the American landscape by combining geography, literature, and folklore in one volume. This is a totally redesigned, near-pocket-sized field guide edition of the best-selling hardcover. Home Ground brings together 45 poets and writers to create more than 850 original definitions for words that describe our lands and waters. The…


Book cover of The Discovery of France

Julie Barlow Author Of The Bonjour Effect: The Secret Codes of French Conversation Revealed

From my list on understanding the French.

Who am I?

I have been writing books about France and the French for two decades. The adventure began when I moved to Quebec in my early 20s and married a Quebecker. He became my life partner and co-author. I learned his language, immersed myself in Canada’s French-language culture and began writing articles in French. In 1999 we moved to France for three years to study the French. Three books later, we returned to Paris with our daughters to try to demystify French conversation. The result is The Bonjour Effect. I am grateful to the authors on my list for helping me refine my understanding of France, the French and their language. 

Julie's book list on understanding the French

Julie Barlow Why did Julie love this book?

Don’t be intimated by the academic-sounding title. This book just blew my mind. If you want to even begin understanding the French, you have to know where they came from. As Robb proves in this readable work, there is no better way to do this than by looking at French geography. France is a country that evolved out of surprisingly varied landscapes, ethnic origins, languages, and more. Understanding all the pieces of the puzzle, the great struggles that gathered them into a unified country, will forever change how you see the country.

By Graham Robb,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Discovery of France as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A narrative of exploration-full of strange landscapes and even stranger inhabitants-that explains the enduring fascination of France. While Gustave Eiffel was changing the skyline of Paris, large parts of France were still terra incognita. Even in the age of railways and newspapers, France was a land of ancient tribal divisions, prehistoric communication networks, and pre-Christian beliefs. French itself was a minority language.

Graham Robb describes that unknown world in arresting narrative detail. He recounts the epic journeys of mapmakers, scientists, soldiers, administrators, and intrepid tourists, of itinerant workers, pilgrims, and herdsmen with their millions of migratory domestic animals. We learn…


Book cover of The Atlas of the Crusades

Alfred Andrea Author Of Seven Myths of the Crusades

From my list on the medieval crusades by world-class historians.

Who am I?

I was fated to become a crusade historian. Research for my doctoral dissertation on medieval relations between the Churches of Rome and Constantinople inevitably led me to the Fourth Crusade. I was hooked, and for the past fifty-plus years the crusades have been a passion—I hope a healthy one.  Although I have published two books on the Fourth Crusade, my crusading interests have now gone global, and I am currently studying sixteenth-century crusading in the eastern Mediterranean, the Indian Ocean, Ethiopia, and the Americas. Perhaps someday I shall turn to more modern crusades. Sad to say, the crusades are still with us.

Alfred's book list on the medieval crusades by world-class historians

Alfred Andrea Why did Alfred love this book?

A solid grasp of crusading geography is essential for anyone who wishes to understand these complex holy wars, and this book is unsurpassed in providing such information in a clear and comprehensible manner. Its many maps and charts, each beautifully drawn and accompanied by insightful commentary and, in most cases, relevant illustrations and excerpts from primary sources, make this an indispensable resource that belongs in every crusade historian’s library. If you can find a used copy of this out-of-print treasure, buy it without hesitation. Be careful, there is another so-called atlas of the crusades out there by someone who is not a crusade historian, and it is filled with numerous errors.   

By Jonathan Riley-Smith,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The crusading movement was to play a dramatic role in the religious, political and economic development of Europe and the Near East over 700 years. In 1095 Pope Urban II called on the knights of Christendom to "liberate" Jerusalem from the Muslims. In response, crusaders from all over Europe were to claim by war, by diplomacy and by settlement, new Catholic Christian territories in the Holy Land. Over the following centuries, crusades were fought on land and at sea in many different theatres of war: the Eastern Mediterranean, the shores of the Baltic and the Black Sea, Spain, North Africa…


Book cover of Unruly Places: Lost Spaces, Secret Cities, and Other Inscrutable Geographies

Maxim Samson Author Of Invisible Lines: Boundaries and Belts That Define the World

From my list on redefining your understanding of geography.

Who am I?

I am a Geography professor at DePaul University with a long-standing obsession with the world, comparing puddle shapes to countries as a small child and subsequently initiating map and flag collections that I cultivate to this day. Having lived in different parts of the UK and the USA, as well as being fortunate enough to travel further afield, I’ve relished the opportunity to explore widely and chat with the people who know their places best. I love books that alter how I look at the planet, and I am particularly intrigued by the subtle ways in which people have shaped our world—and our perceptions of it—both intentionally and inadvertently.

Maxim's book list on redefining your understanding of geography

Maxim Samson Why did Maxim love this book?

I regard this book as the quintessence of a modern geography trade book, a work that compels us to examine the places around us with an increasingly critical eye.

Drawing on current geographical thinking and a rich assortment of case studies from across the globe, Bonnett demonstrates why place matters: it is how we apply meaning to the world. Accordingly, to be placelesswhether through dispossession or demolition on the ground or deletion from the mapis tantamount to not existing at all.

Part of what makes this book such a captivating read is its attention to such concerns. Our relationship with the world may be quite innocuous, characterised by innocent curiosity and a craving for excitement, but it can also assume an ugly side, where people seek to seize places only for themselves. Ultimately, what we make of the planet, mundane and remarkable all at once,…

By Alastair Bonnett,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Unruly Places as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'A fizzingly entertaining and enlightening book' Daily Telegraph


'Mesmerising' Geographical Magazine


'A fascinating delve into uncharted, forgotten lost places. But it's not just a trivia-tastic anthology of remote destinations but a nifty piece of psycho-geography, explaining our human need for these cartographical conundrums.' Wanderlust

In a world of Google Earth, in which it is easy to believe that every discovery has been made and every adventure already had, Off the Map is a stunning testament to how mysterious our planet still is.

From forgotten enclaves to floating islands, from hidden villages to New York gutter spaces, Off the Map charts…


Book cover of Renaissance Ethnography and the Invention of the Human: New Worlds, Maps and Monsters

Asa Simon Mittman Author Of The Ashgate Research Companion to Monsters and the Monstrous

From my list on explaining the history of monsters.

Who am I?

Growing up, I rewatched Star Wars until I wore out my VHS tape. I read every Dragonlance novel. I played a bit of D&D. When I got to college, I finally was allowed work on things that interested me. I found Art History, dove into Medieval Studies, and, in grad school, got serious about monsters. Monster Studies didn’t exist, but books were out (especially by Jeffrey Jerome Cohen), and my advisor encouraged me to follow my passions. My 15-year-old self would be astonished to learn that I’d get to read monster books, study monster art, and watch monster movies as a job!

Asa's book list on explaining the history of monsters

Asa Simon Mittman Why did Asa love this book?

This is a brilliant, wide-ranging, deeply-sourced study of the dynamics that underpinned and justified early modern colonization of the Americas. Mandeville’s Book of Marvels and Travels is the prehistory of the horrors of colonization; the sources at the heart of Davies’s study are colonization’s architecture: maps, book illustrations, freestanding prints, published texts, letters, journals, and on. With nuance and care, Davies rewrites the intellectual history of this period, confronting the dehumanizing, demonizing, monsterizing visual and textual rhetoric of colonial enterprises (which directly contributed to large-scale violence), but also looking carefully at nuances, differences, and shifts in this rhetoric over the course of the Renaissance.

By Surekha Davies,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Renaissance Ethnography and the Invention of the Human as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Giants, cannibals and other monsters were a regular feature of Renaissance illustrated maps, inhabiting the Americas alongside other indigenous peoples. In a new approach to views of distant peoples, Surekha Davies analyzes this archive alongside prints, costume books and geographical writing. Using sources from Iberia, France, the German lands, the Low Countries, Italy and England, Davies argues that mapmakers and viewers saw these maps as careful syntheses that enabled viewers to compare different peoples. In an age when scholars, missionaries, native peoples and colonial officials debated whether New World inhabitants could - or should - be converted or enslaved, maps…


Book cover of A History of America in 100 Maps

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

From my list on for people who love maps.

Who am I?

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?

An excellent example of the British Library’s History … in 100 Maps series, this book, by an expert, on the American geopolitical imagination, combines a first-rate text with instructive maps. Handsomely produced, it is good value.

By Susan Schulten,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A History of America in 100 Maps as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Throughout its history, America has been defined through maps. Whether made for military strategy or urban reform, to encourage settlement or to investigate disease, maps invest information with meaning by translating it into visual form. They capture what people knew, what they thought they knew, what they hoped for, and what they feared. As such they offer unrivaled windows onto the past.
 
In this book Susan Schulten uses maps to explore five centuries of American history, from the voyages of European discovery to the digital age. With stunning visual clarity, A History of America in 100 Maps showcases the power…


Book cover of Black Flags, Blue Waters: The Epic History of America's Most Notorious Pirates

Gwyn McNamee Author Of Squall Line

From my list on fulfilling your pirate fantasies.

Who am I?

I’m a criminal defense attorney, mom, and wife who grew up along Lake Michigan in Wisconsin and lived there for 35 years, staring out at the vast water of the “Inland Seas” aka The Great Lakes. Intrigued by pirates, the criminals of the water, and the stories of pirates roaming the lakes, when I began writing fiction, I absolutely had to write a modern pirate series set in the area where I grew up. I’ve read dozens and dozens of historical non-fiction books about pirates, watched all the classic films and shows about them, and have read pirate romances my entire life, so writing my own was the next logical step.

Gwyn's book list on fulfilling your pirate fantasies

Gwyn McNamee Why did Gwyn love this book?

I am a sucker for a good non-fiction book, especially if it features pirates. Ever since childhood, growing up in Wisconsin on Lake Michigan, the water called to me, and learning about real-life pirates and the history kept me reading late into the night. Black Flags, Blue Waters is the epic history of America’s most notorious pirates and it tells riveting tales that are almost unbelievable. While non-fiction, the stories are so enthralling, it almost reads like they can’t possibly be true.  

By Eric Jay Dolin,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Black Flags, Blue Waters as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Set against the backdrop of the Age of Exploration, Black Flags, Blue Waters reveals the surprising history of American piracy's "Golden Age" - spanning the late 1600s through the early 1700s - when lawless pirates plied the coastal waters of North America and beyond. "Deftly blending scholarship and drama" (Richard Zacks), best-selling author Eric Jay Dolin illustrates how American colonists at first supported these outrageous pirates in an early display of solidarity against the Crown, and then violently opposed them. Through engrossing episodes of roguish glamour and extreme brutality, Dolin depicts the star pirates of this period, among them the…


Book cover of Stars Above, Earth Below: A Guide to Astronomy in the National Parks

Emily Hoff and Maygen Keller Author Of Scenic Science of the National Parks: An Explorer's Guide to Wildlife, Geology, and Botany

From my list on exploring the National Parks without Roosevelt, Mather, and Muir.

Who are we?

Nature enthusiasts, David Attenborough superfans, and the best campsite hot toddy makers you’ll ever encounter… We’re best friends who have been traveling through national parks together for millenia. During our travels, we’ve developed our own style of tourism based on science and following our curiosity. We’ve hiked with paleontologists, asked renowned scientists ridiculous questions about which prehistoric creature they’d want for a pet, and introduced a parks astronomer/pilot/ER doctor to bourbon. In 2023, we released National Parks Trivia: A Card Game so that when you’re done hiking around with our first book, you have something to keep you entertained at the campsite all evening long. 

Emily's book list on exploring the National Parks without Roosevelt, Mather, and Muir

Emily Hoff and Maygen Keller Why did Emily love this book?

The catchy phrase “half the park is after dark”? Yeah, Nordgren came up with that!

An astronomer, artist, and reformed college professor, Nordgren’s guide is essential for anyone who knows a little or a lot about what’s going on in the skies above your favorite parks. It’s not just about stargazing, though—he also points out when the land you see is similar to something you’d see in the cosmos.

Our joint copy went to every park with us and is thoroughly highlighted and dog-eared… there might be some whiskey spills on there too. 

By Tyler Nordgren,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Stars Above, Earth Below as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Stars Above, Earth Below uses photographs and sky charts to form a connection between what is seen on the ground and in the sky, and looks at the deeper scientific meaning behind these sights. Nordgren describes other objects in the Solar System with features similar to those on Earth and links the geological features seen in the national parks to the very latest NASA spacecraft discoveries on other planets and their moons. Additionally, historical context is discussed to show why we humans (who have lived in and around our national parts for tens of thousands of years) have always been…


Book cover of If the World Were a Village: A Book about the World's People

K.L. Going Author Of This Is the Planet Where I Live

From my list on pictures showing kids how we’re all connected.

Who am I?

Growing up, my father was a biologist and my mother was a children’s librarian, so I suppose it’s no surprise that I’ve become a children’s book author who writes about valuing the planet where we we live. I’ve always had a deep love of reading and some of my most cherished childhood memories are of walking through the woods behind our house, with one parent or another identifying the plants, animals, amphibians, birds, and insects that shared our land. My very first piece of writing was a poem about an owl that I wrote in first grade, and now all these years later, I’m still reading, writing, and recommending books that celebrate our marvelous world.

K.L.'s book list on pictures showing kids how we’re all connected

K.L. Going Why did K.L. love this book?

Believe it or not, this is a book I’ve used successfully in the classroom with teenagers!

The premise is that if we shrank the world down to just 100 people, we could then see what percentages of people shared nationalities, languages, school systems, types of jobs, etc. Or we can see who uses certain resources or has different possessions.

What I like about this book is that it’s impossible to wrap our minds around numbers in the millions and billions, but by breaking huge statistics down to just factors of 100, we can understand these concepts that illuminate how we’re sharing the planet. Kids love this book!

By David J Smith, Shelagh Armstrong (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked If the World Were a Village as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 8, 9, 10, and 11.

What is this book about?

This is the new paperback edition of a beautiful and unique book, which explains facts about the world's population in a simple and fascinating way. Instead of unimaginable billions, it presents the whole world as a village of just 100 people. We soon find out that 22 speak a Chinese dialect and that 17 cannot read or write. We also discover the people's religions, their education, their standard of living, and much much more...This book provokes thought and elicits questions. It cannot fail to inspire children's interest in world geography, citizenship and different customs and cultures, whether they read it…


Book cover of The National Trust Rivers of Britain

Richard Mayon-White Author Of Discovering London's Canals: On foot, by bike or by boat

From my list on the fascinating beauty of English waterways.

Who am I?

I love rivers. The flow of water gives a sense of timelessness, the reflection of light from the surface brightens the colours on the banks and the wider stretches make a feeling of space. I have messed about in boats all my life and I am happiest on inland waterways. What I enjoyed as recreation alongside a medical career has grown into a vocation in my retirement. The more people who know about our beautiful rivers, the better the chances that we can protect them from exploitation and carelessness. 

Richard's book list on the fascinating beauty of English waterways

Richard Mayon-White Why did Richard love this book?

This book was sponsored by the National Trust and has the high quality that one expects of that organisation. 

It is a very readable account of the geology and geography of rivers. It has helped me to understand what I see when I look at rivers and it encourages me to go to new places to learn more. Although it was written nearly 40 years ago, it is very relevant to the present times when rivers in many countries suffer from mismanagement of the environment. 

The lovely photographs show how much there is that is worth better care.  

By Richard Muir, Nina Muir,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The National Trust Rivers of Britain as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Book by Muir, Richard, Muir, Nina