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FAVORITE BOOKS OF 2007

Where we're at

December 09, 2007|Orli Low

What could be more straightforward than a map? It's information from the perceived world reduced to two dimensions. Oh, if it were only so simple. In "Maps: Finding Our Place in the World" (University of Chicago Press: 400 pp., $55), co-editor Robert W. Karrow Jr. wants to stretch our idea of "mapness" to understand that maps chart not just geography but also culture and bias -- and can even obscure truth itself. The maps here are both beautiful and revelatory in the way they shape the viewer's thinking. The book also highlights the amazing variety of map materials, including a Marshall Islands "stick chart" that helps novice mariners recogn ize the patterns of ocean swells as they learn to navigate local waters.

In "Cartographia: Mapping Civilizations" (Little, Brown: 266 pp., $60), Vincent Virga tours the vast map holdings of the Library of Congress, jumping from continent to continent and documenting the process of "transforming experience in space to abstraction of space." These maps document exploration, tyranny and even utopia.

-- Orli Low

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