Forbes Smiley

"Mapping Your Story"  - Boston Book Festival 2013


Reviews for The Map Thief

"Blanding's most moving passages commemorate those who helped build and, bit by bit, envisage the world as we know it:.. These men groped bravely for light. Smiley, who spent decades marveling at and trading on their achievements, spurned it." – Maxwell Carter, Wall Street Journal

"A brisk, engaging introduction to the slippery world of rare maps and map stewardship... Maps project wishful thinking. The Map Thief is a masterful cartography of a man who fell victim to such wishful thinking, destroying his life." – Michael Washburn, The Boston Globe

"This is great history, art history and insightful geography, but at its core “The Map Thief” is a crime report. It is a suspenseful tale of ... the theft of cultural heritage — by a man who presented himself as one of the chief interpreters and safeguards of that heritage." – Chuck Haga, Minneapolis Star-Tribune

" a talented researcher, the sort of author who is clearly excited by uncovering new information. And he makes what was known by historians and dealers like Smiley accessible and fun to read." – Susannah Nesmith, The Miami Herald

"Blanding's numerous strengths are on display here – his assiduous research, his ability to keep untangled his story's many threads, the skill to organize a compelling narrative.... Blanding has drawn an intriguing map of the weird world Smiley inhabited." – Daniel Dyer, The Cleveland Plain Dealer  

"[A] made-for-the-movies tale of a cartographic crook...  the type of character novelists spend their lives trying to dream up...  Smiley's story makes for a riveting read." – Sam Dangremond, Town & Country

"A real-life thriller... if you come for the detective story, you’ll stay for the novel-worthy character of Smiley. Elusive and evasive, the crook is by turns scheming and tragic, greedy and romantic." – John Ruch, "The Map Thief: Charting the True Crimes of a Map-Dealer Gone Rogue," Paste Magazine

"Well-researched… A highly readable profile of a narcissist who got in over his head and lost it all.” – Publishers Weekly , Book of the Week

"A fascinating story of ambitions high and low, the ancient yearning to chart a new world and the eternal lure of a quick buck." – Kirkus Reviews

"[A] captivating account... provides first-rate summaries of the histories of map-making and collecting, as well as vivid profiles of the principal players who aided Smiley and helped bring him down."  – Edward Morris, BookPage

"Tells a mysterious and absorbing story of how Smiley, who built a seemingly successful business as a rare-map dealer, became swamped with debts and turned to pinching maps." – Steve Pfarrer, Hampshire Gazette

"The best glimpse yet of the social-climbing sneak thief who stole millions of dollars in rare maps from Yale University and other institutions a decade ago." – Jim Shelton, New Haven Register

"A gripping mix of true crime, cartographic lore and bookish obsession ... a book that map and book lovers will devour."  – Jessica Howard, Shelf Awareness (starred review)

"Brain kale... Bizarre, fascinating, and 100% true."  – Mental Floss

"Offered a very cool glimpse into the world of rare maps as well as into the mind of a fascinatingly sketchy character. If you have any interest in maps, heists, or potential super villains, I recommend reading The Map Thief!"  – Katie, Words for Worms

"While history buffs will certainly find themselves in a world of joy here, the style and pace of The Map Thief has much to offer for those just dipping their toes into non-fiction." – Shannon Nemer, River City Reading

"A well-researched story which included both interesting personal details and awesome fun facts written in an engaging way – everything I want from narrative nonfiction!" – Katie Wilkins, Doing Dewey

"One of the more interesting biographical books out there... If you are into art-related criminal history, then this book is a must-get." – Quick Book Reviews 

"A a great mixture of true crime and history where both the crime and the history are a little bit obscure... A quick but thought-provoking read." – Kim Ukura, Sophisticated Dorkiness

"This fascinating book not only covers the deeply flawed and contradictory personality of Smiley and his lifestyle, it also does an excellent job explaining the history, provenance, and importance of various maps and precisely why they are so valuable." – Lori, She Treads Softly

"The book shines brightest when Mr. Blanding recounts the history of the rare maps themselves and the people who created them. The research is meticulous, and the historical characters fascinating." – Carolyn, Rosemary and Reading Glasses

"The Map Thief has so many compelling things to offer: the history of cartography, insight into the world of rare and antique map dealing, and a true crime story... A fascinating combination of history and scandal." – Julie Merilatt, JulzReads

"Blanding makes maps sexy." – Jennifer Smeth, Book-alicious Mama

Advance Praise for The Map Thief

“Old maps tug powerfully at the imagination, and not always in healthy ways. Nothing makes that clearer than the strange, unsettling case of Forbes Smiley, whose story Michael Blanding has pieced together in captivating detail. This is an unforgettable and cautionary tale, told by an expert investigative reporter who writes with the narrative flair of a novelist. A great read!” – Toby Lester, author of The Fourth Part of the World, and contributing editor, The Atlantic

"The Map Thief isn't just a perceptive, meticulously researched portrait of an exceedingly unlikely felon.  It's also a tribute to the beautiful old maps that inspired his cartographic crimes – and shaped our modern world." – Ken Jennings, Jeopardy champion and author of Maphead: Charting the Wide, Weird World of Geography Wonks

"In this cartographic caper, Michael Blanding slips into the antique map trade and takes a magnifying glass to the mind and motivations of a curious character named E. Forbes Smiley III, a New England polymath with a special talent for taking razors to rare books. The setting and the character belong in a novel, and this engrossing book reads like fiction." – Nina Burleigh, New York Times bestselling author of The Fatal Gift of Beauty: The Italian Trials of Amanda Knox

"Disgraced map dealer Forbes Smiley once said that he hoped that the stories about his thefts "would go away." That might be so. But thankfully Michael Blanding decided otherwise, and he tells a powerful story about the nature of crime, greed, and art. Smart, suspenseful, and engaging, this book is a fascinating read." – Ulrich Boser, author of The Gardner Heist: The True Story of the World's Largest Unsolved Art Theft

"In The Map Thief, Michael Blanding not only tells the spellbinding tale of a clever and obsessed thief, but he also adds to the field of research into people who commit crimes involving rare and precious items. All the while, Blanding examines the crimes with the acumen of a seasoned investigator and the skill of a talented writer." – Anthony M. Amore,  co-author of Stealing Rembrandts: The Untold Stories of Notorious Art Heists

"This is a terrific book. The portrait of Forbes Smiley here is one we rarely get of cultural heritage thieves – complete and even-handed, without being either credulous or vindictive. The Map Thief, aside from being wonderfully readable, is a valuable addition to this area of study." – Travis McDade, author of The Book Thief, and curator of Law Rare Books, University of Illinois

Reviews for The Coke Machine

 “In shocking detail, Blanding uncovers Coke's numerous transgressions against humanity and nature... Blanding's thoroughly detailed, stimulating and challenging study will have many readers saying, ‘Give me a Pepsi.’”—Henry Carrigan, BookPage

 “Important and readable... Blanding's painstakingly reported book reminds us that Coke's global success—perhaps like all spectacular global success—came at a price.”—The Atlantic

“Blanding roots his tale in the birth of the advertising era, and he is particularly effective in telling the story of how Coke fought to monopolize the sale of soft drinks to school children.”—Andrew Leonard, Salon

 “By this account, Coke's domination of the market begins to look less like a triumph of advertising and more like a symptom of the dark side of globalisation.”—Jonathan Gibbs, The Financial Times

“An eye opening expose which blows the plastic lids off a company known to associate itself with love and happiness... The book lays out the case against Coke in startling clarity.”—Jonathan Lowe, Tower Review

“Like Morgan Spurlock's Super Size Me and Eric Schlosser's Fast Food Nation, The Coke Machine embeds current issues with history, policy, and interviews to reveal the wizard behind the curtain.”—Melanie Zoltan, Suite 101

“The book's sixty-three pages of notes attest to [Blanding's] careful research, and lend a vital legitimacy to his allegations—this is much more than an activist's polemic.”—[tk] reviews

“Every company has a dark side, and you won't believe how dark Coca-Cola's is. After reading this book, good luck having a Coke and smile.”—Morgan Spurlock, director of Super Size Me

“Coca-Cola wants to teach the world to sing, but in the process they've trashed water supplies, peddled sugar to generations of kids, and undermined worker rights around the world. Put down your soda, read The Coke Machine and join the global movement to rein in unaccountable corporations.”—Barbara Ehrenreich, author of Nickel and Dimed and Brightsided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined America

“In The Coke Machine, Michael Blanding takes a tough, unsweetened look at the business practices of this iconic American company. His investigations reveal the costs—in ethics, health, public resources, and sometimes even human life—of Coca-Cola's relentless pressure to expand sales of its products. This book is a terrific introduction to the inner workings of corporate capitalism as it plays out on a global scale.”—Marion Nestle, Professor of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health at New York University, and author of Food Politics and What to Eat



The Map Thief


The Map Thief Book Launch, Brookline Booksmith, June 3, 2014


"Mapping Your Story," Boston Book Festival, October 19, 2013.


"Martha's Vineyard Rare Map Dealer Turned Thief," Radio Boston, WBUR Boston, May 29, 2014.

"The Map Thief," Leonard Lopate Show, WNYC, June 19, 2014

"In ‘The Map Thief,’ A Close Look At A Complicated Criminal," Carrie Healy, New England Public Radio, August 12, 2014.

"Michael Blanding on The Map Thief," Howie Carr Show, WRKO, June 25, 2014.

"Navigating Our World: Maps to GPS," Colin McEnroe Show, WNPR Connecticut, May 13, 2014.

"The Map Thief," Justice for All Radio Show, 1650AM Chesapeake, Virginia, June 21, 2014

"A Crisis of Cartographic Proportions," On the Media, WNYC New York, March 28, 2014

"The Map Thief," Fire N Ice Radio, WOND 1400 AM Linwood, NJ, June 1, 2014.

The Coke Machine

"Coke Machine," The Leonard Lopate Show, WNYC New York, September 21, 2010

"The Coke Machine," The Sunday Edition with Michael Enright, CBC Radio, October 4, 2010

"The Coke Machine," Jamaica Plain Forum, September 16, 2010

"The History of Coca-Cola," Your Call, KALW San Francisco, September 5, 2013

"The Coke Machine," Santa Fe Radio Cafe, KSFR Santa Fe, May 25, 2011.

"The Coke Machine," Healthwatch, KBOO Portland, November 1, 2010.


"Post-Conviction DNA Access," Radio Boston, WBUR Boston, November 23, 2011

"Inmate's Access to DNA Evidence," Philip Martin, WGBH Boston, November 21, 2011

"The Departing," Here and Now, WBUR Boston, September 3, 2007

"The Bottled Water Lie," Democracy Now, August 1, 2007

"Guns," On Point, WBUR Boston, June 26, 2006