Oh, the Books! Bookish Guides: Maps & Cartography

Bookish Guides the Books!

Oh, the Books! Bookish Guides is a monthly recommendation feature in which we share books we love that fit a certain hard-to-find category. If you are having trouble finding a book that contains a certain feature and you want our help, send use the suggestion box on our Bookish Guides page and we may feature it on a future post!


This month (thanks to Kelley’s prodding) we wanted to highlight maps for our Bookish Guide. Our guide will cover books that include a strong theme of maps within their pages, but we also wanted to include books that just have maps IN them — you know, all those fantasy novels with maps on the inside binding! Here’s our tribute to maps in books.

Our Recommendations

Asti recommends…

None of my recommendations really focus on maps within the story. No, I don’t get that deep when it comes to maps in books. For me, my love of maps in books is more on a superficial level. I love them because they’re pretty and I just think they look good when they accompany a story by being placed somewhere in it’s pages. I never actually use them when reading the story, but I just like to have them there to drool over. I can’t help it, I’m a sucker for maps.

As a result, my map recommendations are for books with maps in the books (not necessarily in the stories).

Siege and Storm by Leigh BardugoDays of Blood and Starlight, by Laini TaylorLeviathan

These top three maps are some of my recent favorites that I’ve come across in YA. Hands down, the best for me Leviathan. Seriously, look at this thing! It does such a great job of representing the major forces within the book (Darwinist vs. Clankers vs. Neutrals) and matches the illustrations that are sprinkled throughout the book. I really can’t recommend this series enough; it’s appeared on our Illustrated and Steampunk Guides. Just READ IT already!

The second book in the Grisha trilogy, Siege and Storm, also has a beautifully illustrated map. (Of course, it shouldn’t be that shocking I love it because it’s done by the same map-maker behind Leviathan, Keith Thompson!) Days of Blood and Starlight has a lovely map as well, though it’s much more of a map than an illustration as the other two. (I can’t help it, I’m a sucker for illustrations!)

Throne of Glass, Sarah J MaasEragon, Christopher Paolini, The Inheritance CycleGraceling, Kristin Cashore

Throne of Glass and Graceling I want to recommend more for the stories than the maps. Their maps are beautiful and serve their function, but it’s the stories that made me fall in love with these fantasies more than anything else. I mean, kick-ass females who can get stuff done? How can you not want to read them? And Eragon? It’s probably one of my first map-loves, and it’s one of the few books I’ve read where I’ve actually utilized the map. It’s been so long since I’ve read it that I don’t know if I can confidently recommend it like these other books, but it has dragons so really, what more could you want?

I know the mere inclusion of a map shouldn’t be reason enough to buy a book, but for me it is sometimes the only motivation I need to make a book purchase. If you’re the same, then definitely pick up one of the books pictured above. You’ll not only get a beautiful map, but an awesome story as well.

Leanne recommends…

Across the Universe by Beth RevisIt’s probably no secret by now I despise dust jackets. I’m pretty sure I wrote a post about it once back when I began book blogging, and I tend to complain about them from time to time on Twitter. When I’m not doing that, I’m at *least* expressing my wishes on having prettier bindings on hardback books. (Really, where has all the artistry gone?) Across the Universe may be the only dust jacket I’ve ever not only liked, but had those super squishy lovey-type feelings for. It has a pretty great design, especially as far as YA books are concerned. But the best part? The dust jacket reverses into a MAP of the Godspeed ship!

Furies of CalderonI have a major problem with pushing the Codex Alera series on people (meaning I can’t stop doing it). If you’ve seen my contributions to the Dragons & Jetpacks group, or just about any fantasy-centric recommendations I’ve made, on Goodreads, you’ve probably seen me screaming at people in text that they need to read these books. They’re probably not for everyone. They’re thick (page-wise) and have intricate politics. The magic system is phenomenal and elemental. The characters grow throughought each installment, and will completely win your heart. Every one of them. Major battles are fought, friendships are tested, love is found, unity is acquired, adventures are had, and struggles are felt. This series is epic. (And now you’re probably thinking “WHY would she say this isn’t for everyone?!” I know. I know. Just go read it.) I seem to recall at least one of them having a map of Alera in the front, but couldn’t find any examples online to back up my memory. However, there is this lovely fan-made map of the region that was released after all the first printings.

AHollows Insidernother favorite series I tend to push on people anytime they ask for urban fantasy recommendations is Kim Harrison’s The Hollows. It’s seriously my favorite UF, out of the many many of them I’ve read through in the past decade. There are kickass females (yes, more than one!), strong platonic relationships, occasional romances that don’t undermine the plot, some serious action, crime-fighting, magical realism, new twists on witches/vamps/shifters/other parafolks, confusingly complex demons, atmosphere, character growth… I could keep going but I only have so much room here to fangirl. So. None of the novel installments have maps in them, but this handy companion book has a few. There aren’t too many since most of the story takes place in the same city, but there are a couple of hand-drawn reconnaissance maps on notebook paper, and a few sketched maps of Harrison’s version of Cincinnati.

Kelley recommends…

The Glass Sentence by S. E. Grove

The Glass Sentence by S. E. GroveThis probably my favorite book about maps EVER. First, I just have to say that this is one of the most imaginative and clever steampunk/fantasy/sci-fi novels I’ve ever read. I think it’s possibly labeled as Middle Grade, but it’s one of those books (like Harry Potter) that anyone and everyone will enjoy. Mapmaking (or “cartology” as they call it in this book) is a craft that many people in this world do for a living, and the maps are incredible. There are maps on glass, stone, leather, and all sorts of different materials, each one showing something different, but overlapping with the others (and each one “activated” in a different way). There are WATER maps, people. WATER. MAPS. You WANT to read this book. (Also, there are multiple maps inside!)

The Mapmaker’s War by Ronlyn Domingue

The Mapmaker's War by Ronlyn DomingueThis is an adult book, which means there are some more adult-ish themes (mostly when it comes to marriage/adult relationships — nothing racy or anything), but it’s one I’d recommend to fans of YA. The main character is a cartographer, and I love the way that mapmaking is such a part of HER and her life. The way it’s threaded throughout everything she does, everything she thinks, and every encounter she has. The relationships and introspection are breathtraking. Beautifully written, but alas, no maps inside.

The Stormlight Archive by Brandon Sanderson

Words of Radiance by Brandon SandersonYes, this includes both The Way of Kings and Words of Radiance. This series gets double points, because both books have plenty of mappage inside. But the second book even goes into some mapmaking through the character of Shallan. She’s an artist, she mostly draws, and in this book she gets into some pretty intricate and elaborate cartography, which of course had me over the moon. The best part is that you get to SEE these maps, as drawn by the character, no just as provided with the book!

The Rithmatist by Brandon Sanderson

The Rithmatist by Brandon SandersonThis book gets cool points because the whole thing was dreamed up based on a map that Sanderson drew one day! So while there’s only the one map in the beginning of the book, it’s special because it was inspired by this map, and thus the story revolves around some interesting geography in his alternate US. Plus, the book is super cool, imaginative, interesting, and unique (have you EVER heard of magic done by drawing mathematically specific and accurate chalk drawings? I didn’t think so!).

The Map to Everywhere by Carrie Ryan

The Map to Everywhere by Carrie Ryan and John Parke DavisOkay, so I haven’t actually read this one yet (and much to my disappointment, they denied my request for the galley on Edelweiss), but I can tell it’s going to be awesome. First of all, as with many MG fantasy books, the cover art is gorgeous (including the title lettering!). The story looks so imaginative, and obviously it’s all about using a special map! I really can’t wait to read this one, so I hope it’s good!

Your Recommendations

Of course, we didn’t want to just limit our bookish guide to only books that we have read! We asked for your recommendations on the Oh, the Books! Twitter and here is what you said:

Some of you also suggested books we included in our recommendations above.

Recommendations from Around the Blogosphere

Some of you also suggested books we included in our recommendations above.

Recommendations from Around the Blogosphere

We’ve also found some great discussions and recommendations of books with/about maps from other bloggers:

Don’t forget to add your recommendations to our lists on Goodreads: Books with Maps Inside and Books About Maps!

What Do You Think?

Are there any books featuring maps and cartography that you think we missed? Let us know in the comment section!

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