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As Goode as They Get
on April 7, 2005
When my father began work at the University of Michigan in 1932 toward a PhD in geography, he bought a copy of the then-new _Goode's_, the standard of geographers then as now. As the years went on he bought successive editions, giving me his old copies. I still have the first of these, a "revised and enlarged" edition of 1933.
I grew up with maps. I remain fascinated with them and use them (and create them) constantly in my work. That old _Goode's_ is one of dozens of atlases on my shelves, and one of eight editions of this title that I have owned. The newer editions of it are the atlases I refer to most frequently. When I need more detail I try the massive and wonderful _Times World Atlas_, or turn to various geographic software packages I own. But nine times in ten I quickly find what I need, clearly and attractively presented, in _Goode's_. When I must travel to do my work and can take only one atlas, it is _Goode's_.
Despite its compact and handy size, _Goode's_ does not compromise on coverage and detail. In fact, it is better on both counts than the great majority of "coffee-table" atlases. The key to this is that _Goode's_ is a just-the-fact atlas. There are no pictures, the text is brief and to the point. Fundamentally this is a map book. Color, shading, and standardized symbols are used effectively convey information. The density of presentation is chosen judiciously, packing as much information as possible in each map without making it necessary to squint through a magnifier. The gazetteer is excellent and comprehensive for an atlas of this size. Introductory material includes a nice introduction to cartography and map projections. There is a superb section of global thematic maps, analyzing many particular features of the physical and social landscape, and specialized thematic maps for each major region of the globe. This is an atlas with everything that is necessary and nothing that is not. No other atlas can come close for general utility, let alone value.
The only other atlas I have ever found that could compare in any way with _Goode's_ is the beautiful first edition of _The Oxford Atlas_, compiled in Britain after World War II when the economic conditions made skilled work astonishingly cheap. Unfortunately, the _Oxford_ has gone far downhill since then.
If you want a good desk atlas for reference, this is the one.