Trinity University Press

Maps of the Imagination

The Writer as Cartographer

Peter Turchi (author)

Turchi posits the idea that maps help people understand where they are in the world in the same way that literature, whether realistic or experimental, attempts to explain human realities

Maps of the Imagination takes us on a magic carpet ride over terrain both familiar and exotic. Using the map as a metaphor, fiction writer Peter Turchi considers writing as a combination of exploration and presentation, all the while serving as an erudite and charming guide. He compares the way a writer leads a reader though the imaginary world of a story, novel, or poem to the way a mapmaker charts the physical world. “To ask for a map,” writes Turchi, “is to say, ‘Tell me a story.’ ”

With intelligence and wit, the author looks at how mapmakers and writers deal with blank space and the blank page; the conventions they use (both the ones readers recognize and those that often go unnoticed) or consciously disregard; the role of geometry in maps and the parallel role of form in writing; how maps and writing serve to re-create an individual’s view of the world; and the artist’s delicate balance of intuition with intention. The ancient Greeks, German globe makers, and British cartographers join forces with the Marx Brothers, NASA, and Roadrunner cartoons to shed light on the strategies of writers as diverse as Sappho, Ernest Hemingway, Virginia Woolf, Vladimir Nabokov, Italo Calvino, Don DeLillo, and Heather McHugh.

A unique combination of history, critical cartography, personal essay, and practical guide to writing, Maps of the Imagination is a book for writers, for readers, and for anyone interested in creativity. Colorful illustrations and Turchi’s insightful observations make his book both beautiful and a joy to read.


  • Designated as a New York Times 100 Best Nonfiction Books of All Time
  • Winner of the Book Art Foundation of Germany Stiftung Buchkunst Silver Medal
  • Winner of the Texas Institute of Letters Fred Whitehead Award for Best Design
  • Winner of the Bookbuilders West Book Show Certificate of Excellence
  • Designated as a Choice Magazine Outstanding Academic Book
  • Designated as a (Boston) Best Book
  • Designated as a Communication Arts Magazine Design Annual Featured Book
  • Designated as an AIGA 50 Books/50 Covers Featured Book
  • Designated as a Print Magazine Regional Design Featured Book
  • Designated as a Santa Fe New Mexican Bestseller


“Readers, after all, love to get lost in a good book. It is a wise writer who will not only deposit them there but lead them out again, whole and thoroughly satisfied.”


“It’s not uncommon to compare the writing of a story to the mapping of a world, but no one has so fully, or so seductively and rewardingly, performed as extended a meditation on this illuminating metaphor as Turchi. . . . Brilliant and pleasurable, Turchi’s musing on our innate need to know where we are, where we might go, and why alters our perceptions of not only maps and fiction but also the nature of the mind’s terra incognita.”


More reviews »
Maps of the Imagination cover
  • Price: $24.95 buy »
  • Pages: 248
  • Size: 5.5 x 8.25
  • Published: Sep 2007
  • Status: Available
  • ISBN: 9781595340412
  • Illustrations: 49
  • Maps: 28
  • Price: $29.95 buy »
  • Pages: 248
  • Size: 5.5 x 8.25
  • Published: Oct 2004
  • Status: Available
  • ISBN: 9781595340054
  • Illustrations: 49
  • Maps: 28
  • Price: $24.99
  • Published: Jun 2011
  • Status: Available
  • ISBN: 9781595340948
  • Illustrations: 49
  • Maps: 28


Writers / Writing