Ken Jennings

Welcome to the world of Maphead: Charting the Wide, Weird World of Geography Wonks (Scribner, $25), in which unabashed geography wonk Ken Jennings (yes, that Ken Jennings, the Pacific Northwest native who in 2004 set a record for consecutive Jeopardy! wins that will outlast the pyramids) hosts a lively and entertaining tour of those who share his interest—OK, obsession. Combining popular history and memoir in a wry, sort of Sarah Vowell-ish way (only less deadpan and more one-linery, and even funnier), Jennings gives us the stories behind the map-illiteracy crisis ("43% of college freshmen can't find Canada" and all that media kerfuffle); high-dollar map dealers; the Library of Congress' Geography and Map Division and its 8,500 cabinets of maps; those who, like 14-year-old Benjamin Salman of Queen Anne, draw maps of self-invented, astonishingly detailed fantasy worlds; various clubs of travel completists whose journeys are checklist-driven (striving to visit, say, the highest points in each of the 50 states); "road geeks" who can tell you everything you'd ever want to know about the U.S. Interstate system; and the Google Earth project and its ultimate goal: visually cataloging the planet's entire surface on the scale 1 square centimeter = 1 pixel. Jennings explains the phenomenon of geocaching and how Geocaching.com, the global game's Internet epicenter, is headquartered in Fremont. Perfect—where more than in Seattle do enthusiasms for technology and the outdoors overlap? GAVIN BORCHERT

Tue., Sept. 20, 7 p.m., 2011

 
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