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.*
The 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 Maps. A 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?
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