Any interesting map theory books?
June 6, 2009 2:06 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking for suggested book(s) for backgrounding myself in map theory. Think somewhere between a history of maps and a technical textbook. I've been looking at maps for 30+ years as a non-geographer, and will be taking some GIS and mapping courses this autumn. So, plenty of text-and-classroom exposure there. What kind of semi-technical background reading would be useful over the summer?
posted by slab_lizard to Education (6 answers total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
I'm not sure if this is what you had in mind, but I recently read some excerpts of Rhumb Lines and Map Wars and found it very interesting. Also, this site on map projections was fascinating.
posted by leahwrenn at 2:11 PM on June 6, 2009

I found How to Lie With Maps to be endlessly fascinating.
posted by lore at 2:15 PM on June 6, 2009

Best answer: MacEachren's How Maps Work: Representation, Visualization and Design is pretty understandable and will give you a good foundation for the user-end aspects of what you'll be doing in class.

I find anything by Mark Monmonier to be accessible and thought provoking (although I haven't yet read From Squaw Tit to Whorehouse Meadow).

But for map theory, especially for seeing cartography's turn toward the postmodern, definitely read J.B. Harley's The New Nature of Maps. Harley has been both much cheered and much criticized, but I think this collection of his essays does a good job of foregrounding a lot of controversy in historical map theory. The introduction is written by one of his critics, so don't skip that part.

If you can get your hands on any of the big History of Cartography volumes, they're worth a look, especially if you're interested in a particular period/region. The series isn't done yet, though.

For geographic theory (not just map theory), I like the introduction to Robert David Sack's Homo Geographicus and Richard Peet's Modern Geographical Thought (mostly a good introduction to all the big words thrown around in geographical theory). If you're interested in journals, check out Cartographica or Imago Mundi. There I've seen Ed Dahl, Catherine Delano Smith, Matthew Edney, Christian Jacob, and David Fletcher talk about map theory.

And just for fun, you may want to find Katharine Harmon's You Are Here, which is more about maps of imaginary places, enjoyable to look at nonetheless (especially if you're interested in definitions of "what is a map?").
posted by BlooPen at 3:10 PM on June 6, 2009 [6 favorites]

I happened upon this site a couple days ago. Perhaps if you write to Andy Woodruff, he can give you some tips and suggestions.
posted by netbros at 3:11 PM on June 6, 2009

Best answer: A monkey can fire up ArcMap, throw down some layers, do a bit of spatial analysis and print out a map. It takes a lot more to put together a _usable_ graphic. One of the nicer things about good GIS is that it makes it pretty easy to understand what's going on.

It depends on what you plan to do with GIS. If it's for conveying info to the public I think the best thing to bring to mapping, aside from the ability to use GIS, is a bit of a design sense. I don't have any books to recommend specifically, but IMO the vast majority of GIS-produced maps I see are craptastic. Choosing the wrong colors, packing info in too densely, etc can make a map take 5x longer to grasp.

Also, I'd be sure to know how to use photoshop and maybe sketchup/google earth. Photoshop+ArcGIS+SU+GE are an awesomely powerful group for visualizing and especially distributing geographic info.
posted by paanta at 3:43 PM on June 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

ESRI offers many courses online. If you are at a university there is a good chance you can take many of them for free and even if you don't have access to ArcGIS right now you could still read through the lessons. This is the introductory course to start from scratch, but there are also courses about mapping and map theory.
posted by Midnight Rambler at 4:31 PM on June 6, 2009

« Older Is it too late for me to become a scientist?   |   Get my dad off my couch. Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.