Saturday, April 7, 2012


Surely you remember Ken Jennings? The guy who won about 500 consecutive episodes of Jeopardy? (Shockingly, that was back in 2004.) He wrote a book about trivia entitled Braniac in 2006. Last year he wrote another book called Maphead

Maphead is about geography. There's all kinds of wonderful stuff in it. Jennings talks about vintage maps, the National Geographic Geography Bee, and geocaching. 

Map collecting is a common hobby. People like pretty maps even if they aren't too into geography. Evan and I have a map of the US that we had mounted on foam board so we can track our travels. (We use push pins. I love adding a new pin.) The Library of Congress has thousands of old maps. It has so many it doesn't even know what it has. Archivists are still cataloging the collection. Recently Congress purchased a map for $10 million. It is the oldest map that uses the term America.

As someone who knows a lot of random trivia, even Jennings was stumped by some questions at the National Geographic Geography Bee. The Bee began in response to numerous stories of people not knowing even basic geography. The kids, in fourth to eighth grade, mostly boys, many with an Asian background, compete each year in a competition that includes information about bauxite exports from Mozambique and other who-in-the-hell-knows-that type questions.  These questions were seriously crazy.

I've heard the term geocaching before, but in passing and it was never anything I was interested in. However, it sounds really cool. Jennings gave a bit of history of it and of GPS. I use GPS on my phone when I run to keep track of distance and the discussion in the book made me realize just how new this technology really is--and how cool.

There's tons more other geography related information in Maphead: google maps, travelers who have visited 100+ countries, map projections, and on and on.

Overall, I loved this book. If you are a travel, geography, history nerd such as myself, I think you'd like it too. Despite Jennings apparent nerdiness for winning on Jeopardy so much, he seems like a really cool guy.


  1. This sounds incredibly interesting! Thanks for sharing! Geocaching and the simpler, earlier version, Letterboxing is something I am really looking forward to doing with my kids.

    1. Jennings talks about geocashing with his son in that section. They really got into it.