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Alain de Botton

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    My Library – Where You Are

    January 9, 2014

    Woah! We are well into January already. Doesn’t time just fly?

    Today, I have a my library post for you and I chose it to kick off the year on Colourliving (well, except for my #tinasjubilee giveaway) because I think it’s quite apt. Ok, I admit, it’s maps yet again (you already know I’m maps obsessed) but this time they are different to what you might think! No, the reason I chose it is because I’m not a great believer in New Year’s Resolutions. I’m an eternal student that takes stock on a regular basis and adjusts my learning accordingly. I believe that where we are is just where we need to be and as long as we move forward in some ways, whichever way, that’s fine. It’s also ok to feel lost sometimes and go and search for the answers or wait for the answers to appear from within.

    With that in mind, I thought it would be interesting to show you how a group of different people interpreted the brief of looking at everything we map: “we don’t just map our days, our thoughts, memories, what we want to mark, save and share. Because today it seems, that most of the time, despite all this mapping, we actually don’t really have a clear sense of where we are.”

    Where You Are is a beautiful collection of 16 personal maps, housed in a delightful box, written by 16 artists, writers and thinkers. Published by Visual Editions it’s a feast for the eyes as well as for the mind and soul. Published back in November 2013 it has had very good response and as a result is sold out with the publishers. Fret not, more copies will arrive by the end of the month.

    A whole year in the making, this labour of love is pure storytelling in the form of maps, but not in the traditional sense as we know it. Each booklet explores the idea of what a map can be. There’s something for everyone, for the more traditional amongst you right to the ones that love something more obscure and metaphorical. The result is a very diverse book of ‘maps’ that might/will leave you feeling completely lost, but can offer a plethora of ideas and thoughts which are truly satisfying and inspirational!

    The box, beautifully designed, is a work of art in itself!


    I particularly like that the introduction is printed inside the cover, as seen here below.




    I’ve chosen to show you some of my favourite maps, but they are all truly worthy contenders.

    Denis Wood — The Paper Route Empire – is a lovely booklet mapping the joint memories of a group of boys’ newspaper route trails. Great sketches and an unfolding map supports this storytelling.




    Sheila Heti/Ted Mineo — How to be Good When You’re Lost – Finding different ways to make hard everyday choices. You’ll find some lovely illustrations and cut-outs inside.



    James Bridle — You Are Here – a cultural, technological and visual mapping of the Global Positioning Systems. Simple and effective.


    Leanne Shapton — Tablescapes – Paintings of objects or ‘desk still-lifes’ on her tabletop at the end of every day. Leanne ‘began to photograph and paint these tablescapes when I realized I navigated my week and work based on the topography of my desk or tabletop.” They are utterly charming.



    Alain de Botton — On the Pleasure of Maps – a historical precis of maps: from the Garden of Eden to Marco Polo. De Botton writes a wonderful essay, illustrated by some old maps attached to the end of the booklet!

    “If looking at a map seems a bore, it is perhaps because we only ever do so when we’re lost. Pulled up at the edge of a country road, we grow red trying to match the scene through the windscreen with the arrangement of shapes on the map – and more often than not, fail completely to locate where on earth we might be. The map comes to seem an instrument of humiliation, in command of a landscape which we cannot comprehend through our senses.
    What can therefore be most charming about looking at old maps is the way they get everything wrong.”



    For anyone who loves maps and is curious to see a different take on it, this is a gem of a publication. The price tag is well worth it and ‘Where You Are’ is a welcome addition to my collection of books on maps!