Atlas of the Invisible:
Maps and Graphics That Will Change How You See the World

James Cheshire + Oliver Uberti

Particular Books 2021
A book review by Danny Yee © 2022
Treating some sixty topics with one or two double-pages offering maps or graphics and a short explanatory text, Atlas of the Invisible makes a variety of intriguing and in many cases unusual information accessible and engaging.

The topics are independent, but are grouped into four sections. "Where We've Been" ranges from migrations in deep history to early modern shipping and whaling and slaving. "Who We Are" covers cutting-edge topics such as using mobile phone data to map summer holidays in France, breaking the United States into units by commuting patterns, the West African Ebola outbreak, urban migration in China, bicycle hire schemes, and mobile phone and fibre optic connectivity. "How We're Doing" explores local problems such as racial "redlining", unexploded ordnance in Southeast Asia, and water pollution in Flint, as well as global variations in happiness, passport "power", gender imbalance in labour remuneration, misogyny and so forth. And "What We Face" mostly covers topics related to global heating, but also looks at the use of satellites in emergencies, digital mapping, and demographic predictions for 2100.

The topics are not always "invisible", most obviously with a satellite photograph of Rohingya refugee camps and with maps of world-wide light levels; the choice of material is progressive, foregrounding concerns about inequality and inequity; and while the volume is still slightly Anglo-centric, it manages a good breadth of geographical coverage.

The graphics offer a good variety in approach, without ever becoming outlandish, and manage to be striking without resorting to distracting special effects. Maps dominate, but there are some non-cartographic infographics. The texts are clear and well-written and work well with the graphics they accompany. And each section begins with a reasonably meaty essay: "Who We Are", for example, has four pages of text and two of graphics on the history of the United States Census. There is also an introduction and an epilogue.

Nothing in Atlas of the Invisible radically changed how I see the world, but there was a fair bit that was new to me, as well as some new perspectives on familiar material. I read it straight through, because I didn't want to miss anything, but it's a volume that lends itself to browsing.

April 2022

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%T Atlas of the Invisible
%S Maps and Graphics That Will Change How You See the World
%A Cheshire, James
%A Uberti, Oliver
%I Particular Books
%D 2021
%O hardcover, notes
%G ISBN-13 9781846149719
%P 216pp