Lifelong Dewey

Reading through every Dewey Decimal section.

123: As Luck Would Have It by Joshua Piven


123.3: Piven, Joshua. As Luck Would Have It: Incredible Stories, from Lottery Wins to Lightning Strikes. New York: Villard, 2003. 181 pp. ISBN 1-4000-6055-9.

Dewey Breakdown:

  • 100: Philosophy and Psychology
  • 120: Epistemology, causation, and mankind
  • 123: Determinism and indeterminism
  • 3: Chance

In As Luck Would Have It, Joshua Piven investigates nine chance occurrences and how they inform our view of the world and the circumstances of our lives. It’s a quick little book, to say the least. It covers the following stories:

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212: The Proof of God by Larry Witham


212: Witham, Larry. The Proof of God: The Debate that Shaped Modern Belief. New York: Atlas & Co., 2008. 195 pp. ISBN 978-0-9777433-6-0.

Dewey Breakdown:

  • 200: Religion
  • 210: Philosophy and theory of religion
  • 212: Existence, ways of knowing, and attributes of God

In the late 1070s CE, Anselm, a Benedictine monk at the abbey of Bec hit upon a wondrous proof of the existence of God. Being a monk, it was rather in his best interest to ensure that one could not think away God’s being, but the argument he devised has guided religious logic for nearly 1,000 years. The Ontological Argument, as it has since been named has influenced the writings of Ockham, Descartes, and Bertrand Russell. On the other side, Anselm has garnered Thomas Aquinas, Kant, and David Hume as detractors. Larry Witham’s The Proof of God is a chronicle of the life of Anselm, and how his work and politics shaped modern religion.

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802: Literature Lover’s Book of Lists by Judie L. H. Strouf


802: Strouf, Judie L.H. Literature Lover’s Book of Lists: Serious Trivia for the Bibliophile. Paramus, NJ: Prentice Hall Press, 1998. 391 pp. ISBN 0-7352-0121-8.

Dewey Breakdown:

  • 800: Literature
  • 802: Miscellany

Judie Strouf’s Literature Lover’s Book of Lists is a simple exercise that gather a lot of information. It bills itself as a “compendium of useful, whimsical, and necessary information for people…who love to read.” The 198 compiled lists try to order, categorize, and codify the entirety of literature for those crave such information. It has every Pulitzer Prize winner and their works, poem types and literary devices with examples, landmark books and speeches from every major Western period, lists of literary genres, and so on and so on.

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563: The Star-Crossed Stone by Kenneth McNamara


563.95: McNamara, Kenneth J. The Star-Crossed Stone: The Secret Life, Myths, and History of a Fascinating Fossil. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2011. 2312 pp. ISBN 978-0-226-51469-7.

Dewey Breakdown:

  • 500: Science
  • 560: Paleontology and paleozoology
  • 563: Miscellaneous fossil marine and seashore invertebrates
  • 563.9: Echinodermata and Hemichordata
  • 563.95: Echinozoa

In March 1887, a grave was discovered in England. It was an old grave, the interred had been there for thousands of years. But the two occupants weren’t the only creatures there: they had been buried with hundreds of fossilized sea urchins. Historians and archaeologists were puzzled. Why were these fossils buried with the ancient humans? What was their significance? Kenneth McNamara’s The Star-Crossed Stone looks into the discovery, history, and folklore surrounding fossil urchins.

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350: Three Victorian Women Who Changed Their World by Nancy Boyd


350.420922: Boyd, Nancy. Three Victorian Women Who Changed Their World: Josephine Butler, Octavia Hill, Florence Nightingale. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 1982. 251 pp. ISBN 0-19-520271-6.

Dewey Breakdown:

  • 300: Social Sciences
  • 350: Public administration and military science
  • 350.42: Public administration in England and Wales
  • +0922: Biographies of collected persons

Somehow in all my reading across myriad subjects, I seem to have never come across the fact that Florence Nightingale was British. In fact, she was born to British parents in Florence (hence her name). Nightingale, along with Octavia Hill and Josephine Butler, were instrumental in rise of feminism in Victorian England. Nancy Boyd’s Three Victorian Women Who Changed Their World chronicles the lives, efforts, and legacy of these three to show that Victorian England was not as backward and stodgy and folks tend to think.

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998: At the Ends of the Earth by Kieran Mulvaney


998: Mulvaney, Kieran. At the Ends of the Earth: A History of the Polar Regions. Washington, DC: Island Press, 2001. 245 pp. ISBN 1-55963-908-3.

Dewey Breakdown:

  • 900: History and Geography
  • 990: History of the Pacific Ocean and other parts of the world
  • 998: History of Arctic islands and Antarctica

The bulk of history is told through the lens of important events. The narrative of that history focuses on the decisions and people that lead to those events. But what happens afterward? While modern historiography looks at the effects of the historical events on people after any given event, not much attention is spared when people aren’t affected. Kieran Mulvaney’s At the Ends of the Earth takes a different approach to history. His focus is on the effect of man’s presence on the geography, climate, and landscape of the polar regions. Both Arctic Ocean and Antarctica have been changed by the presence of human explorers and researchers and Mulvaney details the history and extent of that change.

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771: Vermeer’s Camera by Philip Steadman


771: Steadman, Philip. Vermeer’s Camera: Uncovering the Truth Behind the Masterpieces. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2001. 165 pp. ISBN 0-19-215967-4.

Dewey Breakdown:

  • 700: Fine Arts and Recreation
  • 770: Photography, photographs, and computer art
  • 771: Techniques, procedures, apparatus, equipment, and materials

There have been many times I’ve looked at a piece of art and wondered how they created it. From Escher’s mind-blowing drawings to Calder’s amazingly delicate mobiles, how artists engineer their art is almost as interesting as the art itself. In Vermeer’s Camera, Philip Steadman painstakingly details the use of the camera obscura in Vermeer’s paintings. His investigations not only gives us a peek at the artist’s technique and practical knowledge, but also illuminate the very intriguing intersection of science and art.

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