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The Atlas of the Real World: Mapping the Way We Live Hardcover – October 27, 2008

18 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0500514252 ISBN-10: 0500514259

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Editorial Reviews

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This atlas will change the way we look at geography. By using a combination of computer-generated maps and various types of demographic information, the maps, called cartograms, alter the size of the countries of the world to represent more or less of whatever the map is showing. For example, on the “Exports of Machinery” map, western European countries and Japan are shown as very large areas because they are the main net exporters in terms of dollar value of exports per person per year. All the other countries of the world are slivers of color, or completely disappear. Some 366 different cartograms are grouped under 16 topics, among them “Natural Resources and Energy,” “Wealth and Poverty,” “Housing and Education,” and “War and Crime.” Users can easily see where in the world are the most forests loss, the most patents granted, the most books published, the highest number of road deaths, and the most birds at risk, just to name a few examples. To make the atlas easier to read, each region and country (dark blue for the U.S.) are always shown in the same color. Each map is accompanied by graphs, tables, brief explanatory text, and, in many cases, a quotation. The data for the maps is from reliable sources, mainly from 2005 and 2006. For libraries that cannot afford to purchase the atlas, the Worldmapper Web site ( includes all 366 maps available as free downloadable PDF posters and close to 200 additional maps not included in the book. For those libraries that can afford it, the atlas is highly recommended. --Christy Donaldson


“Anyone with a yen for maps and statistics will be fascinated…enough unusual maps and mind-boggling data to appeal to a wider readership.”

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Thames & Hudson (October 27, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0500514259
  • ISBN-13: 978-0500514252
  • Product Dimensions: 1.1 x 0.2 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,439,023 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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More About the Author

Danny Dorling has lived all his life in England. To try to counter his myopic world view, in 2006, Danny started working with a group of researchers on a project to remap the world ( He has published with many colleagues more than a dozen books on issues related to social inequalities in Britain and several hundred journal papers. Much of this work is available open access (see His work concerns issues of housing, health, employment, education and poverty. Before a career in academia Danny was employed as a play-worker in children's play-schemes and in pre-school education where the underlying rationale was that playing is learning for living. He tries not to forget this. He is an Academician of the Academy of the Learned Societies in the Social Sciences and, in 2008, became Honorary President of the Society of Cartographers. In 2011 He became a patron of the charity Roadpeace.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

19 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Rob Hardy HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on November 25, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Among the biggest problems in making an accurate map of the globe is that a sphere can never be a plane. If you take a globe and try to flatten it, you are certain to stretch or tear parts of it. Cartographers get around this problem in many ways. Some flat maps of the Earth show all the land masses and countries in the right shape, but they distort the size. Some maps show all the sizes proportional, but distort the shapes. "Since the sizes and shapes of countries are inevitably distorted by map projections, why not make the most of it?" This is the question asked by Daniel Dorling, Mark Newman, and Anna Barford[...]and who have now brought out an impressive book of novel maps, _The Atlas of the Real World: Mapping the Way We Live_ (Thames and Hudson). You might have seen maps similar to these before, usually devoted to populations. The shapes of the continents and countries are distorted in a population map so that a country that has a hundred million people is twice as large as a country that has fifty million people. The map might look funny - it isn't one that a navigator could ever use, but it serves a different purpose from traditional maps. It's not too distorted; after all, lands that are big in acreage are usually big in population, but it is easy to see on such a map (and of course the authors offer one) that for instance India is greatly swollen, while Russia is reduced nearly to a thin horizontal line.

If you can distort the globe for the purpose of showing population concentrations, why not distort it to show, say, exports of toys, or imports of toys? Those maps are here, too. There are 366 colorful maps in this big, glossy, handsome, and thought-provoking book. Some of the distortions are mild, some are so extreme as to look more like Jupiter than Earth.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Miamigirl on January 21, 2009
Format: Hardcover
The graphics are beautiful and very interesting but the stastical data is out of date, as the book is dated 2003. Used as history, it is unusual and fun.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Shalom Freedman HALL OF FAME on December 4, 2008
Format: Hardcover
The three- hundred and sixty- six maps, or as the authors call them 'cartograms' in this book present a picture of how each of the areas and nations of the world stack up 'demographically' in regard to a wide variety of physical parameters. The major areas covered in the book are :Land Area and Population * Travel and Transport * Natural Resources and Energy * Globalization and Internationalism * Food and Consumables * Minerals, Natural Products and Petrochemicals * Manufactured Goods and Services * Wealth and Poverty * Employment and Productivity * Housing and Education * Communication and Media * Health and Illness * Death and Disaster * War and Crime * Pollution and Depletion * Extinction and Endangerment.
The great problem I have with the book is that it really does not make clear the position of most nations in relation to most of the parameters in question. There are accompanying charts but these cover the for instance ten most populous and ten least populous countries of the world. I believe it would have been far more instructive had there been charts accompanying each map in which each particular nation of the world was ranked.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Mariusz Ozminkowski on July 30, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The idea is excellent: to show the magnitude of the numbers by graphically distorting the size of countries or regions. However, after several maps this becomes tiring and repetitious. Some people may find some statistics surprising, but most numbers and the proportions on the maps are predictable. At the same time the statistics are rather limited. Overall, this is one of these books that is good to see before buying. Maybe a quick trip to a bookstore (if they have it) would help to make that decision.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Scott M. Kruse on December 9, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
These 391 maps are cartograms - intentional distortions proportional to what is being represented and in relation to every other area. This is valuable because it shows what geography is about, spatial and temporal. Politicians may argue and we may perceive ourselves as "bigger, longer, wealthier, better fed, better educated or lower, longer and poorer." The cartograms show things in proportion.

The US thinks of itself as highly educated, but map 247, "Growth in Secondary Education Spending" shows the US as almost nonexistent in proportion to other countries. The highest is western Europe, India, China, Japan and Brazil. For wealth China is about to come full circle by 2015 and exceed the US in wealth. At a glance you see the net importers and exporters of goods and services. The Middle East stands out for fuel exports while the US is the largest fuel importer. These are all cartograms, there is no need to look at a data table. Through color and distortion, you know, immediately, who is larger, smaller, richer, poorer, and more.

There is a significant quote on each page for each topic. 'At City Toys Ltd, . . . . Shenzhen, youngsters worked 16-hour days, seven days a week.' The cartogram shows China far and away the largest exporter of toys. Deaths from Cholera overwhelm Africa and India while the rest of the world shrinks away.

[...] is a site that compliments the text and makes the information all the more accessible and useful. It gives you a full, cross-referenced index and makes the information in all the maps easily accessible. The 400 page text (28 * 24 cm) is too big to carry around, the web site makes the information accessible almost anywhere.

l use the text and the web site in the Human Geography, Geomorphology and Meteorology courses I teach. Students love the colors, shapes and easy access to data. This sets a high standard for other map - data combinations.
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