For dinner guests who like maps

One of the running jokes among my friends, librarians and non-librarians alike, is that my dinner parties always degenerate (or advance?) into the same situation: all my friends are sitting on the couch, reading.

Often, they are reading a book about maps, and if so, it is likely to be either Strange Maps: an Atlas of Cartographic Curiosities by Frank Jacobs or
Transit Maps of the World, by Mark Ovenden. You should definitely check out these books if you’re the kind of person who owns a pillowcase adorned with the map of the London Underground, or if you chose books as a child (or as a teenager, or as an adult) based on whether they contained a detailed map of an imaginary country on their endpapers.

Or, indeed, if you are the kind of person, like me, who covets a handprinted modern map of the world for your living room, , even though you already own, as a household:

(OK, I admit it, we have a map problem. And no, we don’t plan to change).

What is it about these books that makes my guests abandon conversation and sit on my couch as if glued there by an invisible force, staring fascinatedly at pages?

Adults like picture books as much as kids. They like imagining other worlds, whether those are imaginary or simply far away. And a good map contains a phenomenal amount of information, that begs to be puzzled over, to be discovered, and discussed.

Also, our friends are big nerds, just like us. In the best possible way.

Eisenhower Interstate System

Schematic Map of the Eisenhower Interstate System, by Rebecca Brown, via Flickr Creative Commons Licence – This map appears on page 168 of Strange Maps

Wood Type Alphabet | The Donut Project

Wood Type Alphabet | The Donut Project

Wood Type Print desktop

Thanks, The Well Appointed Desk, for pointing me to The Donut Project and their totally awesome designs for iPad, iPod and computer desktop backgrounds. This is mine, currently. Takes me back to the days of watching friends and fellow book history nerds printing up cool experiments on the hand-presses at various University of Toronto Libraries.

Since I’m also teaching a Reference Services course right now, and people (non-librarians) keep asking me why librarians need to exist since “everything is on the Internet,” I expect this one will also enter heavy rotation:

practical information in handy form