• Joe Pace

Favorite Non-Fiction Books, #9: New Zealand Travel Atlas


Somebody tell the kids you can't zoom out by pinching your fingers

Sometimes you love a book not because of its content but because of the physical object itself. This beat-up wire-bound book of maps made the rounds of New Zealand back in 2003-4 when I went down to visit Sarah during her six-month volunteer stint at the antipodes. This was in the last days before widespread GPS or iPhones with their handheld scrollable maps, so this atlas rode shotgun as we toured from Auckland in the north to Queenstown in the south. It was a great three-week perambulation, spending time at Lake Taupo, the museums of Wellington, the gorgeous coastal drive from Picton to Christchurch, rafting the Lower Shotover and hiking the volcanoes of Tongariro and Ruapeho (where, incidentally, they filmed the scenes for Mordor), and spending Christmas Eve at the foot of Aoraki. It's a beautiful country, and I was with a beautiful woman (we'd be engaged before the trip was over), and this book was there for all of it. There's something romantic about print maps, about the tactile exercise of tracing the line of a road with your finger, about the mild excitement of reaching the edge of one map and turning the page to the next. It was the waning moments of a bygone era, an adventure, a spasm of freedom before kids and houses and true adulthood.

Sometimes a book can be a source of both information and nostalgia. This one is a totem, a souvenir from some of the great days of my life.

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