"Outside a dog a book is man's best friend, inside a dog it is too dark to read!" -Groucho Marx========="The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid." -Jane Austen========="I don’t believe in the kind of magic in my books. But I do believe something very magical can happen when you read a good book."-JK Rowling========"I spend a lot of time reading." -Bill Gates=========“Ahhh. Bed, book, kitten, sandwich. All one needed in life, really.” -Jacqueline Kelly=========

Friday, December 29, 2023

My Kind of Information Books!

Way back in April I purchased and read a book which I learned about on the Rachel Maddow Show (MSNBC),  Adrift: America in 100 Charts by Scott Galloway. In the preface, titled 'Ballast' Galloway says, 
We are a nation adrift. We lack neither wind nor sail, we have no shortage of captains or gear, yet our mighty ship flounders in a sea of partisanship, corruption, and selfishness. Our discourse is coarse, young people are failing to form relationships, and our brightest seek glory at the expense of the commonwealth...What will it take to to turn this vessel before the wind and plot a course for peace and prosperity? OK, enough with the sailing metaphors. I can't tell a mainsail from a job, but I do know how to read a chart. There is something powerful about the visual representation of data (2).
Tell me some interesting information and I may or may not understand. Show me a well-constructed map, chart, graph, or illustration and you will have my attention. That was this book. Each of the 100 charts about America is accompanied by one page of text and falls into one of ten categories of approximately ten charts. See example below about gender equality/inequality:

I spent a day or two looking through all the charts, only reading the text for those charts I didn't understand fully. My husband, who had urged me to buy the book in the first place because he wanted to read it, too, didn't think he had time to dig in. "But the book reads extremely fast", I told him. "Just look at the charts and you'll see what I mean." He disagreed. To him the text was more important than the charts. He wanted all the information, not just the bulleted points. Different learning styles.

For some reason I never reviewed the book in April. I think I expected myself to say something profound about it and found I had no words other than have a look at it yourself. Then this week a book arrived at the library for me to peruse as a Cybils judge, Wild Maps for Curious Minds: 100 Ways to See the Natural World by Mike Higgins. I realized I could talk about both books in one review and talk more about the style than the substance,

Higgins' book is targeted toward middle grade and YA readers, though I sometimes think the line is very blurry between YA nonfiction and adult nonfiction, and it only uses maps to convey the information. In the book's forward, Chris Parkham talks about how this generation, living in the age of information, don't know how to read maps because they can get places by GPS. Everytime they drive to same place, they can use GPS, if they want, so they never get the maps in their heads. I know that feeling. On a recent trip to Ecuador we took a four day tour with the transportation provided. I knew the names of the places we visited but I didn't know where they were in relationship to each other or even on the map of the country. It bugged me. I knew I was alive and I knew I was in Ecuador, all else were question marks. 

The maps in this book illustrate a very broad range of facts that fall generally into eight categories. All the maps have something to do with the natural world through ancient times into the future. See the world map colored in according to how many of its people believe in climate change.

I found myself carrying this book around my house with me and pestering whomever would look up to check out this or that map. Like the one about which country has the highest number of cat lovers in the world (Russia has a higher percentage of cat lovers, but Italy and the US come in second). Or that map about the tiny creek that connects the Atlantic and the Pacific (It's called Two Ocean Creek in Wyoming. At a split, half goes west toward the Snake River and ultimately the Pacific. The other half heads toward the Mississippi River via the Missouri River, ultimately dumping out in the Atlantic, via the Gulf Coast.) I've known this for a long time, I love maps. I wonder if Higgins has made a map of which country or state has the highest number of map lovers? It is such a joy to get information in such a visual and easy to understand format.

Years ago when I was a new high school librarian I purchased a small book about maps. The maps weren't about normal stuff like the borders of countries or where mountain ranges are, this one was filled with weird and wonderful maps of unusual topics. One I remember was a visual maps of all the jack-o-lanterns in a subsection of a town. The cartographer has gone around and photographed all the pumpkins and placed the photo in the correct location on the street where it could be found. I no longer have access to that libraries catalog so I can't look it up to see if it is still in the library. When I attempted to locate it on the Internet, not remembering its name, I found there is a plethora of books about weird maps. I must investigate some of these further.

I hope this review spurs you to check out information books full of interesting and informative maps, charts, illustrations, or graphs. These tow books are great places to start.


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