About the Quest

My name’s Gerard.

Two things to know about me:

  1. I read a lot.
  2. I read only select subjects.

That comes to end.

My quest is to read one book (and report back to the masses) in every Dewey Decimal section, from 000 to 999.

What a section, you ask? Well, the Dewey Decimal Classification, as seen in many public libraries, is a system by which a book’s subject is converted into a number to that book from the same general discipline are shelved together. All Dewey Classification numbers have at least three digits (and then maybe some decimal point afterwards).

The first digits is for the class–books starting 1 are for philosophy and psychology, starting with 2 for religion, and so on.

The second digit is for the division. Books starting with 5 are for mathematics and science, but those starting 51 are just mathematics, 52 for astronomy, 53 for physics, and so on.

The third required digit is for the section (and that’s where I come in). From above, if the 530s are for physics, then 535 is heat, 536 is light, 537 is electricity, etc.

Now, some books have numbers after these, going into the decimal range, and each number after the decimal point is a further subdivision of the section at hand. I’m only concerned with reading one book in every section. After that, we’ll see.

The DDC, its structure, and its usage is governed by the Online Computer Library Center and maintains a strict watch over how it’s used. I’ll try very gently not to rankle any feathers over there, but I will be telling you how every book I read fits into the classification. The actual guide to its use, as well as the complete enumeration for every classifiable subject heading, is four volume long and covers just about anything you can think of.

Theoretically, there would be 1,000 sections, but some of them are left intentionally unused to allow for future expansion of the system. Excluding all the unassigned sections, there are 904 unique used sections. At a proper pace of 50 books a year, that’s 18 years plus or minus a month or two. It’s going to be a long journey. I hope you stay for the whole thing.

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