More on Geography


Here is the next section from my 2001 book, Hoover’s Vision, which is now available as The Art of Enterprise at  If you search my geography posts (click on Tuesday, above, use the search box or the tag cloud), you will see updated reading recommendations, in addition to those below.
Putting Geography to Work

A few years ago, I attended a presentation by the admissions officer at my alma mater, the University of Chicago. He proudly explained how the school was recruiting the very best students from Massachusetts and Minnesota, Ohio and Pennsylvania. I asked, “How much time are you spending in Scottsdale, Arizona, or Marietta, Georgia, or Plano, Texas?” Competitors like Duke and Stanford were already recruiting in these rising, affluent, increasingly powerful sunbelt communities, while the folks at the University of Chicago, whose scholars had contributed greatly to understanding human geography, were not applying what they knew to their enterprise. (In fairness, I have to add that today the University is much more aggressive in acting on geographical change.)  
An enterprise must be built with an awareness of what is going on in the world. The following pages will offer tips on how to view our changing world, what the major trends are, and where they are taking place. We’ll examine the concept of globalization—what it really means, and what it may mean for local cultures around the world. We’ll also take a look at the cities of the world, and we’ll close with a look at the present and future of the geography of the United States.

Learning More About Geography

Since there are so few popular books written on geography, especially human and economic geography, the best books are often textbooks. They aren’t boring – they are full of maps and important insights not readily found elsewhere. If I list more than one, you should look for the one that has most recently been updated, as most of them are updated every few years (but rarely annually) with the latest data. Two excellent textbooks are Human Geography: Cultures, Connections, and Landscapes by Edward F. Bergman and Human Geography: Culture, Society, and Space by H. J. de Blij. Wonderful maps, data, and analyses about people, religions, language. My favorite overall geography textbook, breaking the world into rational “continents,” is Geography: Realms, Regions, and Concepts, by H. J. de Blij and Peter O. Muller. Great concepts, maps, and data. You can sometimes order this book combined in a package with my favorite atlas for leaders – Goode’s Atlas, Rand McNally, editor John G. Hudson. This is the best US-produced atlas for issues of concern to enterprises – issues like people and the economy. It is updated every few years and is available as a hardcover or paperback. A good pocket atlas to travel with is the Haack Pocket Atlas of the World from Barron’s.
A great book for understanding Europe is The New Superregions of Europe by Darrell Delamaide, which does for Europe what Joel Garreau did for the US and Canada in The Nine Nations of North America. A good introductory book is The European Culture Area by Terry G. Jordan, which is helpful if you need to understand the varied parts of Europe. I would also recommend A Geography of the European Union by John Cole and Francis Cole, which is a good look at emerging Europe. My favorite book on Asia is Video Night in Kathmandu: And Other Reports from the Not-so-far East, by Pico Iyer. Australian journalist Greg Sheridan may have the best “handle” on Asia of any non-Asian observer in his excellent book Asian Values Western Dreams: Understanding the New Asia. In The River at the Center of the World: A Journey up the Yangtze, and Back in Chinese Time by Simon Winchester, story-telling, history, and travel are beautifully combined.

Try This: Exploring the World

·       Walk from your house a mile in a direction you have not walked in a long time. See what you can learn.
·       Open a map of your city or region. Pick the part of town that you know the least about – you don’t even know if its houses or factories. Go there on a weekend day – walk around.
·       Open a map of your state and pick the place you know the least about. Go there some weekend. What is it like? How does it compare from where you are from? What opportunities do you see?
·       Open a map of your nation. Pick a state or province that you have never been to, or not spent much time in. Go there. Ask the same questions.
·       Pick a nation in the atlas. One that you know little about. Read up on its history. Go there. Is it what you expected? What needs do people have? What things do they have that you do not?

Historical Atlases

Historical Atlases are often the most pleasurable way to learn geography and history simultaneously. But one needs to get in the habit of stopping on each map and thinking, “what does this map tell me?” The Hammond Atlas of the 20th Century is a beautiful atlas which covers (in words and maps) the major events of the century from the fall of the Ottoman Empire to the rise of AIDS. The much-larger Hammond Atlas of World History, edited by Richard Overy and a part of the Times series, is excellent. Every continent, every era, is well-covered. Competitors from Oxford and Dorling Kindersley are also good. If you want to save a little money – or carry a few less pounds – The Harper Atlas of World History is a good medium sized historical atlas.