The Ghost Map - Group Read

Discussão75 Books Challenge for 2013

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The Ghost Map - Group Read

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Jan 24, 2013, 9:14 am

We in the Science, Religion, and History group, will be reading The Ghost Map, by Steven Johnson during the months of February and March. Anyone is welcome to join! There will be no specific reading schedule, so read it on your own terms.

Jan 24, 2013, 9:48 am

My library has The Ghost Map as an audiobook so I think I will join in.

Jan 24, 2013, 11:05 am

I'll be listening on audiobook as well. But I won't get to it until late February or early March. I have quite a queue set up!

Jan 24, 2013, 12:35 pm

I've had my copy for a couple of weeks and it is all I can do to keep my paws off of it for another 7 days!

Jan 24, 2013, 2:09 pm

I have three other books competing for time with it, but I plan to make it work somwhow.


Jan 24, 2013, 3:53 pm

I've got a paper copy, and I'm all set to go. I really like to be reading at least one non-fiction book as I'm mostly reading fiction these days.

Karen O.

Jan 24, 2013, 6:37 pm

I am going to try and get this one read as well. We will see if I get it done or not.

Editado: Jan 25, 2013, 10:37 am

My copy from the library is sitting here. I want/need to finish a couple books before I start it.

ETA: Thanks, Rachel, for setting up the thread!

Jan 25, 2013, 10:36 am

I have a copy, but I don't know when I'll get to it. I will, for sure, star this thread so that I can enjoy what the rest of you have to say when I do read it.

Jan 26, 2013, 12:43 pm

I'd like to join you for this group read.

Jan 27, 2013, 9:12 pm

I'll join in, too. My library has it as an audiobook, but not an e-book. I usually prefer to read, not listen to non-fiction, but I'll get started and if necessary I'll just buy it.

Jan 28, 2013, 12:27 am

It is on my list to read this year and it fits into one of my categories so I will join this group read.

Jan 28, 2013, 2:01 pm

I loved this book, and may reread it to join in on the discussion.

Jan 30, 2013, 9:45 am

Started yesterday...

Jan 30, 2013, 10:03 am

>14 qebo: So Soon! :)

Jan 30, 2013, 10:08 am

15: Hey, I'm on top of things this year!

Editado: Jan 30, 2013, 10:29 am

I'm planning on starting on the 1st

>16 qebo: I'm picturing you standing triumphantly on top of a giant pile of New Yorkers and Scientific Americans :-)

Jan 31, 2013, 5:54 pm

13: I'm tempted to as well, but I've read about the event twice recently as I also read The Medical Detective by Sandra Hempel, so I think I'll just observe from a shady corner somewhere.

Jan 31, 2013, 5:58 pm

I'm planning to join in. I'll go pick it up at the library tonight.

Jan 31, 2013, 6:14 pm

I'm about 2/3 through now, and finding it to be quite the page-turner. Ape, you and your disease books... one more for the wishlist.

Fev 4, 2013, 8:10 pm

I'm about 15% done, but I really do not like the narrator so I'm not sure if I'll make it all the way through. His voice is very deep and it is 1) hard to hear in loud situations (e.g. outside or on public transport), 2) hard to pay attention to, and 3) makes me sleepy.

Fev 5, 2013, 6:45 pm

I am going to dig the book out of the shelves tonight and hope to get started later this month.

Fev 5, 2013, 11:21 pm

I just finished it tonight - audiobook, so if the conversation depends on page numbers I'm toast.... but I found it fascinating and hard to stop listening to. Kept my iPod on while cooking dinner just to keep going. I didn't have a problem with the narrator, but I mostly get to listen while driving in my own car. Loved it.

Fev 8, 2013, 11:04 pm

The Ghost Map is now waiting for me at the library!

Fev 8, 2013, 11:10 pm

I note that The Ghost Map patiently sits on the tbr pile since 2010. If I can obtain a copy from my local library, I'll join in.

Fev 9, 2013, 5:32 pm

This is one of my favorite books. This looks like a good time to reread it.

Fev 11, 2013, 10:56 am

I've read it now. Good book, although I didn't care for the epilogue.

Fev 12, 2013, 4:20 pm

Well, there was a similar cut off for me. It went very smoothly and reasonably informatively up through the establishment acceptance of the waterborne hypothesis. The opining about scientific investigation and the advantages and disadvantages of urban concentration seemed weaker. He should have made either half of the book stronger and published that part alone.


Fev 12, 2013, 5:13 pm

I finished listening to it this morning. Here's my review:

The Ghost Map by Steven Johnson, read by Alan Sklar - Audiobook from the library - An account of the cholera outbreak in 1854 London, along with tangents on topics which the author thinks were influenced by the outbreak.

I'm not saying I disagree with anything that Johnson has to say; not at all. But I think he assumes a lot of connections that don't quite have enough evidence, and he is a bit heavy-handed with his views on the story. The parts about maps and urban living were fascinating and enjoyable, but I don't think that they had much to do with the cholera outbreak or John Snow's groundbreaking scientific problem-solving. Both topics would have been better served by two separate books: one about cholera and one about maps & cities.

I did not care for the narrator one bit. His voice was extremely low which made the book hard to pay attention to, and just generally hard to hear as his voice often could not rise above the sounds of my commute. (or my neighbor's TV)
He was also terrible at differentiating his voice when reading a citation vs. the rest of the book, so sometimes I did not know what was part of the book and what was quoted from other sources. I also felt that I was missing out due to the fact that the audiobook (obviously) does not contain the famous maps that half the story is about.

All in all, the book was very enjoyable, if not cohesive. But I should have read it, instead of listening to the audiobook.

Fev 12, 2013, 5:44 pm

My paper book did not have copies of the maps either. Rather a stupid thing to leave out, IMHO. They would have been a big help.

Fev 12, 2013, 6:52 pm

I often complain about the lack of maps in books and even talked to publishers about this problem as they are often so important to understanding the book. My publisher friends said that maps are expensive to produce in books so they get left out. Publishers aren't that interested in a reader's problems in understanding content. They are all about selling books.

I understand all that, but it drives me crazy to not have maps when I need them to understand the content.

Fev 12, 2013, 9:48 pm

He did say, maybe in the acknowledgements, which books do show the maps. I actually own one of those books, but I have no idea where it is.


Editado: Fev 13, 2013, 2:35 am

He also goes into how stupid the books are that reproduce the wrong maps. Because you need the right map to really see what is going on. A good part of his arguement is that only the right map lets you understand the whole thing. If publishers aren't interested in the readers, they might as well forget the whole business.

Fev 13, 2013, 10:22 am

Perhaps all of you already know this, but the map is reproduced in a large PDF format on The Ghost Map website: find it here.

Fev 14, 2013, 9:29 am

Thank you for that link. I also listened to the audiobook -- because the library didn't have an ebook for me to check out and I'm too lazy to actually go there -- but I missed having the map to see. This is great. The visual really is important to the book. Although I did enjoy the audiobook, this is one that, if you really are interested, would better be done with "real" reading.

Fev 17, 2013, 3:53 pm

The last chapter took away from my enjoyment of the book. It almost felt to me as if he was padding the story by going off on this tangent as he did.

Fev 18, 2013, 9:16 pm

I completely missed that there was a group read of The Ghost Map happening this (and next) month. I read it earlier in the month and loved it. For me it was a lovely combination of plague book and discussion of the wonders of spatial display of information. It makes me wish I'd followed through on an early interest in Public Health - I could have been on the forefront of GIS and disease mapping!

I love maps in books. It's maddening when maps important to understanding content aren't included or are simply incorrect. Does anyone else live in a library system in which endpaper maps are often covered by bookjacket protectors?

Fev 18, 2013, 11:09 pm

I'm going to be starting the book tonight, so will be weighing in soon. My library copy does have a map after the title page--I'll compare it to the link posted to see if it's the same.

Fev 19, 2013, 10:26 am

I have that same gripe about my library. Either they remove the dust jacket completely or they cover it with the dust jacket flaps. To be fair to the libraries, I don't know what choices they have. So I come back to the publishers. Why can't they just put the maps in the book? Front, back, or middle - location wouldn't matter as much to me a the information that the maps have in them. I don't really like them on the inside of the covers but do think it is better than nothing. I told one publisher that somebody went to the trouble and expense of drawing the map. Then the designer had it printed and put inside the cover, so all the expense is already there. Why not just put it the book where the reader can really access it? I never got an answer.

Fev 21, 2013, 1:27 pm

I work in an academic library, and we used to almost always discard the book jackets. We'd often cut the flaps so that the information was available to readers. If there was something on the lining papers, we'd move the flaps to an inside page. We are now keeping most book jackets. We do take into consideration whether or not there are maps on the lining papers.

Fev 21, 2013, 7:54 pm

I finished this morning, and you can find my review here:

I found it very interesting and thought-provoking, with all kinds of sidebar information. I'm happy the map was in the book, after the title page and easy to refer to.

Mar 12, 2013, 10:16 am

I've finally started The Ghost Map and am also working on Team of Rivals for my F2F book club. It's interesting that the time frame of the two books are the same.

TOR also recounts a cholera epidemic in 1949 in St Louis, Missouri through the eyes of Edward Bates:

"that killed more than a hundred a day, hearses rolling through the muddy streets from morning until night. In one week alone, he recorded the total deaths numbered nearly a thousand. ...He agonized over the medical ignorance about the origin of the disease or its remedy. 'No two of them agree with each other, and no one agrees with himself two weeks at a time.' "

Mar 12, 2013, 11:35 am

>42 streamsong: It's interesting that the time frame of the two books are the same.
I love it when that happens!

Mar 12, 2013, 1:36 pm

I have noticed that kind of syngery in my reading in the last couple of years. Sometimes it is a time period, and sometimes it is connected events. For instance I read When Christ and His Saints Slept earlier this year at the same time I was reading Red Queen. The first is about the English Civil War between Empress Maud and King Stephen and the second is the second book in the Cousin's War series by Philippa Gregory. The Cousin's War is what we call the War of the Roses. Both books are also connected with the Song of Fire and Ice series by George R. R. Martin. I guess it is sort of a six degrees of separation with books!

Mar 12, 2013, 5:26 pm

I love that synchronicity, too! The St. Paul paper calls it, "The Joy of Juxtaposition." It is a joy.

Karen O.

Mar 13, 2013, 12:16 am

"Joy of juxtaposition" --what a great phrase!

Chapter 1 done. I had no idea London was such a cess pool. Onward.

Mar 19, 2013, 12:26 am

Just finished reading. While I thoroughly enjoyed the main body of the book, and absolutely devoured it- picking it up and reading a few pages at every opportunity- I did not like the conclusion or the epilogue. What a disappointing finish. Some specific complaints:

End notes? The book has end notes? It would have been nice to know that before I was 3/4 finished. I only found it out when I accidently dropped the book and it fell open at the back. Many authors use superscript numbers at the places in the text which have notes. So should Johnson. It looks like there is some interesting information back there.

Also, while my book had a map of the neighborhood, it did not include the famous Snow map with the Veronoi diagram. After going on and on about it for page after page, it would have been nice to at least show a sample of the thing.

Where is an editor when you need one? Someone should have hidden his soap box. After being promised a look at how the London cholera outbreak changed the modern world, what I got was about 5 pages about NYC's 311 system and how amazing it is. I don't care. I don't live in NYC, or any other mega-city, and have no plans to visit. I'm not interested in learning his thoughts about the benefits of urban living. That isn't why I wanted to read this book. Maybe I missed the point he was trying to make. Maybe he should have used more than the one example.

I skimmed the epilogue in about 5 minutes. I would have liked a discussion about the way epidemics are identified and tracked in modern cities, but I only found a couple of paragraphs about that. It seemed that he threw in a mention of Snow or Soho or Victorians about every 4th paragraph and then just continued his diatribe.

As you can see, the very end of the book has very nearly spoiled the entire thing for me.

Mar 25, 2013, 8:55 am

Sandy - I would have been upset too if I'd not known there were end notes. I've seen another book lately that I criticized for the way end notes were handled.

Editado: Mar 25, 2013, 10:02 am

>47 sjmccreary:, 48. I missed the endnotes as well until I was too far into the book to care. I think publishers call these "silent notes" (not referred to in the text), and they do this to save publishing costs.

Mar 25, 2013, 7:35 pm

I really dislike end notes--they're so cumbersome to flip to, for one thing. And then, to not have references within the text--bah!

I had to return the copy of the book that I was reading to the library, and I'm now eagerly awaiting another copy so that I can finish up.

I laughed at myself during the reading of the symptoms of cholera--I'm not hypochondriacal (sp?) but I started to feel kind of sick! A horrible way to go.

Karen O.

Editado: Abr 1, 2013, 3:53 pm

I finished my read of The Ghost Map yesterday. I enjoyed the read. Here's my review (msg 133), if you're interested:

Karen O.

Abr 6, 2013, 8:03 am

I actually finished reading two months ago, but I've been kinda out of things here, have just posted the review: .