Lifelong Dewey

Reading through every Dewey Decimal section.

Month: April, 2014

889: The Few Things I Know About Glafkos Thrassakis by Vassilis Vassilikos

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Vassilikos, Vassilis. The Few Things I Know About Glafkos Thrassakis. New York: Seven Stories Press, 2004. Approx. 350 pp. ISBN 978-1-60980-212-7.

Dewey Breakdown:

  • 800: Literature
  • 880: Literatures of Hellenic and Classical Greek languages
  • 889: Modern Greek literature
  • 889.3: Modern Greek fiction
  • 889.33: 1900 – 1999
  • 889.334: 1945 – 1999

Known for his landmark 1967 novel Z, Vassilis Vassilikos is one of Greece’s foremost literary talents. The Few Things I Know About Glafkos Thrassakis functions on many different levels. It is a meditation on the act of research and writing; it is an autobiography written about someone else; it creates a person out of the literary ether from someone who is real. Ostensibly, the book covers the travails of the narrator trying to find out the truth about the fictional writer Glafkos Thrassakis. Thrassakis is supposed to have been killed at the hands of New Guinea cannibals, but this story quickly falls apart. After discovering new manuscripts, he gains different picture of his elusive prey, but never fully captures him.

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576: Evidence of Evolution by Mary Ellen Hannibal

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576.8: Hannibal, Mary Ellen. Evidence of Evolution. New York: Abrams, 2009. 117 pp. ISBN 978-0-8109-4924-9.

Dewey Breakdown:

  • 500: Science
  • 570: Life sciences (biology)
  • 576: Genetics and evolution
  • 576.8: Evolution

In a word, Evidence of Evolution is exquisite. Mary Ellen Hannibal’s discussion of evolution and genetics pairs wonderfully with Susan Middleton’s crisp photographs of collected specimens from the California Academy of Science. Hannibal goes through a brief history of Darwin’s expedition to the Galapagos Islands and highlight the basic lines of thought leading up to the theory of evolution. From there are dual treatises on the processes and patterns in evolution in the natural world.

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907: Eiffel’s Tower by Jill Jonnes

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907.44361: Jonnes, Jill. Eiffel’s Tower: The Thrilling Story Behind Paris’s Beloved Monument and the Extraordinary World’s Fair that Introduced It. New York: Penguin, 2009. 311 pp. ISBN 978-0-14-311729-2.

Dewey Breakdown:

  • 900: History and Geography
  • 907: Education, research, and related topics of history
  • +44361: Paris, France

There is only one true Eiffel Tower. There may be copies in China or Las Vegas, but the Tower only has its sense of power and sheer gravitas amidst the Parisian landscape. While it is not viewable from every window in Paris (contrary to its depiction in movies), it is an iconic and uniquely noticeable landmark. Originally conceived and drafted in 1884 by Maurice Koechlin and Emile Nouguier—engineers under the employ of Gustave Eiffel—, it received the go-ahead for construction in 1887 to be ready for the 1889 Exposition Universelle. Jill Jonnes Eiffel’s Tower is quite an illuminating look into the history of, reaction to, and culture surrounding France’s steel pyramid.

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363: Puppetmaster by Richard Hack

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363.25092: Hack, Richard. Puppetmaster: The Secret Life of J. Edgar Hoover. Beverly Hills, CA: New Millennium Press, 2004. 407 pp. ISBN 1-893224-87-2.

Dewey Breakdown:

  • 300: Social Sciences
  • 360: Social problems, services, and associations
  • 363: Other social problems and services
  • 363.2: Police services
  • 363.25: Detection of crime
  • +092: Biography

There are about as many myths about J. Edgar Hoover as there are truths. While head of the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation from 1935 to 1972, there were stories of homosexual trysts with his assistant director Clyde Tolson and that he routinely wore women’s clothing. While these are rumors just the same, they linger in the national psyche. Richard Hack’s Puppetmaster tries to get a more complete picture of the man behind one of the nation’s largest investigative groups.

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011: The List of Books by Raphael and McLeish

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011: Raphael, Frederic and Kenneth McLeish. The List of Books. New York: Harmony Books, 1981. 154 pp. ISBN 0-517-540177.

Dewey Breakdown:

  • 000: Computer science, Knowledge, and General Works
  • 010: Bibliography
  • 011: Bibliographies

Let us say you are building a private library. Let us also say that you want to read in a large variety of subjects but suffer from a crippling inability to either do a lot of research or make wise decisions. Well, Frederic Raphael and Kenneth McLeish, with their List of Books, can come to your rescue. In this slim volume, they collect what they believe to be the best and key books in various fields, summarize them briefly, and organize them for your collecting pleasure. With over 3,000 books in 35 different fields, you would be hard-pressed not to find something here that didn’t pique your interest.

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140: The Universe Next Door by James W. Sire

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140: Sire, James W. The Universe Next Door: A Basic Worldview Catalog, 3rd Ed. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1997. 200 pp. ISBN 0-8308-1849-6.

Dewey Breakdown:

  • 100: Philosophy and Psychology
  • 140: Specific philosophical schools and viewpoints

James Sire caught me with my proverbial pants down (so to say) with his Universe Next Door. Ostensibly, it goes through the six to ten (depending on how you count and group them) major philosophical schools and examines each one for strengths and flaws. He indeed covers the whole spectrum, from theism to nihilism to naturalism to existentialism to postmodernism. And his dutiful explanations of each school are decent; I’ll give him that. But sadly, it’s the last chapter that wallops you on the side of the head. After a competent exploration of the world of philosophy, he dumps all but one into a bucket labelled “Not Worth Your Time.” The conclusion he brings the book to is to that to live a “well-examined” life, one must be a Christian theist. That left a sour taste in my mouth. That is not to say that Christian theism isn’t a worthy worldview for some people. But simply dismissing billions of people as not living a good life is both insulting and deflating. If you must read this one, stop just before the end—trust me, you’ll feel a lot better about it.

 

215: Reinventing the Sacred by Stuart Kauffman

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215: Kauffman, Stuart A. Reinventing the Sacred: A New View of Science, Reason, and Religion. New York: Basic Books, 2010. 288 pp. ISBN 978-0-465-01888-8.

Dewey Breakdown:

  • 200: Religion
  • 210: Philosophy and theory of religion
  • 215: Science and religion

For those people who say that the evidence for God is in nature, Stuart Kauffman is a good way to bridge the gap between a godless universe and one where spirituality pervades the fabric of existence. After reading Niall Shanks’s God, the Devil, and Darwin, I got an understanding of the differing theories of complexity and how they sometimes form the basis for creationist thought. Kauffman’s analysis of nature and molecular complexity goes even deeper than that, however. In Reinventing the Sacred, Kauffman plunges into a scientific universe of systemic breakdowns and synthesis to rechristen what we think of spontaneous, divine, and even religious.

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