How to choose an atlas

When my husband and I got married, we were also on the verge of moving from London to the United States. As a wedding present, a number of our friends chipped in and bought us a huge world atlas. It seemed like a somewhat strange gift at the time, but it’s surprising how much we’ve used our atlas, even in these times of Google Maps and other internet resources. There’s just something so nostalgic about pulling out the giant atlas, flipping over its huge papers and pouring over the maps, and inadvertently learning something new (the GDP of Singapore is $168.7 billion, who knew?). And nowadays, we often pull out the huge book to teach our daughter about the various countries of the world, as well.

If owning an atlas (or giving one as an unusual gift) sounds good to you, you’re in luck: Ben Keene, editor of Oxford University Press, has just posted his handy guide on how to pick an atlas. His tips include focusing on what you’ll be using your atlas for, determining whether an atlas is outdated or not (or a collector’s gem), and describes how an atlas’ index is much like a search engine. He even gives a compelling argument about why atlases are still relevant in a GPS world.