How to Lie with Maps

It never really occurred to me that maps have to lie. When you think about it, though, it makes sense. They have to disregard details and alter area because they are a scaled-down version of an intricate world. If you take something that is three dimensional and flatten it, you’re going to distort the details. The world is a sphere and a map is flat. You don’t have to be an expert in geometry to see the issue here. The point of How to Lie with Maps is to give the readers an understanding of maps so that they will have a new meaning.

We briefly looked at How to Lie with Statistics in my high school math class, and we learned about how scales in graphs and the colors of the graphs can affect how people read the information given. It didn’t occur to me that maps could be manipulated in the same way. Chinese maps incorporate parts of what is really northern India. Small white lies on maps are one thing, but cartographically invading a country is something else.

I’m going to be completely honest—I can’t read a map. I’ve never really had the need to learn how. I’ve always had a GPS to tell me where to turn and do all the dirty work for me. I often call my dad to get directions from him as well. My issue isn’t that I’m intimidated by maps; it’s just that I’ve never had the urge to decipher one. Hopefully after reading this book, I’ll no longer have what Mark Monmonier refers to as cartophobia. Maybe I won’t have to call me dad every time I get lost or when the batter on my GPS dies.

I was trying to think of a place that I would want to visit, so that I could choose a map from there. The more I thought about it, the more I thought that maybe I should pick a map from a place that I’ve already been. However, none of those struck my fancy. Then I wanted to do a city with lots of streets and alleys, like Manhattan. If you’re wondering what I ended up choosing, it’s Antarctica. Why? Because there’s nothing there.

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4 thoughts on “How to Lie with Maps

  1. Very well written.

    I can only hope that the “How to Lie With..” is an actually series,
    Obviously, “Maps” and “Statistics” are taken, but what about “Snorkeling” or “Baking?”

    And, honestly, why isn’t “How to Lie With Blankets” a book? Double entendre?

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