For many years I judged and made an assumption. I admit it, I did it. When I open a book and there’s a detailed map either in the inside cover or the center I close that book right back and move on. I assume that the book is going to be so complicated that I will need a map to keep track of the story. I know my own personal reading struggles and limitation and I just don’t want my pleasure reading to be that complicated. Well, I am sorry now and I need a map.
I began to re-read a novel last week that I read and loved from 2005. I remember when it arrived to be added to the collection at the university library where I worked at the time and I was the first to check it out and read it over one weekend’s time. This week I’m not reading nearly as fast and I’m struggling to keep the places and situations straight. Then mid-week it hit me, what would help me with all the travel of the characters and geographic references in the book was a map.
Maps are truly an interesting and helpful addition to a novel. Currently we see maps in children’s and teen books more than adult books, but the opposite was true until the late 19th century. Treasure Island, Hundred Acre Woods, The Hobbit, Harry Potter, The Wizard of Oz, Narnia, and Game of Thrones all have maps of some sort in the front, back, or inside of the book. Many espionage, war, and foreign affairs novels provide maps as a way to show places of action or educate the reader on the importance of a place’s location. Maps also are created to help the reader visualize make-believe places where a world has been created and the story takes place in that world. Those are maps where we are not left to our own imaginations.
The map not only helps as a visual to the story, but it may tell its own story as well. And the art of some can be incredibly detailed and ornate or very sparse with only minimal information. Many readers will study a map before beginning a story, while others will begin the story and then reference back to it when needed. Or there’s those readers, like me, that avoided the map (and even the book) altogether.
The book I’m re-reading, “The Historian” by Elizabeth Kostova, has so many European points of reference that I’ve had to seek out alternative map help. Yes, I did it, I saved a map on my iPad and reference it often. Maybe I’m slowing down as a reader, perhaps I want more from the story than just a quick re-read, and more than any guess as to why I’ve changed my mind about maps, I gladly admit was just wrong about them.
Leslie Scott is the Director for the Prosper Community Library.