Lifelong Dewey

Reading through every Dewey Decimal section.

Category: 910s

911: A History of the World in 12 Maps by Jerry Brotton

DDC_911

911: Brotton, Jerry. A History of the World in Twelve Maps. London: Penguin, 2013. 445 pp. ISBN 978-0-141-03493-5.

Dewey Breakdown:

  • 900: History and Geography
  • 910: Geography and travel
  • 911: Historical geography

Maps serve two functions. They give you information—where people have been, places people have mapped, and the names given to those places. They also give you a destination, they let the heart roam over distant lands, and hope for an adventurous future. This information and hope have driven human history in more ways than we think. Beginning with a cuneiform clay tablet found in the site of the ancient city of Sippar in Babylonia, maps exist as an interesting window into how a civilization (or at least the mapmaker) views the world. In the 15th century, when the technology and means caught up to the desire to explore, the edges of the maps begin to be filled in and mankind got a truer picture of the world it inhabits. Jerry Brotton’s History of the World in Twelve Maps is a look at the world by investigating maps created at key points in history and what those maps say about the humans making them.

Read the rest of this entry »

914: In Turkey I Am Beautiful by Brendan Shanahan

DDC_914

914.961: Shanahan, Brendan. In Turkey I Am Beautiful: Between Chaos and Madness in a Strange Land. Victoria, Australia: Melbourne University Publishing, 2013. 356 pp. ISBN 978-0-5228-6433-5.

Dewey Breakdown:

  • 900: History and Geography
  • 910: Geography and travel
  • 914: Geography of and travel in Europe
  • 914.9: Geography of and travel in other parts of Europe
  • 914.96: Balkan Peninsula
  • 914.961: Turkey in Europe

“Istanbul was sad but never grim,” Brendan Shanahan writes in In Turkey I am Beautiful. This is the general sentiment of his travelogue around Turkey. While he spends a lot of his time hanging around with his friends who run a carpet store in Istanbul, he does make it out to the eastern cities. He tours the usual spots—Istanbul, Antioch, Adana—but we also get urban vistas of concrete near the Soviet border, quaint villages in the Turkish countryside, dalliances with lawlessness on the Armenian border, and a serious look at the customs and traditions of the Turkish people. He reports on the struggle within most Turkish people of whether Turkey is a part of Europe or Asia. Geographically (and for the Dewey), it’s in Europe, but many Turks don’t feel European. He writes with the usual cynicism of a well-seasoned, Western travel writer, but his personal relationships with the people he tells us about round out Shanahan’s humanity and the tone of the book.

Read the rest of this entry »

915: Brian on the Brahmaputra by David Fletcher

DDC_915

915.416: Fletcher, David. Brian on the Brahmaputra: (With Sujan in the Sundarbans). Leicestershire, UK: Matador, 2013. 272 pp. ISBN 978-1-780886-879.

Dewey Breakdown:

  • 900: History and Geography
  • 910: Geography and travel
  • 915: Geography of and travel in Asia
  • 915.4: India
  • 915.41: Northeastern India
  • 915.416: Far northeast of India

In Brian on the Brahmaputra, David Fletcher delivers an unusual travelogue of India. Through the characters of Brian and Sandra (husband and wife), we explore the social, culinary, and natural landscape of northeast India. It is a true day-by-day account of a group of middle-aged British nature enthusiasts on an excursion to a newly-opened area of India. They travel up the Brahmaputra river through an area of India nestled between China, Bhutan, and Bangladesh. Along the way, they share interesting stories, observe several new species of birds and mammals, and generally soak in the Indian countryside.

Read the rest of this entry »

917: Canada’s Road by Mark Richardson

DDC_917

917.104: Richardson, Mark. Canada’s Road: A Journey on the Trans-Canada Highway from St. John’s to Victoria. Toronto, Canada: Dundurn, 2013. 158 pp. ISBN 978-1-4597-0979-9.

Dewey Breakdown:

  • 900: History and Geography
  • 910: Geography and travel
  • 917: Geography of and travel in North America
  • 917.1: Geography of and travel in Canada
  • 917.104: Travel in Canada

This seemed like such a promising idea for a book. A man, armed with a history of Canadian road-building and several previous accounts of trans-Canadian road trips and whose birthdate is the exact date of the Trans-Canada Highway’s grand opening, embarks on an epic journey across Canada to experience all the road has to offer. But, Mark Richardson’s recounting of his 57-day, 7600-kilometer trip across Canada on the 50th anniversary of the road in Canada’s Road falls flat in so many ways it hard to muster up any affection for the journey. Lucky for us as well, it’s mercifully short.

Read the rest of this entry »

918: Darwin Slept Here by Eric Simons

918: Simons, Eric. Darwin Slept Here: Discovery, Adventure, and Swimming Iguanas in Charles Darwin’s South America. New York: Overlook Press, 2009. 252 pp. ISBN 978-1-59020-200-3.

Dewey Construction:

  • 900: History and Geography
  • 910: Geography and travel
  • 918: Geography and travel in South America

On December 27, 1831, Charles Darwin, a young amateur naturalist with a hankering to explore the world, stepped aboard the HMS Beagle and didn’t return to England until October 1836. In those five years, he traveled around the world and extensively wrote about his expeditions and discoveries in South America. Going down the east coast and up the west, he gathered obsverations, data, and specimens that would serve to completely rewrite both the history of science and the science of history. A few years ago, nature writer and recent graduate Eric Simons decided to go on the same journey.

Read the rest of this entry »

910: Explorers House by Robert M. Poole

910.6073: Poole, Robert M. Explorers House: National Geographic and the World It Made. New York: Penguin, 2004. 310 pp. ISBN 1-59420-032-7.

Dewey Construction:

  • 900: History and Geography
  • 910: Geography and travel
  • +.6: Organizations and management
  • +073: United States

Alexander Graham Bell is quite the greedy-guts of history. Not only did he hold the most important patent in history (the telephone), invent the metal detector, and attempt to perfect hydrofoil design, he was also one of the founding members of the most important ecological and scientific organizations of our day: The National Geographic Society.

Read the rest of this entry »

919: The Ice Museum by Joanna Kavenna

919: Kavenna, Joanna. The Ice Museum: In Search of the Lost Land of Thule. New York: Viking, 2006. 291 pp. ISBN 0-670-03473-8.

For the first book, we start with a number way down at the bottom (or end) of the listing. The 900s cover geography and history; 910s specifically cover geography and travel books. Since the DDC is so wonderfully predictable, and countries or areas of the world are always put in order the same way, the last section is always the catch-all for “other parts of the world”. 499 is languages of other parts of the world, 319 is general collection of statistics of other parts of the world. And here, 919 is geography and travel in other parts of the world.

Pytheas was an ancient Greek geographer and explorer. He made his way from Greece, out of the Mediterranean Sea, up the coast to Europe, and circumnavigated Britain. In his travels around Britain, he mentioned a land named Thule, an interesting land where the sun sets and semi-mythical occurrences abound. Unfortunately, his navigational journals do not give modern-day explorers much certainty as to where Thule was, so throughout the ages, explorers have sought out clues to its location in an effort to reconnect with the men of the past.

Joanna Kavenna goes on such a quest. Her book, The Ice Museum: In Search of the Lost Land of Thule, is a journey through all the places (and events) supposed to be Thule. One day, while contemplating her life in London, she decides to quit and seek out the Arctic adventure she’d dreamed about in her youth. Her path takes her from Scotland to Shetland to Iceland to Norway. From there, she goes to Estonia, then to Greenland, and lastly to Svalbard.

At each locale, she dutifully records her impressions of the landscape and the people, sometimes assuming a more cynical tone than most. She takes the writings of past explorers with her and gives the reader a wonderful sense of adventure that Sir Richard Burton and Fridtjof Nansen experiences on their journeys to the north.

There are distractions, however. Kavenna spends, I think, a bit too much time on the Thule Society, its role in the formation of the Nazi Party, and the after-effects of Nazi social policies in Norway. While this does complete the catalog of all things and places named Thule, it has very little to do with geography and even less to do with Thule itself. She even makes a brief pit stop at Thule Air Base in Greenland to round out her collection even though it’s just a military base and she takes time away from those who are trying to keep their eyes on ballistic missile warning systems.

On the whole, the reader gets a good sense of the pure emptiness and sublime nature of life and lands above the Arctic circle.

On with the journey…