My Book of the Year... On The Map

Posted on 23rd November 2012 by Waterstones
Bea Carvalho from our non-fiction team tells us why she's backing Simon Garfield's On The Map as her choice for Waterstones Book of the Year...

The history of cartography gets an exciting makeover from the Simon Garfield, who got us all interested in fonts with his 2010 bestseller Just My Type. With a rare gift for storytelling and a proven ability to infect enthusiasm, Garfield leaves no area of the globe unexplored in this fascinating history of an ever-changing world and the characters who have mapped it.

This is a tribute to human learning and artistry, and a craft which has shaped the world (literally), which considers our instinctual endeavour to explore our surroundings and locate ourselves within them. Each chapter explores a different story in the history of cartography, from the Mappa Mundi to Grand Theft Auto, and from treasure islands to Google Maps. Along the way we meet Egyptian philosophers, crafty dealers turned thieves, determined explorers, and a man on a mission to stop Cholera armed with a map of Soho.

1635 World Map

Garfield takes us from the time when Jerusalem was at the centre of the world, to today when we are at the centre of our own maps that we hold on screens in our hands (signal depending). On the Map celebrates both tradition and progress – the comfortable reliability of the physical object and the modern convenience and precision of the digital.

On the Map is an entertaining, engaging and interesting read from beginning to end which is beautifully produced with black and white illustrations, photographs and of course maps throughout. It has something for everyone whether you like your Ordnance Survey map laminated or your smart-phone roaming turned on. This is a real gem of non-fiction and a highlight of this year’s publishing. I would love to see it as Waterstones Book of the Year.

Bea Carvalho, for

The Waterstones Book of the Year will be announced on November 29th. Find out more about the Waterstones Book of the Year shortlist here.

You can watch an interview with Simon Garfield from The Cheltenham Literature Festival here.

Buy On The Map at your local Waterstones bookshop ( or online at (

Have you already read On The Map? What did you think of it? Is it your Book of the Year too? Let us know in the comments below.


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