Hello Book Friends!
Among the first things people notice in our shop (other than the books of course) are the lovely maps of the Northern Virginia/DC area hanging on our walls, courtesy of local artist and framer Todd Healey (whose shop, Gallery Lafayette, is at the corner of Prince and Royal--tell him we sent you!). I can’t tell you how many people I’ve seen poring over those maps, looking for their address, pointing out landmarks, noting how the lay of the land has changed since the originals were drawn, or just admiring Todd’s exquisite handiwork. I can’t say as I’m surprised; not only are the maps beautiful, but Old Town’s also full of people who (like me) love history and geography, at the intersection of which lie those maps. So, it’s for you, fellow map lover, that we’ve chosen to highlight the following books in our store, all of which have to do in some way with maps, mapmaking, or exploring!
First off, we have Adam Dant’s Living Maps: An Atlas of Cities Personified, in which cities literally take on the human characteristics which writers, residents, and travelers so often ascribe to them. Dant’s maps might not be perfect if you want to learn how to get from point A to point B in London or Paris, but they’re beautiful renderings of those (and many other) cities’ “personalities”. A city is a living organism, and Dant’s beautiful illustrations bring that life to the forefront on the page.
Next, here are a couple of books about exploring, getting lost, and finding your way. Rebecca Solnit’s A Field Guide to Getting Lost is a collection of personal essays which deals with a variety of themes, including trust, loss, and love. The thread that binds them, however, is how wonderful it can be to wander and lose oneself: in place, in time, in one’s experiences. On the other hand, if you’ve been finding yourself too often lost in your wanderings, Tristan Gooley’s The Lost Art of Reading Nature’s Signs might be the book for you. Gooley teaches you how to be a better hiker and outdoorsperson, including using rocks, trees, and the sun to navigate your way. You’ll find yourself mapping out new routes through the woods and parklands that are always nearby here in Virginia.
If you’re more the globetrotting sort than the local explorer, then look no further than Ina Caro’s Paris to the Past for inspiration for your next trip. Part history, part travelogue, Caro’s book exists in that happy medium between history and geography that I love to inhabit. Caro takes you in her footsteps as she takes several day trips from paris by rail to various sites of historical importance in France’s history: St. Denis, Versailles, Chartres, Reims, and so on. She gives you tours of their historic sites as well as restaurant and hotel recommendations. Almost magical, though, is how she weaves in the histories of these places themselves, as though she herself was transported through time while touring those places. That’s a sensory experience that I seek out voraciously in my own travels, and if you want some more of it in your life, Paris to the Past is the book for you.
Last up is Ken Jennings (yes, the Jeopardy! champion) and his book Maphead, which is a love letter to maps and the people who love them. Ken, like I and many others, grew up poring over his parents’ atlas, learning all the countries and geographical features. Jennings engagingly conveys the fascination that maps hold for many of us. He then takes the reader on a world tour of map people and the places they can be found, from the Library of Congress to the London Map Fair to the offices of Google Earth.
No matter where you are, you’re never far from people who love maps; that’s certainly true here in Old Town, where you can come by the shop any time I’m in, maybe pick up one of these books, and chat about maps with me!
Happy reading, and hope to see you in the shop soon!
P.S.: As an extra special bonus, we’re looking forward to getting in some more copies of Thomas Reinertsen Berg’s Theater of the World: The Maps that Made History soon! We had it in around the holidays, but ran out faster than we could keep it in stock; the book’s been in reprints since then, but we’ve heard it should be out soon, and we’ll absolutely have it on our shelves again. Berg’s book is an exquisitely illustrated and wonderfully written guide to the history of cartography and exploration from the stone age to the present. This book is a must-own for any map lover.