I've been a Ken Jennings fan since his winning streak on Jeopardy! back in 2004. I recognized kind of a kindred spirit, I think. Except that he's smarter, funnier, more interesting, and (worst of all) younger. Also (as this book demonstrates, a better writer.
(Not that it matters, but I got Ken to sign my copy of Maphead when he spoke up at the University of Southern Maine in Portland last year. ("To Paul! Who is Ken Jennings?") And discovered, in addition to all those other things, my kindred spirit is also a far better public speaker than I. Oh well.)
But still: kindred spirit. Case in point: this book sprang out of Ken's longtime love of maps. And, as he describes his youthful encounters with atlases, schoolroom pulldowns, globes, etc., I found myself saying: Hey, I remember doing that too. Ken's touchstone is his old Hammond World Atlas; mine would be my National Geographic Globe. One of my perennial complaints with novels where the action involves the characters traipsing over the countryside, or even a building, is: this book could really use a map or two. Tolkien did it, why don't today's authors?
In addition, both Ken and I have wives that are totally hopeless mapwise.
This is not a textbook: each chapter is an exploration of some map-related topic, but it's not systematic or exhaustive. The chapters are filled with interesting trivia, interviews, anecdotes, and yarns. Topics include the general geographic illiteracy of US students; visits to the Library of Congress's map collection and Britain's Royal Geographic Society; people who map imaginary lands; the National Geographic Bee; Google Maps and Google Earth; geocaching. And more.
The index is funny too. ("Trebek, Alex; after a few drinks: 147")
If you've ever spent idle hours in Google Earth, or with physical maps, I think you'll find this book to be entertaining and edifying. Go ahead and do the Amazon clicky thing over there, you won't be sorry.