maphead-web11By Ken Jennings

There must be something innate about maps, about this one specific way of picturing our world and our relation to it, that calls to us, won’t let us look anywhere else

in the room if there’s a map on the wall.”


In twelve entertaining chapter Ken Jennings (from Jeopardy fame) takes readers on a grand tour of the world of maps. Learn about the inner workings of the Library of Congress and the largest collection of maps housed there.  Explore the world of geocaching and the secrets of little canisters while Jennings seeks to be a first finder.  Follow the National Geographic Bee as tense students and parents compete to be the most geographically informed student in the country.  Learn about the chase of the road rally while sitting on your couch. Visit a map flea market and learn what makes for a valuable find. Learn how Google and technology have changed the world of maps. Take Jenning’s “Are you a maphead?” quiz. Included in the book is a reading group guide and discussion questions. There’s something for everyone in this book and If you love maps you will love the strange  world behind maps and globes that Jennings explores.


Ideas for the Classroom

  • Create a list of cities and have the students create the shortest route to take in order to visit each city.
  • Create a systematic travel list for your city, county or state.
  • Turn a map upside down and have students discuss how it changes their perspective.
  • Have students work together to create a fictional country and then create a map of that country.


Things to consider:

  • Why are maps important to the field of Geography?
  • What is spatial thinking?
  • How can we combat geographic illiteracy?
  • How is national identity connected to place names?
  • How is technology changing the way we think geographically? How do maps enhance our reading of books?
  • Why do you think we don’t honor the field of geography and mapmaking?
  • What are the tools of a geographer?


If you like Mapheads you might want to check out:

Strange Maps: An Atlas of Cartographic Curiosities by Frank Jacobs

On the Map: A Mind-Expanding Exploration of the Way the World Looks by Simon Garfield


Listen to an interview with Ken Jennings at