Read Around the World with Google Maps

For a while now, it has been important to me that readers read widely. Bookworms will tell you that reading opens your mind, widens your world, allows you to travel when plane tickets are expensive and holidays in short supply. But I think, to some extent, there is a clause to this. I don’t think reading opens your mind quite as much if you only read one genre… or if you only read books set in one country (not judging, just hypothesising). That is why I went out of my way in 2013 to read books from countries I had never read. (Some of my favourites here.)

So I started looking at the books I have read. And I started thinking how awesome it would be if I could have a graphical representation of that. And then this happened:


I was so psyched that Goodreads replied to me (I have left-out issues), but I also laughed. Me? Write an app? HAHAHAHAHA. My baby brother is teaching himself to code right now, so maybe he will do that, sometime soon.

But I really wanted to map out my books, and I was not in the mood for the costs of buying a physical wall map. Plus, I always have a few silly little holiday projects going.

I went to the Google Maps Engine, signed in, and started a map. It’s quite easy once you get used to it.

In “data”, I made four column. The engine wouldn’t let me change certain headers though (name and description) but I could add author and country.


How I added a new book (provided I knew its setting)


I wanted to embed the map in this post, but I’m struggling, presumably because of not being self-hosted on WordPress, or some such. Click here to go to the full map with clickable icons. Here is what it looks like:

At a glance…
Zooming into North America
Zooming into North America
Zooming into South Africa
Zooming into South Africa

Problems with this method

1. Not all GoodReads books have their “setting” logged. So some books I did some intense Googling for, others I browsed through to find the setting, and others were relegated simply to their country and not a town as well.

2. Not all books are set in a real-life place. Think: Harry Potter, Ender’s Game, Abhorsen Trilogy… (Google, get on that, why dontcha ;))

3. Some places are not places anymore… for example The Calligrapher’s Daughter, which was set in KOREA, which is now NORTH and SOUTH Korea.

4. It is incredibly manual. Literally, every single step is manual. It is only slightly less effort than physically adding flags to a physical map. (I might still do this, sometime.)

5. You can’t print the map (look at how blurry these images are) and when I tried to export my data to Excel it was a disaster.

The only way to make this truly awesome would be a Goodreads-embedded app. Just saying. But til then, I’ll continue to document the many countries my imagination visits.


  1. beckireads says:

    That was a really cool idea. I hope someone makes the app.

  2. nisha360 says:

    i agree reading one genre doesn’t open your mind as much which is why I’ve decided to read a variety of books this year – my goal is to read 52 books in 2014. Cool app idea.

    1. 52 books! That’s impressive. I will probably read less this year. Good luck with your reading, I’m sure you’ll have fun!

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