The Map Thief by Michael Blanding

May 22, 2014 Non Fiction 21

Howdy Bookworms!

Have I ever told you how directionally challenged I am? It’s true. I’m quite pathetic at navigation, and frequently blame demonic possession of my GPS, lighting, and confusing road signs for my endless missteps. That’s part of the reason that when I was offered a copy of The Map Thief by Michael Blanding, I took the publisher up on the offer. Learning a little more about maps could only help me, right? *I received a copy of this book for free in exchange for an honest review.*

themapthiefThe Map Thief was about SO much more than simple navigation, though. The full title is The Map Thief: The Gripping Story of an Esteemed Rare-Map Dealer Who Made Millions Stealing Priceless MapsA mouthful, but an extremely helpful description. A HEIST is afoot, people!

So, this dude named Forbes Smiley (his real name, not a moniker adopted to better serve his dastardly doings) got into rare maps. He’s a gregarious eccentric oddball who frequently bounces checks, but he’s so super knowledgeable about maps and their history that he’s forgiven a multitude of sins… Until it comes to light that he’s stealing his inventory of rare maps from libraries and selling them to maintain a super lavish lifestyle. The book follows the life of the mysterious Forbes Smiley through his rise and fall.

It also gives all kinds of cool background information on maps. I never really considered the historical significance of maps, other than to marvel at their inaccuracy, but there’s so much more to them. You can trace the history of a particular region based on maps throughout the years. You can peek into disputed territories, get a feel for Colonialism, and explore the political implications of the time. The names of places change. If I may quote They Might Be Giants, “Even old New York was once New Amsterdam. Why they changed it I can’t say, people just liked it better that way.” Except that if you study maps, you CAN say, because the English seized it from the Dutch (who no doubt, uh, borrowed it from the indigenous population.)

This book offered a very cool glimpse into the world of rare maps as well as into the mind of a fascinatingly sketchy character. If you have any interest in maps, heists, or potential super villains, I recommend reading The Map Thief!

Tell me, Bookworms. Are any of you directionally challenged? Am I the only person who is hopeless in finding my way? 

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission.*

21 Responses to “The Map Thief by Michael Blanding”

  1. Jennine G.

    Completely directionally challenged. I need and use landmarks to give directions. Even with the GPS running, I end up missing turns or fighting with my husband as we travel.

  2. Darlene @ Lost in Literature

    If I am driving alone I can usually make my way. Even if I get turned around a time or two.
    But when I am driving and someone is with me and I’m talking and yacking away, I always get lost or miss a turn or something. It’s embarrassing.
    My daughter, who is great with directions and navigating, gets me out of binds all the time.
    But alone, it’s not usually an issue.

  3. Monika @ Lovely Bookshelf

    I’m pretty good with directions/maps. Not sure if that would be true out in the wilderness or anything, though! haha
    I have this book on my shelf and reallllly hope to get to it soon (story of our lives, right?). Great review!

  4. Jenny @ Reading the End

    You’re SO not alone. I think I’m a fairly smart person, but I sometimes need to make Ls with my hands in order to keep left and right sorted out. And I have no sense of direction at all. I get lost constantly. If I stole and resold rare maps, I could employ someone whose entire job it would be to follow me around making sure I didn’t get lost. THAT IS THE LESSON I HAVE LEARNED FROM THIS POST.

  5. Rebecca @ Love at First Book

    I’m a billion percent directionally challenged. I park at the same entrance at the mall/grocery store/you name it, or I won’t know where my car is ever.

    I really liked this one, but at times, the map history was a little boring. Once I got some of the background, though, I found it an interesting read. Not like crazy jump-on-the-couch exciting, but good.

    • Words For Worms

      I do the same thing!!! I always park in the same general area or I’d totally lose my car! LOL, I’m glad I’m not the only one who does that!

  6. Jennifer

    I am so directionally challenged that it’s not even funny. I have to ask my husband every time I get on this one highway which direction I need to go in 🙂

  7. Isi

    haha I’m quite good at maps and I get oriented very fast in new places. In fact, I’m the one in charge when it comes to the tube/other transports and to locate our hotel and so on when I travel with my family 😀
    Regarding the book, sounds great, so I might give it a try!

  8. Melinda

    I’m definitely directionally challenged! Never been one for maps, but like I said on various reviews, I think my dad would totally enjoy this one.

  9. Katie @ Doing Dewey

    Hahaha, I love the introductions to your posts. On most blogs, I find descriptions of why the blogger picked up a book a bit dry, but on yours I always love them 🙂 I’m directionally challenged too and I also loved this book!

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