Lifelong Dewey

Reading through every Dewey Decimal section.

Month: October, 2014

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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475: Essentials of Latin Grammar by W. Michael Wilson


475: Wilson, W. Michael. Essentials of Latin Grammar: A Practical Guide to the Mastery of Latin. Lincolnwood, IL: Passport Books, 1995. 119 pp. ISBN 0844285404.

Dewey Breakdown:

  • 400: Language
  • 470: Italic and Latin languages
  • 475: Grammar and syntax of classical Latin

If you really want to get down to the nuts and bolts, the nitty-gritty, and the no-nonsense study of Latin, then this one is the way to go. W. Michael Wilson’s Essentials of Latin Grammar takes a spectacular page from Strunk and White’s Elements of Style and omits needless words almost to a fault. There is a two-page preface and then it’s off to the races. One hundred forty-one rules later, you should emerge with a head full of Latin.

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677: String by Adam Hart-Davis


677.71. Hart-Davis, Adam. String: Unraveling the History of a Twisted Piece of Twine. Pleasantville, NY: Reader’s Digest, 2009. 187 pp. ISBN 978-1-60652-024-6.

Dewey Breakdown:

  • 600: Technology
  • 670: Manufacturing
  • 677: Textiles
  • 677.7: Cordage, trimmings, and allied products
  • 677.71: Ropes, twines, and strings

Somebody has written a book on the manufacture and uses of string and twine throughout history. It was bound to happen sooner or later, and so it has. Adam Hart-Davis’s String looks at not only the history of string and twine, but the intricate ways that humanity has engineered it to fit its needs. From the oldest cotton strings to modern polymerized nylon, string exists in our collective history as a largely unrecognized product, but Hart-Davis does his best to bring it to the light.

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273: Heresy and Authority in Medieval Europe by Edward Peters


273.6: Peters, Edward, ed. Heresy and Authority in Medieval Europe: Documents in Translation. Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1980. 307 pp. ISBN 0-8122-1103-0.

Dewey Breakdown:

  • 200: Religion
  • 270: History of Christianity
  • 273: Doctrinal controversies and heresies in general church history
  • 273.6: 6th to 16th centuries

Every person is a unique entity. Because there are billions of people, there are billions of individual perspectives and beliefs. This creates a problem for any organization whose lifeblood is that everybody thinks along the same lines. Almost from the beginning, Christianity has had its share of splinter groups, in-fighting, and outright civil wars. Edward Peters, in Heresy and Authority in Medieval Europe, traces the path of Christian writers who focus their treatises on heretics, sects, and orthodoxy. From Tertullian to John of Brevicoxa, we get nearly one thousand years of church voices on those who seek to disagree.

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575: The Panda’s Thumb by Stephen Jay Gould


575.0162: Gould, Stephen Jay. The Panda’s Thumb: More Reflections in Natural History. New York: W.W. Norton, 1980. 323 pp. ISBN 0-393-30819-7.

Dewey Breakdown:

  • 500: Science
  • 570: Biology
  • 575: Specific parts of and physiological systems in plants
  • 575.0162: Natural selection (Darwinism)

Stephen Jay Gould’s Panda’s Thumb is a collection of thirty-one essays all looking at how the natural world has adapted to its circumstances and how we as humans perceive, interpret, and understand those adaptations. Gould’s work on evolution helps to show that sometimes scientists get it wrong, and other times, scientists get it very wrong. Even the science of evolution is evolving, which is the overall premise of this collection. We see how the early investigations of those with Down Syndrome changed the way people viewed doctors and men of science, how Mickey Mouse’s changes over the years mirror the growth of human beings, and how history of organisms on this planet is not a steady affair.

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149: The Rationalists


149.7: The Rationalists. New York: Anchor, 1960. 471 pp.

Dewey Breakdown:

  • 100: Philosophy and Psychology
  • 140: Philosophical schools of thought
  • 149: Other philosophical schools and doctrines
  • 149.7: Rationalism and related systems and doctrines

The Rationalists is a collection of philosophical treatises by Rene Descartes, Benedict de Spinoza, and Gottfried Leibniz. You get Descartes’s Discourse on Method and Meditations, Spinoza’s Ethics, and Leibniz’s Monadology and Discourse on Metaphysics. By the middle of the 17th century, philosophy was finding its way out of the tired debates on religion and started to become a bit more scientific. The natural philosophers of the Renaissance started to place more importance on observable phenomena and experimentation rather than dictated dogma. The three philosophers collected here show how the school of rationalism started, matured, and culminated in an entirely different way of thinking.

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