A world atlas is the perfect way to explore the world from your home. Effectively, it's a collection of maps that can be used as an educational, recreational, or referencing tool. If you want to discover more about the world around you, without having to look through dozens of unreliable internet pages, why not try a world atlas?
Sites such as eBay and Amazon have some wonderful hardback and paperback books from trusted publishers such as National Geographic, DK and HarperCollins, all current, concise, and suited to both kids and adults! Whether for students, for travel, or for fun, let us guide you through the steps we think you should consider, and introduce you to our top 10.
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It can be a little overwhelming to make your selection from the plethora of atlases currently available online, and you may have difficulty navigating through the many different choices. In this buying guide, we will share our tips for choosing your atlas.
There is no doubt that atlases can be an excellent learning resource for understanding the world we live in, whatever your age!
For aspiring cartographers or explorers, there are some wonderful atlases aimed at children, with bright imagery and age-appropriate language to ensure that they can understand complicated information. We recommend these particularly when they involve interactive activities, as children learn best when they are involved with the subject that they are learning about.
However, children definitely don't have to read only children's atlases; adults' atlases with lots of pictures and a guiding grown up can also be just as interesting for a younger mind. If you are buying for, or to share with, children, you can check the age suitability in our specification tables.
If you’re getting an atlas for leisurely reading purposes, you may not think that it is so important to focus on getting one that has just been published.
However, whether you're a scholar or not, we'd advise checking that you purchase a recently published atlas, as geopolitical circumstances are constantly evolving, meaning that countries’ names, borders, and cities will also be subject to change.
To avoid calling Myanmar ‘Burma’ and to make sure you are learning the most accurate information, buy an atlas published within the last year or so!
Depending on whether you're looking for an at-home tome or an atlas to take to college or out and about, you'll need to consider various features related to its size. Here are the most important.
You'll often find that atlases come as hardcover coffee-table books. This is to ensure that even smaller names on their maps can still be read and to help the reader visualise the area they're looking at.
Moreover, atlases with a focus on beautiful and detailed photography or illustrations will be larger to ensure that you fully benefit from the artistic efforts put into them! A hardback atlas can also be a decorative touch in a room or as a gift.
However, if you are just looking for an atlas to help you get to grip with the basics, and don't want it to take up too much space at home or in your bag, we advise opting for a paperback. There are eBook format atlases out there, but for the reasons above, they're not too common.
A general rule of thumb when making a purchase on the internet rather than in person is to check the dimensions of your product before buying, and it is no different for atlases.
Whether you want to ensure that your atlas fits onto your bookshelf, or you want to ensure that it is big enough that you won't have to strain your eyes to read place names, we recommend checking the dimensions (listed in centimetres) of the height, width, and depth of your atlas.
Although an online summary will guide you through the elements it includes, it can be difficult to know how much detail your atlas goes into without being able to physically flip through it.
In these instances, we recommend having a look at the page count – you can get a basic atlas consisting exclusively of maps of the world within around 90 pages. For an atlas with more in-depth content, we recommend that you look for something with around double the pages. Bear in mind that this will influence how portable it is, too.
A very basic world atlas will just have maps of the world. However, you will find that more detailed world atlases will also include additional information, and you may want to look out for this depending on what kind of purpose your atlas will serve.
For instance, for atlases that are going to be used for studying purposes, you may want to find an atlas that includes additional geographical information.
For learning more about different countries, you will want to find an atlas that includes flags and facts. Very in-depth atlases can also go as far as to cover geopolitical movements and environmental concerns.
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World Atlas Reference Edition
A Contemporary Reference Atlas Reflecting All of the Recent Changes in World Geography
Brilliant Maps: An Atlas for Curious Minds｜Ian Wright
Graphic Illustrations and Compelling Facts to Help You Understand the World
Complete Atlas of the World
The Fourth Edition of a Well-Trusted, Detailed World Atlas
Universal Atlas of the World
An Elegant and Comprehensive Atlas of the World
White Lion Publishing
Atlas of Vanishing Places｜Travis Elborough
An Alternative Atlas to Introduce You to Places You Won't Find in Any Other
An Up-To-Date Atlas for Work, Study, or Leisure
National Geographic Kids
Little Kids First Big Book Of The World｜Elizabeth Carney
An Interactive Introduction to Atlases
Atlas of the World｜National Geographic & Alex Tait
A Huge Atlas to Help You Visualise the World as You Read
The Book Service
My First Picture Atlas ｜Catherine Bruzzone
A First Atlas for Young and Curious Minds
World Atlas: Paperback Edition
Concise and Lightweight, a Budget-Friendly Atlas for Adults
Published in 2020, you won't be able to find many other options from such reputable publishers as this Collins World Atlas! It has been brought fully up to date to reflect political and population shifts so that you can be sure you are reading the most relevant geographical information.
Complete with clear, highly-detailed maps, it's divided into thematic pages to cover physical features, statistical information, and thousands of interesting key facts. This is our top pick for an atlas that is both comprehensive and concise, all in an approachable format that doesn't miss out on any key details.
Author Ian Wright is a cartophile who runs the website Brilliant Maps, which this atlas is based on. This book takes a somewhat alternative approach to more traditional atlases, by including unusual maps paired with interesting facts.
Including 100 maps, Brilliant Maps combines trivia concerning different cultures, political systems, history, and geography, whilst also ensuring that the basic traditional geographic content is covered. A good choice for geography enthusiasts who are looking for a new way to look at the world.
This trustworthy Atlas from DK is now in its fourth edition, published in 2019, to reflect the most recent developments in the world, ranging from economics to population statistics.
With intense detail in its 97-page main body of world maps, it is surely a solid choice for those looking to understand the world we live in through cartography. There are also further breakdowns on key cities and regions, and a fully cross-referenced index, to enable you to concisely and easily find the information you are looking for.
This Times Universal Atlas of the World provides trustworthy information you can expect, but at a more budget-friendly price. With reference mapping that is easy to digest and in the characteristic Times Style, you can use this atlas to understand the geopolitical and geographical state of the world today.
Published in 2019, it provides up-to-date maps, statistics, flags, and facts for all of the world's countries, with overviews of information for each country. Whether for work, study, or leisure, you can rely on this atlas.
An atlas unlike any other, The Atlas of Vanishing Places explores forgotten places that are at risk of being lost to time. Author Travis Elborough takes his reader through forgotten rivers, disappeared islands, and cities that have vanished under modern developments.
With immersive illustrations and fascinating facts, this atlas is a wonderful alternative to a normal atlas, and would be a truly unique gift to any cartophile in its hardback format.
This atlas has been most recently updated in 2019, in association with the Royal Geographical Society with the Institute of British Geographers, so you can trust it will be accurate and up to date. It's also available in both paperback and hardback.
Not to mention, it's jam-packed with content, including a 32 page introduction to establish key geographical themes such as climate and environment, a 96 page section of physical and political maps, and a 48 page section of 'World Cities' to introduce key urban areas. An excellent all-rounder for many uses!
Not only does this publication from the National Geographic Kids cover languages, weather, animals, capital cities, mountains, deserts, and other landscapes and landforms, but it also includes interactive activities to help them to learn and retain geography information.
Illustrated with colour photographs, and simple and approachable facts about different areas in the world, this atlas will help your young learner to understand the world around them either alone or guided by an adult. Though it was published in 2015, it's a still a good place to start!
National Geographic's Atlas of the World has been published in its 11th edition in 2019. Organised thematically and by continent, it covers both the geographical and geopolitical shifts that have taken place in the world.
It includes a full index that cross-references the information it contains, as well as facts and flags of every country. It also focuses on the environmental and humanitarian concerns of the world today such as human migration and the impacts of climate change. Standing a foot wide and a foot and a half long, you won't miss a single detail!
An ideal introduction to world geography for curious minds just learning how to read maps, this atlas is full of information for kids to learn what links different regions, and what sets them apart, in an easily digestible format. The illustrations by Stu McLellan are beautiful, too.
Moreover, it will help develop your little explorer's language skills, as author Bruzzoni has more than 20 years of experience teaching languages to children. One slight downside is that you may find that this atlas has a short lifespan as it isn't so suitable for older readers.
One of our only picks with a paperback cover, this atlas will appeal to those who'd like something easy to transport. With 64 pages packed with maps, flags, statistics and information and 10,000 index entries, it's ideal if you are looking to quickly find a reference without having to filter through pages on the internet.
However, due to it being rather lightweight, some may find the font a little too small for reading with ease, so we would advise only looking into this atlas if you can trust your eyesight!
If you're feeling inspired to learn more about the cultures, languages, and people that make up our world, why not consider branching out to another book or two? Here are some of our suggestions to get stuck in!
Whether you're a bonafide cartophile, or just curious about learning more about the world around us, we hope that we have helped you to find an atlas that best suits your needs. Although nothing can match real life travel, being able to explore the entire world in one book is also an unbeatable experience!
Author: Hannah Kato
No. 1: HarperCollins｜World Atlas Reference Edition
No. 2: Granta｜Brilliant Maps: An Atlas for Curious Minds｜Ian Wright
No. 3: DK｜Complete Atlas of the World
No. 4: Times Books｜Universal Atlas of the World
No. 5: White Lion Publishing｜Atlas of Vanishing Places｜Travis Elborough
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