3.5 out of 5 stars
We live on a strange and beautiful planet. It is full of history, geology, people place and countries and if you’re anything like me, I find facts and figures endlessly fascinating. The best way of quantifying this data is to put it in graphical form, and Ian Wright has done this in Brilliant Maps.
He has separated the 100 maps in this books into eleven sections. The first three, People and Politics, Religion and Politics and power are very similar in scope. My favourite maps from these sections are Countries that have a smaller population than Tokyo and countries with large economies than California.
Our diversity across the planet has lead to a lot of different culture and customs, and know who drives on the wrong side of the road and writes the date wrong is useful if unimportant information.
Sadly, we do spend a lot of time arguing at personal and national levels. In Friends and Enemies, you can discover who the UK have not invaded, and who the Vikings invaded. Countries are not regular shapes, but the longest, Chile would reach from Spain to Norway and is just over 100 miles wide. There is a map showing just how many continents could fit inside the Pacific Ocean and how many roads actually lead to Rome.
I thought the comparison between travel time from London in the modern-day compared to 1914 where days have been replaced by hours was fascinating as well as the size and scope of the Roman and Mongol Empires when compared to modern countries such as China. It also shows in stark detail just what we have lost in our relentless expansion, especially with the map showing the current verses the old distribution of lions.
There is something satisfying in finding the differences between ourselves and other countries around the world, but not as satisfying as finding our common habits. Graphically these are excellent, clear maps about some interesting and entertaining subjects. There were a couple of flaws though. I think I would have preferred them to be split over the page rather than disappear into the middle and I would have liked more contrast on some of the colours as there wasn’t always that much difference. Stats in graphical form are so much more pleasing on the eye and this is a really nicely produced book. You can see more on his website here.