Books : reviews

Mark Monmonier.
How to Lie with Maps: 2nd edn.
Chicago. 1996

rating : 4.5 : passes the time
review : 24 August 1996

This slim volume purports to do for maps what Darrell Huff's How to Lie with Statistics did for numbers. The author explains how and why maps necessarily have to tell 'white lies', but how they can sometimes be used to distort the truth deliberately and maliciously. I found the section on the misuse of 'chloropleth maps' -- those where different regions are shaded different colours to represent some quantity, such as population or death rate -- the most enlightening.

However, for a book about graphic representations, it is poorly served by its print quality. The black-and-white line drawings throughout the text are crudely reproduced, making it difficult to discern the features being referred to. The colour plates -- new to this second edition -- are disappointingly lacking in the level of detail found in real maps. And too many of the examples are simplistic and dull, rather than being enlivend by real world case studies.

I was very disappointed with this book. It promised much, but delivered only a fraction of it. If you want good examples, and counter examples, of graphic design, superbly printed, I would recommend the excellent Edward Tufte instead.