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3.8 out of 5 stars
Map Addict: A Tale of Obsession, Fudge & the Ordnance Survey
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61 of 67 people found the following review helpful
Borrowed the paperback version from the library last week, when it appeared on the "New Books" stand. Having all 204 Landranger maps, some in many different editions, plus loads of the old One Inch OS series, I suppose I could be considered a bit of an addict. So I was really looking forward to reading this.

On the plus side, a lot of it made me smile. I especially enjoyed the story of his friend who knew all the postcode districts and the way the author intimated that the reader would probably be interested in those too. I learnt quite a bit about some of the history and internal politics behind mapping. Enjoyed the section comparing different OS Landranger sheets too. Also for much of the time, the book was hard to put down.

However....... Got rather tired with all the "boyfriend and me" stuff. Also all the New Age analysis went rather over my head. I wanted more about maps, rather than the tiresome ramblings that the book took us through in the middle sections.

Production wise, the colour section was good, but the black and white illustrations within the text were poorly executed.

So three stars from me.
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99 of 110 people found the following review helpful
Mike Parker, a Rough Guide editor and Welsh-TV travel presenter, has written an enormously and endlessly fascinating book about everything of or pertaining to the British Life of Maps. It's a history, memoir, polemic, paean, psychogeography, and love poem dedicated to the Ordnance Survey map and all things cartographic. And, because Mr Parker is a dryly amusing chap with some fairly cutting observations and insights to share, it's also laugh-out-loud funny in places.

This really is the perfect book for map lovers, and the perfect read for people who didn't even know they cared about maps at all. Written very much from the same stable as books like Cod, Longitude, Salt, The Surgeon of Crowthorne etc, it takes one seemingly small subject and explodes it into something kaleidoscopically fascinating and revealing and inspiring. I couldn't put it down.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on 26 February 2011
I almost didn't buy this book because of some of the reviews on here, but after finding it on a friend's bookshelf and getting hooked when browsing I'm glad I finally did get it.

No, the book is not a complete history of maps - it is a conversational book filled with interesting and unusual facts and stories about all kinds of maps, from OS to A-Z. Yes, some of the chapters do seem to have a bit of a tenuous link to mapping (I struggled to see the relevance of chapter 7: Carto Erotica in particular), but that doesn't make them any less interesting. As for the 'travels with the boyfriend' that many reviewers have marked the book down on, I hardly noticed the references and certainly didn't feel like the book became a personal travel diary.

If you want a really good and light-hearted read, and perhaps to learn something into the bargain, I'd definitely recommend this book. If, however, you want an academically sound history of cartography then this book probably isn't for you.
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on 31 August 2010
I can't remember how I chanced on this book but thought it was right up my street (pun intended). I am not a map perv but I do like looking at them to the extent that in 1984 I actually 'phoned the OS to tell them they had a mistake on their North Norfolk map where the two bits around Blakeney Point met (on different sheets) - perhaps it was genetic as both my mother and her brother worked for the OS before and after WW2.

The introduction annoyed me with overuse of the word 'rapt'. It was only in there twice but stuck out like a trig point because it's not too common a word. Also throughout the book there are many instances of 'I was sat' 'we were sat' - are all editors and proof readers illiterate these days? The B+W photos within the text are a bit rubbish too.I wasn't particularly keen on his open confession of stealing maps, I think I would have kept that quiet or have been a bit more subtle about it (not sure how though).

Anyway minor gripes apart the first part of the book is great, particularly the chapter about the OS (Parker describes Southampton, home of the OS, as Coventry with Seagulls, which having lived there for over 70% of my life a) made me laugh and b) I thought it was a generous comment to the dump it has become), the French meridian etc - this was what I thought the book was about, great stuff.

However, somewhat ironically, I think Parker loses his map for the latter half or so of the book as it becomes a book about things that might be found on maps rather than the maps themselves, then descends into slagging off guide books, and going on trains around Europe.

He also displays the dichotomy of the 'celeb' which reminded me of Bill Oddie. On one hand here he is with perhaps quite an enviable job of writing and broadcasting yet he gets annoyed when someone spots who he is in a pub and buttonholes him to talk about mining. If you don't want to be recognised then don't do that sort of job!!

I wasn't sure what mentioning his own sexuality added to the book, and this too becomes more and more frequent as the end looms, including the bizarre bit about how one's sexuality determines how good you are at reading maps! I thought the comment at the end of this chapter which says 'Women, I think appreciate maps just as much as men Many are just as good as reading them as we are' was somewhat patronising, although I think there is a little bit of theme of that within the book - I am a map addict and you are not, therefore you are inferior - some of the writing is quite vicious in parts, though also sometimes amusing and entertaining.

I am glad I read this book, overall I enjoyed it and it had some very useful information in it. However I think it could have been better if it had stopped well before the end.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 18 October 2013
I thought I was a map addict, but I'm a dilettante compared to the author and the even more fanatical map addicts referred to within his book.

The style of writing is informal, blending cartography history, facts, trivia, anecdotes and autobiography. In the first two thirds or so of the book, Mike Parker looks primarily at the history & techniques of map-making intermixed with interesting trivia. For example, I was fascinated to read about the strenuous efforts of laying glass rods & metal chains in a specially dug ditches stretching for miles to establish the first two baselines for the early OS maps in the 18th century. Interesting trivia included places like Jungholz, an enclave of Austria that is only joined to the mother country by a single point, the summit of a mountain. Then he had me scurrying to a website that listed "secret" military bases (the bibliography has a useful list of websites).

Scattered throughout this mine of cartographic information are personal anecdotes that become more prominent in the final part of the book which reads like a personal odyssey. I didn't mind this as the author is amusing, honest and thought-provoking. I liked a lot of what he said, though I disagreed with his rant against satnav ("pratnav") as evidenced by the many map apps I have on my phone & iPad.

Reading this book is like sitting in a pub with a knowledgeable & opinionated friend, who ends up sharing more personal stuff as the beer works its magic. It is not a textbook or a seat in the classroom of a college professor presenting only facts and data on maps.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 20 January 2013
I like maps and make maps for a living so I was really looking forward to reading this. Initially, the early chapters were amusing and the resonance on map collecting made for an eerie, introspective read. The chapters on the history of the Ordnance Survey, how borders were drawn and the politics of map making are the reasons to buy this book if you are indeed a map addict. the latter chapters dwindle into the personal odyssey of the author. I wanted to read about maps, the psychology of map collecting, but sadly not the Mike Parker life story. The writing style is humorous, gentle and observant and if you like maps and enjoy Mike Parker as a personality on Welsh TV then this book is definitely for you. Otherwise for serious map collectors it is a bit hit and miss, although the hits do just about outweigh the misses.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on 16 May 2011
I cannot recommend this book highly enough. Having read it when it was first published and subsequently followed interviews and extracts from the author on BBC Radio 4, I have recently dipped into it again for a few more giggles. It's a rare example of a book which you can read over and over and not get bored of. The subject matter is unusual but the obvious knowledge and enthusiasm of the author makes it appealing even to those who may not be happy to peruse the OS at length. This combined with the witty humour interspersed throughout the text makes for a real page turner. My professional life leaves less time for reading than I would like but I could not put this down until I finished it and am very much looking forward to reading Mike Parker's new book as well. If it's half as good as Map Addict, it'll be worth every penny. Enjoy!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 17 July 2013
Being a self-confessed map addict (I to own the whole Landranger OS collection), I was very intrigued by this book. Subsequently I feel let down. I simply didn't feel Parkers love for maps and what enthusiasm that may have come across was simply dry and boring.

It was a challenge to finish the book and I had to force myself to read chapter a night in order to complete the book as I had paid good money for it. Some of the chapters were ok, such as the use of sat nav's and the stupid things people do while following them, but other chapters made me a little angry such as women and their use of maps. Not an enjoyable read for me.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on 12 April 2012
Great title, great material, great idea - but what a total waste of a good concept.

It's never a good start when your author boasts about stealing - and it all went downhill from there. There is some very interesting information, as one might hope to expect, but it's all totally swamped by the author's ego - the whole book, really, is about him and his politics/sexuality(zzzz)/etc etc.
I have no idea who Mike Parker is - I've never met him, I've never even heard of him - and after wading through this book I really don't want to.

There was an opportunity here to write a really interesting, informative and entertaining book, but Parker's self-regard obviously took priority.
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on 2 January 2012
Before reading this, I considered myself a bit of a map aficionado, as I can spend hours just looking through all the details of a walk before even setting foot outside the door. However, I was wholly unprepared for the level of enthusiasm that Parker has for his subject matter. He begins with a little autobiography where he describes how, as a child he used to initially save up to buy OS Landranger maps and even steal them on occasions. His ambition was to obtain all the maps for the whole of Britain. This is certainly a long way beyond my level of enthusiasm; indeed, I would expect very few readers would have such a level of fanaticism as is on display here.

The book encompasses a wide range of topics, from the history of the OS, the actual geography of the land, the politics of what goes into a map and what is excluded, etc. All through it, however, there is an exuberant sense of old fashioned British eccentricity. The first 200 pages are excellent and I would heartily recommend to anyone who has planned out a walk in their head, using a map, before setting foot outside the front door.

The latter half of the book goes even more esoteric and with it, some of the quality is lost. While there is a very interesting interlude about war and European politics, Parker then goes off on a tangent about the influence of christianity on maps and the author's own mild paganism. This is certainly the low point of the book, with some lackadaisical history and a failure to understand the purpose of ancient maps; they were never meant to be navigational tools, and anyone who used them as such would never have been able, say, to trek to the crusades.

The last couple of chapters are slightly more redeeming than the previous couple, but by the end I was just looking forward to finishing the book. Overall, read it for the first 200 pages, which would get 5 stars, but you needn't bother with the last 117 pages, as they warrant no more than 2 stars, which is why this gets 4 stars.
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