Lifelong Dewey

Reading through every Dewey Decimal section.

Month: June, 2014

960: The Fate of Africa by Martin Meredith


960.32: Meredith, Martin. The Fate of Africa: A History of Fifty Years of Independence. New York: PublicAffairs, 2005. 688 pp. ISBN 1-58648-246-7.

Dewey Breakdown:

  • 900: History and Geography
  • 960: History of Africa
  • 960.3: 1885 to present
  • 960.32: 1945-1999

In the late 19th century, European powers went to work dividing up the continent of Africa among themselves. Great Britain, France, Belgium, Germany, Portugal, and Italy each took a piece in hope of increasing their own economies and their own power. By the 1950s, however, African population groups began to declare independence from their European overseers. One by one, countries emerged to form a modern Africa, but then, one by one, those same countries began to crumble under their own problems. Rampant cronyism, unmitigated illness, poor education, and a severe lack of infrastructure have led the continent of Africa to the state it’s in now. Martin Meredith’s The Fate of Africa is an unflinching look at the people and processes that have formed Africa as we know it today.

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366: The Hiram Key by Knight and Lomas


366.1: Knight, Christopher and Robert Lomas. The Hiram Key: Pharaohs, Freemasons, and the Discovery of the Secret Scrolls of Jesus. Gloucester, MA: Fair Winds Press, 2001. 356 pp. ISBN 1-931412-75-8.

Dewey Breakdown:

  • 300: Social Sciences
  • 360: Social problems and services; associations
  • 366: Associations
  • 366.1: Freemasonry

Christopher Knight’s and Robert Lomas’s The Hiram Key is a laughable “history” of secret societies, the Freemasons, Judeo-Christian historical figures, and Egyptian Gnosticism. Therein lies the problem with writing about secret societies. Not much can either be proven or disproven. Their very clandestine nature requires that they do not leave a lot of historical documentation in their wake. Lomas and Knight try unflaggingly to connect small clues in artifacts and letters together to illustrate an alternate reading of history. They include the classic story of Jesus’s hidden family and the Rosslyn Chapel conspiracy along with evidence of an Egyptian influence on Judaism and the existence of secret scrolls that tell the true story of Freemasonry.

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733: The Elgin Affair by Theodore Vrettos


733.309385: Vrettos, Theodore. The Elgin Affair: The True Story of the Greatest Theft in History. New York: Arcade Publishing, 2011. 212 pp. ISBN 1-6114-5315-1.

Dewey Breakdown:

  • 700: Fine Arts and Recreation
  • 730: Plastic arts and sculpture
  • 733: Greek, Roman, and Etruscan sculpture
  • 733.3: Greek (Hellenic) sculpture
  • +09385: Ancient Attica to 323 CE

From 1801 to 1812, the British Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, Thomas Bruce, 7th Earl of Elgin, acquired some of the greatest sculptures in the Western world. His agents loaded priceless pieces of art onto barges and boats so that he could sell them to the British Museum for safekeeping. By 1812, he had removed 17 statues, 15 metope panels, 247 feet of frieze, and several other pieces of the Parthenon from Greece. Needless to say, this was all highly suspect and entirely illegal. Theodore Vrettos’s The Elgin Affair chronicles the history of the displacement and how the selfishness of a single 19th century official can lead to strained relations two hundred years later.

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843: Candide by Voltaire


843.5: Voltaire. Candide, or Optimism. Translated by John Butt. New York: Penguin. 144 pp. ISBN 0-14-044004-6.

Dewey Breakdown:

  • 800: Literature
  • 840: Literatures of French and related languages
  • 843: French fiction
  • 843.5: 1715-1789

If you’re looking for one of the most satirical, rollicking, odd, philosophical, and whimsical novels in history, then you needn’t go any further than Voltaire’s Candide. Voltaire’s canonical 1759 work examines the conflict between optimism and realism, between Old World and New World experiences, and between upper class and lower class conditions. But even these dichotomies are too simple for this work. The title character’s adventures begin when he kisses Cunegonde, a relative of the Baron Thunder-ten-Tronckh and is expelled from the estate with his mentor Pangloss. And then the real fun starts.

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191: The Philosophy of Santayana by George Santayana


191: Santayana, George. The Philosophy of Santayana: Selections from the Works of George Santayana. US: Modern Library, 1936. 595 pp.

Dewey Breakdown:

  • 100: Philosophy and Psychology
  • 190: Modern Philosophy
  • 191: Modern Western philosophy of the United States and Canada

Let’s start with the basics: George Santayana was born in Madrid in 1863, but was reared in the United States. He was educated at Harvard and eventually taught there. Among his students were the writers T.S. Eliot, Robert Frost, and Gertrude Stein. The great American poet Wallace Stevens counted Santayana among his friends. Much of Santayana’s philosophy pervades modern culture in the form of aphorisms and quick bon-mots. The Philosophy of George Santayana is a dense book filled to the brim with the life’s work of one of the twentieth century’s most prodigious thinkers.

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537: The Path of No Resistance by Bruce Schechter


537.623: Schechter, Bruce. The Path of No Resistance: The Story of the Revolution in Superconductivity. New York: Touchstone, 1990. 185 pp. ISBN 0-6716-9599-1.

Dewey Breakdown:

  • 500: Science
  • 530: Physics
  • 537: Electricity and electronics
  • 537.6: Electrodynamics and thermoelectricity
  • 537.62: Electric conductivity and resistance
  • 537.623: Superconductivity

Alright, first a primer on superconductivity: When electricity flows down a wire, some of the flow is lost due to the resistance of the material. The opposite of resistance is conductance. Superconductivity occurs when a material is cooled to such a ridiculously low temperature that the near-absence of heat allows electricity to flow without loss. The temperature at which this happens is called the critical temperature. High-temperature superconductivity physics seeks to find materials that allows for superconductivity at a critical temperature above 77 kelvins. Everybody with me so far? Good. Here we go.

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228: A History of the End of the World by Jonathan Kirsch


228: Kirsch, Jonathan. A History of the End of the World: How the Most Controversial Book in the Bible Changed the Course of Western Civilization. New York: HarperCollins, 2006. 256 pp. ISBN 978-0-0608-1698-8.

Dewey Breakdown:

  • 200: Religion
  • 220: The Bible
  • 228: Revelation (Apocalypse)

After vexillology (the study of flags and their designs) and ichthyology (the study of fishes), my third favorite “ology” is eschatology: the study of the end of times. It is simultaneously incredibly easy and infinitely impossible to posit what the future will hold, and even more so when talking about the end of the future. How will humanity live out its final days? Will we relocate to a new planet? Will we succumb to our own destructive forces? Or will a grand creator revisit their creation and judge those left on the last day? Jonathan Kirsch’s A History of the End of the World looks at the Biblical writing concerning the end of days and finds that a lot of the prophecies influenced culture, history, and even civilization itself.

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