Friday, December 12, 2014

Top Ten Books of 2014

The top ten lists are starting to show up in places like The Economist so I thought I'd weigh in a bit earlier than last year.  Here's my top ten list for the year, in some vague order.

1. The event of the year for books is without doubt Nancy Turner's magisterial Ancient Pathways, Ancestral Knowledge (McGill-Queen's University Press, @scholarmqup).  Turner's two-volume set is the result of a lifetime of work in coastal Northwestern North America.

2. Another great book in the same series as Turner's (MQUP's Native and Northern Series) is Shelley Wright's Our Ice Is Vanishing/Sikuvut Nunguliqtuq

3. Jennifer M. Groh's Making Space: How the Brain Knows Where Things Are is an event.  This book summarizes and pushes forward our understanding of the state of the art in brain-space-knowledge, from Harvard UP/Belknap.  This appears in the same year as former McGill student John O'Keefe wins the Nobel Prize alongside May-Britt and Edvard Moser for discovering the role of the hippocampus in human cognitive mapping (aka the brain's GPS). 

4. Benjamin Lytal's A Map of Tulsa made my list this year, one of only two novels to do so.  The link goes to a Guardian review of the book.  It helps, but is not required, to have been to Tulsa or any part of Oklahoma.

5. I believe Jeremy Black's The Power of Knowledge (Yale University Press) could be accurately described as his magnum opus.  It posits information as the historical driver of cartography, power, knowledge, and much else.

6. Maps: Their Untold Stories (London: Bloomsbury), edited by Mitchell and Janes, appeared in my pigeonhole this year for review in Journal of Historical Geography.  It is a fantastic introduction to maps selected from national archives near London.

7. Graham Robb, The Ancient Paths had to make my list for boldness and risk-taking.  The link goes, again, to a Guardian review that does justice, I think, to a book that is well worth reading.

8. Rob Kitchin, The Data Revolution: Big Data, Open Data, Data Infrastructures and Their Consequences (London: Sage) has that Ground Truth-level of impact feeling to it, and I strongly urge anyone with an interest in geospatial technologies, GIS, mapping, data, cartography, mashups, and related topics to read this book.  Could easily be justified as the #1 book for the year.

9. Royal Holloway professor Andrew Motion's The New World (Random House) makes my list due to the quality of the writing and the subject matter.

10.  Ballas, Dorling, and Hennig's The Social Atlas of Europe (Policy Press, distributed by U of Chicago Press) is a kind of event, relying upon cartograms to re-envision Europe using equal- and proportional-area cartographic sensibilities.   

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