lorax jumps in
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I've been dragging my heels on this one for a while now. I've been doing the LC Challenge instead, since I understand that system better, and since it doesn't think nearly 10% of all classification space should be devoted to Christianity. But this group is much more active, so I'm jumping in anyway, for a modified version.
I'm mostly aiming for the 100s (how many is it really, when you take out the "no longer used" categories?) but giving myself full permission to ignore the 200s. I'll do the same "one post per top-level category" system that most people seem to use.
000: Computer science, information & general works
001 The Demon-Haunted World
002 The Book of Lost Books: An Incomplete History
003 Chaos: Making a New Science
004 Where Wizards Stay Up Late
005 Perl Cookbook
006 The Emperor's New Mind
011 More Book Lust (added 5/17/2010)
016 The Art of Noir
022 The Book on the Bookshelf
028 Rereadings (added 8/27/2012)
031 The Know-It-All: One Man's Humble Quest
032 The Visual Miscellaneum (added 2/25/2013)
039 Codex Seraphinianus
069 Treasures of the British Museum
070 And Say Hi to Joyce
081 The John McPhee Reader
091 The Voynich Manuscript (finished 8/11/2010)
040 Not assigned or no longer used
050 Magazines, journals & serials
It looks like 050 will be the only reasonable one there. Are people counting magazines there, rather than in their subject area? Edit: To my surprise there was a readable and interesting 091 -- fortunately the "books about X" clause helps out here, so it doesn't actually have to be a manuscript to count.
100: Philosophy and psychology
121 Doubt (added 5/14/2013)
126 The Mind's I
128 Broca's Brain
133 Why People Believe Weird Things (added 10/12)
152 A Natural History of the Senses
153 How the Mind Works
155 Last Child in the Woods
158 Ask for It (added 3/28/2011)
177 I don't know (added 9/13/2013)
100 Philosophy & psychology
140 Specific philosophical schools
180 Ancient, medieval, Oriental philosophy
190 Modern Western philosophy
204 I Want to be Left Behind (added 4/05/2011)
230 Welcome: A Unitarian Universalist Primer
241 God Believes in Love (added 5/23/2013)
277 Letter to a Christian Nation (added 5/26)
The UU book is only in the 230s by historical accident. It certainly wouldn't be there if the classification system were developed today -- it isn't Christian at all. (It has the same issues in the LC system, too.)
Not tracking missing categories here, because while I appreciate Zoe's consideration I am not going to worry about this category.
300: Social sciences
303 Guns, Germs, and Steel
304 The Control of Nature
305 Courting Justice
306 Becoming Visible: An Illustrated History
307 The Works: Anatomy of a City (added 8/2/2010)
320 Don't Think of an Elephant
327 Deterring Democracy
330 The Return of Depression Economics and the Crisis of 2008
332 Smart and Simple Financial Strategies for Busy People
333 Aldo Leopold's Southwest
338 Farmer Jane (finished 10/11/2010)
342 The Constitution of the United States of America
347 My Beloved World (8/13/2013)
352 W: The First Hundred Days
359 The Frigate Surprise (finished 12/28/2010)
362 Devil in the Details
363 Dragonfly: Nasa and the crisis aboard Mir
364 All the President's Men
371 Three Cups of Tea
381 Cheap: The High Cost of Discount Culture (finished 8/15/2010)
382 A Splendid Exchange (finished 2/09/2010)
384 The Victorian Internet
391 Indigo: In Search of the color... (added 9/02/2011)
394 Fast Food Nation
398 The Book of Imaginary Beings
310 General Statistics
Added one I forgot
400 The Language Instinct
401 How Language Works
403 The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Language
404 The Bilingual Edge (added 5/15/2013)
408 The Last Speakers (finished 4/28/2011)
409 Empires of the Word (finished 11/26/2012)
411 Lost Languages (finished 10/24/2010)
413 They Have a Word For It
415 Words and Rules
417 Spoken Here
418 Le Ton Beau de Marot
419 Talking Hands (5/2011)
420 Made in America
422 Origins of the Specious (added 10/03/2013)
423 Reading the OED (added 6/18/2009)
439 Born to Kvetch (added 1/20/2010)
493 The Keys of Egypt (added 7/20/2009)
499 In the Land of Invented Languages (added 2/04/2011)
440 Romance languages; French
450 Italian, Romanian, Rhaeto-Romanic
460 Spanish & Portuguese languages
470 Italic; Latin
480 Hellenic languages; Classical Greek
I'm not about to count something like a Spanish/English dictionary for this, even though it's on my shelves, so making progress here on the 100s might be challenging.
500 Short History of Nearly Everything
502 The Ig Nobel Prizes 2 (7/11/2013)
506 Seeing Further (8/06/2013)
507 The Ten Most Beautiful Experiments (added 6/23/2010)
508 The Silent Landscape
509 The Age of Wonder (added 2/02/2011)
510 Godel, Escher, Bach
511 Data Reduction and Error Analysis for the Physical Sciences
512 Linear Algebra and Its Applications
514 The Poincare Conjecture (added 7/13/2011)
515 Elementary Differential Equations
516 The Golden Ratio
519 The Signal and the Noise (swapped in June 2013)
521 Feynman's Lost Lecture (added 4/25/2010)
522 Giant Telescopes (added 8/10/2011)
523 Galactic Astronomy
526 Longitude: The True Story...
530 The Feynman Lectures on Physics
531 Classical Dynamics of Particles and Systems
532 The Archimedes Codex
535 Optics and Optical Instruments
536 Fundamentals of Statistical and Thermal Physics
537 Introduction to Electrodynamics
538 North Pole, South Pole (added 5/15/2013)
539 Concepts of Modern Physics
540 The Pill, Pygmy Chimps, and Degas' Horse
543 Spectra of Atoms and Molecules
546 The Disappearing Spoon
550 The Map that Changed the World
551 Waves and Beaches
553 Salt: A World History
557 Annals of the Former World
559 Roadside Geology of Hawai'i
560 Wonderful Life: The Burgess Shale
562 The Crucible of Creation (added 5/15/2013)
567 How to Build a Dinosaur (5/3/2010)
568 Taking Wing: Archaeopteryx and the evolution of bird flight (12/9)
569 Mammoth: The resurrection of an Ice Age giant (9/8)
571 Packing for Mars (6/18/2013)
573 The Third Chimpanzee
574 Voyage of the Sanderling
575 The Panda's Thumb
576 The Outer Reaches of Life
577 Where the Wild Things Were (8/29)
578 Return to Wild America
579 Microcosm (11/2012)
581 Seed to Seed (5/2011)
582 A Field Guide to Hawaii's Trees and Shrubs
583 Colorado Desert Wildflowers
585 The Wild Trees
587 Oaxaca Journal (5/2012)
590 The Animal Review (1/2011)
591 Last Chance to See
592 Waiting for Aphrodite (9/18/2010)
594 The Search for the Giant Squid (3/25/2010)
595 Four Wings and a Prayer (6/15)
597 A Field Guide to Western Reptiles and Amphibians
598 The Big Year
599 The Red Queen
Missing 100s: none!
Let me just say that the 520s are an area where Dewey really shows its age. It's frankly ludicrous that every single one of the textbooks for a PhD in astronomy are in 523 (with the exception of a couple that aren't in the 520s at all) -- all of modern astronomy is shoehorned into one subcategory, and most of the rest are totally obsolete.
439 Born to kvetch was a pretty amusing look at yiddish - some chapters more than others - there were entire chapters devoted to cursing and body parts, so perhaps not for the faint of heart! But just a suggestion for the Germanic languages category.
600 The Way Things Work
609 Cathedral, Forge, and Waterwheel
611 Your Inner Fish
613 The World of Caffeine
614 The Ghost Map (4/11/2011)
617 The Island of the Colorblind
618 The Ultimate Guide to Pregnancy for Lesbians
620 To Engineer is Human (added 2/25/2013)
621 The Radioactive Boy Scout
624 Why Buildings Stand Up (added 2/28/2011)
628 Seven Wonders: Everyday Things (added 8/4)
629 Promised the Moon
631 Dirt: The Ecstatic Skin of the Earth
633 The Complete Chile Pepper Book
634 Introduction to Fire in California (added 9/1)
635 Garlic is Life
636 Buffalo for the Broken Heart
639 Beautiful Swimmers
641 Climbing the Mango Trees
643 Homes and Other Black Holes (added 10/12)
649 The Lesbian Parenting Book
650 Bait and Switch
652 The Code Book
660 Shrinking the Cat (added 7/6)
667 A Perfect Red (added 11/07/2013)
681 The Difference Engine (added 4/11/2010)
686 The TeXBook
690 A House in Fez (added 3/5/2010)
700: Arts and Recreation
700 The Tough Guide to Fantasyland
704 Guerilla Girls' Companion
720 Frank Lloyd Wright
746 Yarn Harlot: The Secret Life of a Knitter
759 Van Gogh: The Complete Paintings
760 Confessions of the Guerilla Girls
778 Ansel Adams
779 Rare and Elusive Birds of North America
781 Between Midnight and Day
791 Sesame Street Unpaved
792 Don't Get Me Started
794 The Turk (finished 11/15/2010)
796 The Physics of Baseball
797 The Sailor's Edge
798 Mad Dogs and an Englishwoman (added 6/28/2010)
710 Civic & landscape art
730 Plastic arts; Sculpture
808 Literature from the "Axis of Evil"
809 The Language of the Night
811 Sailing Alone Around the Room
812 Six Degrees of Separation
813 (many, many, eg: To Kill A Mockingbird)
814 High Tide in Tucson
817 Out, Loud, and Laughing
818 Motel of the Mysteries
820 The Penguin book of lesbian short stories
821 Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
823 (many, many, eg:) Axiomatic)
827 1066 And All That (added 7/1)
828 The Tolkien Reader
829 Beowulf: A New Verse Translation
839 A Doll's House
841 Arthurian Romances
843 Empire of the Ants
863 One Hundred Years of Solitude
873 The Golden Ass
882 Oedipus Rex
883 The Iliad
884 Sappho: A New Translation
892 Gilgamesh (added 5/26)
894 My Name is Red (added 8/27/2012)
895 Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World (added 12/27)
Missing 100s: none!
900: History, geography, and biography
902 The Cartoon History of the Universe
909 The Discoverers
910 Sailing Alone Around the World
912 National Geographic Atlas of the World -- yes, I have read this, or at least spent time perusing every page. I'm a map geek.
913 The Extraordinary Voyage of Pytheas the Greek
914 Notes from a Small Island
915 Lost on Planet China (added 8/7/2009)
916 Whatever You Do, Don't Run (added 10/28/2009)
917 Road Fever
918 Darwin Slept Here
919 In A Sunburned Country
920 Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China
929 The Language of Names (added 7/21/2011)
930 Time Detectives (added 11/03/2009)
932 A History of Ancient Egypt
939 The Road to Ubar
940 Medieval Europe: A Short History
941 The Isles: A History
944 A Year in Provence
945 Tilt: A Skewed History of the Tower of Pisa (added 6/25/2009)
946 Driving over Lemons
951 Fried Eggs with Chopsticks
954 India: A History
955 Persepolis 2
957 Tuva Or Bust! (added 7/8/2010)
960 Into Africa (added 6/12/2010)
968 Long Walk to Freedom (added 9/01/2011)
971 Sable Island
972 An Embarrassment of Mangoes
973 I'm A Stranger Here Myself
974 The Perfect Storm
975 Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil
976 Molly Ivins Can't Say That, Can She?
977 Population 485
978 The Worst Hard Time
979 A Crack in the Edge of the World (added 3/4/2010)
982 On a Hoof and a Prayer (added 1/20/2010)
985 Turn Right at Machu Picchu (added 8/27/2012)
998 The Ends of the Earth (finished 9/08/2010)
999 Other Worlds
Missing 100s: none!
Standing as of 5/20/2009:
If I ignore the 200s, I need only 28 more categories to complete the 100s challenge. However I've already done the easy ones -- there's only one on my TBR (and it's in the 200s), none on my wishlist, and two or three that got mentioned here that are on my "investigate further" list.
If you're interested in stories of decipherment, I've read a bunch of those in the 400s:
The Linguist and the Emperor in 493 (about the decipherment of hieroglyphics; I'm sure there are plenty of other books like this in the category too)
Empires of the Plain: Henry Rawlinson and the Lost Languages of Babylon in 492
The Decipherment of Linear B in 487 (I can't remember how technical this one was, though)
There are also various general books about languages, like The Story of French in 440, though I haven't yet read it myself.
I haven't read The Keys of Egypt, but I'd actually recommend it anyway. It's co-written by the author of Empires of the Plain, which I enjoyed. I thought The Linguist and the Emperor was a bit too light to be really satisfying, though it's been a while and I can't remember the specifics. Sorry I can't be more helpful.
I read The Decipherment of Linear B when I was about 13 or 14, so it's probably nerd material, but it can't be all that technical.
While perusing the list of categories looking for areas where I might find something interesting I noticed two more where I've read something that I didn't initially notice above:
918: Darwin Slept Here
(This was in my catalog, but misclassified as a 910. It's frustrating that unlike the LC system there isn't a single authority, so when sources differ (and there is no number, or no clear winner, on LT) I have to make a best guess.)
839: A Doll's House (read way back in high school, but hey, I don't see this one happening otherwise.)
Adding these to the main tracking posts, but not dating them -- I'm only dating actual new reads.
I'm entering my Read but Not Owned collection, and came across a few more:
039: Codex Seraphinianus
If my cursory scan is correct, I'm the only person in the group with a book in 039!
327: Deterring Democracy
559: Roadside Geology of Hawai'i
873: The Golden Ass
(That's the only new 100s-level category from the bunch, and it means I have all 10 for 800, as well as for 500).
976: Molly Ivins Can't Say That, Can She?
Getting all 10 for the 970s is now seeming quite reasonable -- I have a possible title for 979, leaving only 971 (Canada). Recommendations, as always, welcome.
Well, I read it as much as anyone can. You may not count it, but you're stricter than most.
Yeah, it's true, I'm unusually picky. Oh well, maybe someday someone will decipher it.
595: Four Wings and a Prayer
I'm starting to wish I'd split the 500s into multiple posts; the touchstones are sluggish.
423: Reading the OED
I'm not sure but I think I may be the only person here who didn't read The Professor and the Madman for this category. This was a fun book, very suited for reading in short increments as I did. For those who read The Know-it-All for 031, this is the same schtick, but for the OED rather than the Encyclopedia Brittanica -- the author describes his year spent reading the OED, interspersed with discussions of words he found interesting or amusing. (I was pleased to see that "ambisinister", a word I've coined playfully to describe being clumsy with both hands, is in fact a real word appearing in the OED.)
One other suggestion for the 400s--I like to pick up old travel phrase books in various languages. They're usually short, and I find them entertaining. I have a couple of War Department ones from World War II and some other miscellaneous ones. Because I can actually read them all the way through, I've counted some of those in the standard usage categories. They're educational as well--now I can say, "Are you a sniper?" in Italian. Very useful.
Used book stores or sales, mainly. After getting one of the war department ones from a university book sale (for 50 cents), I've gotten a couple of other off eBay because I like them so much.
945: Tilt: A Skewed History of the Tower of Pisa
Slight and forgettable. Really more a "history of Pisa, with the tower as a focus" than anything else. What was the most interesting part to me -- the various projects to stabilize the tower over the centuries -- were glossed over much too quickly.
Yeah, it was a disappointment. At least I picked it up for fifty cents at a book sale.
That's a good candidate for the "books with great titles" thread that's floating around somewhere.
493: The Keys of Egypt
This was something of a disappointment; there was more on the biography and less focus on the actual decipherment than I would have liked. It's made me reconsider whether I want to read the other Adkins book on decipherment (Empires of the Plain, which Zoe mentioned upthread), if it's just going to be more of the same.
I'm sorry if I misled you! If you don't want any biography, you probably shouldn't bother with Empires of the Plain. But you might still enjoy Reading the Past: Ancient Writing from Cuneiform to the Alphabet or The Decipherment of Linear B.
Well, you said you hadn't read Keys of Egypt, so you didn't mislead me, I did that all on my own. :) And I don't mind a little biography mixed in with the history, the balance of this was just a little too much on the biography side.
628: Seven Wonders: Everyday Things for a Healthier Planet
This is a good one for those of you struggling with the 600s -- while it's a little dated and didn't have much I didn't know, it was still interesting -- it looks at seven small things like the bicycle and the clothesline and the environmental benefits of using them.
915: Lost on Planet China
Bill Bryson-style travel narrative about China. I'm amused that this one falls in the travel section (which it should), while the fairly similar Fried Eggs with Chopsticks has just enough history mixed in between the travel sections to get classified as 951 (history).
577: Where the Wild Things Were
This was an Early Reviewer book. My review is at
What a wonderful review of Where the wild things were. I have now immediately added it to my wishlist.
It's interesting though - the debate about top-down (ie predators control what ecosystems look like and how they function) vs. bottom-up (ie. the supply/limitation of nutrients controls ecosystems via the growth of primary producers - plants - and hence primary consumers - herbivores - and secondary consumers - omnivores and carnivores) goes back and forth, and some ecosystems show evidence of one while others show evidence of the other, etc. Likely, it is not hard and fast, but a spectrum whose rules we still don't fully understand.
It's really cool that the book starts out with the otter and star fish examples. Those papers are very famous within the ecology and marine biology communities, and are getting to be considered 'classic' by many. I remember reading them for classes I've taken.
Thanks, bfertig! I agree that the top-down vs bottom-up issue is probably a false dichotomy, and I'm glad that someone who actually knows what they're talking about agrees. :)
634: Introduction to Fire in California
I've had this on my shelf for about a year now, and was finally prompted to pick it up by the Station Fire which is now burning near us (not close enough to be a threat -- just close enough to ruin the air, and have very impressive views of flaming mountains when they aren't obscured by smoke).
This should be required reading for anyone living in southern California.
Edited to close rogue HTML
Interesting - I received Wildfire and Americans from someone on Bookmooch - it looked interesting at the time, but I haven't gotten to it yet. Have you read that one? It's 307 (Communities), so it could give you another DDN as well.
What did you think of Why People Believe Weird Things? It's a subject that's always interested me. I read How We Know What Isn't So last year and enjoyed it, especially the first parts of the book that talked about the cognitive and social elements of how we are given and how we perceive information (backed with simple psychology experiments). The later parts just devolved into the author pointing out how silly some of these beliefs were instead of tying them back to the earlier topics. I know the beliefs are silly - that's what makes the topic interesting to me. Does the author really dig into why people believe these things?
Sorry I missed your question earlier! It does dig into the "why" somewhat, especially in the introductory and concluding chapters, but I wouldn't say that's the sole focus.
Thanks. I read a bit of the introduction at the library today. It seems interesting. And I need something for the category - it's either this or a history book the Salem witch trials.
930: Time Detectives
This is a good popular overview of a number of interesting archaeological finds, with the unifying theme of 'archaeology isn't just digging up pots anymore'. I enjoyed it quite a bit.
#52 This one looks very interesting, I'm adding it to the wishlist to check out later.
Agreed, I was convinced I wanted to be an archeologist when I was a kid.
568: Taking Wing: Archaeopteryx and the evolution of bird flight
This was okay, nothing special, but not exactly boring either. It's a tough category, though, so I was glad to have this one!
954: India: A History
Finally! I've been reading this on and off (a couple chapters between other non-fiction books) for what seems like forever. I'd been looking for years for a good, comprehensive history of India that didn't start when the British arrived (or worse, when they left) and this fit the bill in spades -- sufficiently comprehensive that it was very slow going and hard to follow at times. I would have liked it to be a little less of the kings-and-battles school of history, though I do understand that sometimes that's all that's available.
650: Bait and Switch
This, on the other hand, was a quick read. Not as good as Ehrenreich's earlier Nickel and Dimed but still worth a read.
895: Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World
Thanks for the suggestion, sjmccreary -- I already have 951 covered, but hopefully someone else will find the recommendation useful. (And I've had enough Big Fat History Tomes for a while, but that does look like one to come back to later!)
439: Born to Kvetch
I finally got around to reading this based on bfertig's recommendation from way back in May. It was interesting, even though I'm very much not the target audience for it -- I would have liked a bit more on Yiddishisms in English, and why they're so widespread, but that just wasn't what this book was about. Still, pickings are slim in the 400s, so I did appreciate the suggestion.
982: On a Hoof and a Prayer
This would have fit equally well in 918 (South American travel) and 982 (Argentine history), since it's almost exactly equally divided between the two categories. My copy had it in 982, though, so that's what I'm going with. Entertaining and a quick read.
I was planning on reading Born to Kvetch too. Is it going to fly right over my head if I'm not sufficiently Jewish?
59, 62. Yes, there could have been more on the Yiddishisms in English and their spread, that would have been interesting as well. I wonder if it has something to do with Jews in Hollywood and the media - it's easy to spread words/phrases/ideas that way, and there is a long history there.
Um, it probably does have a target audience... of which I'm a part and so I did enjoy it and found myself actually laughing out loud at times, which is *extremely* rare for me; hence my recommendation. Other times I was pretty chagrined - it's not a *pleasant* language and didn't evolve to be beautiful. That being said, I felt it was pretty good at explaining itself, the general context and such, so I don't know that one has to be 'sufficiently Jewish' to appreciate it.
And there are some wonderfully creative ways to express displeasure with someone - much better than the common words used today generally. There's a whole chapter on cursing out people. I have a couple favorites from the book. For example, 'S/he should live as a chandelier; hang by day and burn by night!' Not that I've ever actually used any of these or directed them towards anyone. But they are a lot more creative!
Good to hear. I'd heard that you miss a good bit of the humor in a lot of Jewish books unless you were raised Jewish and know Yiddish.
"It looks like 050 will be the only reasonable one there. Are people counting magazines there, rather than in their subject area?"
I found a interesting book in 051 so apparently there are actual books in that division. The book is one of the few on my 000 tbr list I am pretty excited about. It's about 19th century men's magazines.
The Flash Press: Sporting Male Weeklies in 1840s New York
I read The World Through a Monocle, about the New Yorker, for 051. It's pretty good. If you click on the touchstone, you can see my review.
382: A Splendid Exchange
This wasn't perfect (I'm going to write a review, and will post a link when I have) but it was a very interesting history of trade and globalization. For me the book dragged a bit in the last couple of chapters, especially the final chapter when the author's own opinions became more obvious and relevant (since modern political and economic views aren't terribly relevant when discussing Sumer or the Silk Road, this only mattered late in the book.) Still, very much worth reading.
690: A House in Fez
Think A Year in Provence in Morocco, with more emphasis on house renovation, and you're pretty much there. Quick, fluffy read, but gets a hard category.
979: A Crack in the Edge of the World
Very interesting history of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake; I was initially skeptical about whether a single event could fill an entire book, but between seismological background for people unfamiliar with the basics and a quick history of San Francisco up to 1906, it had just the right level of detail. Recommended.
594: The Search for the Giant Squid
Outdated if viewed as a book on the current understanding of giant squids, but interesting enough as a historical overview (which is mostly what it was intended as), and there doesn't appear to be anything more up-to-date out there.
Too bad there's not something more recent. It's such an interesting topic.
681: The Difference Engine by Doron Swade
Not to be confused with the alternate history novel by William Gibson, this is a history of Babbage's difference engine and a modern re-creation. It was pretty interesting -- the author does a lot of de-mythologizing of Babbage and (especially) Lovelace; he may have been a bit too harsh in places, but they're still interesting enough without the modern deification. The first two-thirds of the book are historical, and the final third is about an attempt to build a full-scale difference engine to Babbage's plans, to see whether it would have been possible to build a working model with nineteenth-century engineering. (Babbage had a working engine, but it wasn't full-scale.)
I was initially surprised by the placement of this book (681 is "Precision Instruments"), but from a nineteenth-century perspective, that's exactly what this is -- the DDC was developed after the difference engine and before computers, after all, so in its own context this is a perfectly good category for this book.
521: Feynman's Lost Lecture by David Goodstein
Well, I found this interesting, but I'm not sure that that's going to be a universal. It's about a lecture Feynman gave, after he was no longer teaching the Caltech freshmen (so it isn't in the Feynman Lectures) about Newton's proof that planetary orbits are elliptical. It's very clever -- purely geometric -- but, despite not requiring any advanced math, is not trivial to follow. Goodstein first discusses the history of the problem, and outlines the proof in detail, before providing a transcript of Feynman's lecture. I wish there were actual photos of the diagrams Feynman used, rather than re-creations, but I understand that they just aren't available. Due to the extremely outdated arrangement of the 520s (where all of modern astronomy is in 523), the 520s are a difficult section, and I was glad to find this one.
I'd really like to give that Feynman book a try someday. I've come close several times after picking it up in the library and the putting it right back down. I'm just intimidated by the math. I was never lost in high school geometry but never went any further than that and would probably need some reference beside while I read it. Just need to put the effort in I suppose. I think I can, I think I can . . .
I missed the Difference Machine post, but since we have a bit of xkcd I think we ought to have some Kate Beaton too.
And, of course, some Sydney Padua.
567: How to Build a Dinosaur by Jack Horner
This was entertaining, but despite being short it seemed padded with background details about dinosaur paleontology and the evolutionary history of birds. The core idea -- tweaking gene expression in birds to produce something that looks like a dinosaur -- was probably only a long article's worth. Still, as a book purchased in the airport (!) that hadn't even been on my radar, it was an interesting read.
011: More Book Lust
Not intended to be read through, but this way (admittedly, reading it in snippets of a few minutes over the course of a couple weeks) I get to count it for the challenge. This did very bad things to my wishlist, or at least to my "investigate these books" list, and I'm sure I'll revisit it in a more normal fashion (e.g. "I'm feeling like a book about X, what's good") in the future. Just as soon as I've read the 20 books it already added to my list.
Those books look so good, but I don't exactly need help finding things to read at the moment!
It's been a year since I started the challenge (well, one day less than a year, but I'm not going to finish any new sections in the next day) so it's a good time for a roundup of progress:
When I started, I was at:
Sections: 167/908 (This is not quite what I have in my first post, because this is including my read-but-not-owned that were added to my library and thus to this list after that post.)
As an aside I note that I've added at least one section to every class except the 7xx in the last year. I do have a couple 7xx on my TBR shelf; maybe I should move them up the queue!
That's some serious progress. I just passed my one year mark too, but I didn't take steps to keep track of how many I read in my first year. I'm keeping count now within the calendar year so I can pat myself on the back come New Years.
Great progress! I don't think I've been getting through more than ten categories in a year.
Have you been adding reviews for each finished book?
No, I haven't been reviewing every book; there are brief reactions to a few of them here, but I've only reviewed a few (ER books or those where I both had something to say and it hadn't already been said by other reviewers.)
I am going to review one of my current Dewey reads, though, because I'm liking it a lot and there aren't any reviews on LT yet.
913: The Extraordinary Voyage of Pytheas the Greek
This very short book (which I read due to a recommendation on this group -- I no longer remember who mentioned it, but thank you!) is mostly an attempt to recreate the titular voyage from the 4th century BC, from what is now Marseilles to, according to the author, Iceland by way of the British Isles. (The route is uncertain since the text of Pytheas's description of the voyage has been lost, and we have only second-and third-hand references to it to work from.) Cunliffe provides brief archaeological evidence for what the various regions Pytheas encountered would have been like, and uses these to argue for his recreation of the route (where the tin was mined, where amber was gathered, etc.)
960: Into Africa: A Journey Through the Ancient Empires
My first new division since March.
I'd been looking for a while for a history of Africa with a longer timeline than post-colonialism, and something a little less gloomy than the child-soldier/refugee stories that seem to fill the Africa section of my local bookstore. I no longer remember how I stumbled on this one, but I'm glad I did. Jointly written by a historian and a South African writer whose family has lived in South Africa for centuries, this book provides a brief overview of the history of the entire continent based on ancient empires (as the subtitle suggests); interpersing history (which tends to become depressingly repetitive after a couple dozen countries: shifting tribal alliances, empires, conquest, migration, European contact, slavery, colonialism, democracy, coup) with vivid descriptions of modern Africa, the book covers the entire continent, and I'm pretty sure that every country at least gets mentioned briefly.
#84 That actually sounds really interesting. Thanks for the review.
I just realized that I've been negligent about updating this.
507: The Ten Most Beautiful Experiments
See my review.
798: Mad Dogs and an Englishwoman
Travel writer Polly Evans goes to the Yukon in winter (thus putting this squarely into the category of "interesting to read about other people doing this, but I'd never dream of doing it myself" travel literature) to go dogsledding. I've loaned this to my friend who has an Alaskan Husky (in Southern California!), figuring that if I enjoyed it as a thorough cat person, she'd love it.
Since it took me so long to enter the last two I have another one already:
957: Tuva Or Bust!
This was a fun little book about Richard Feynman's attempt, with a few of his friends (one of whom was the author) to visit Tuva, an obscure region of what was then the Soviet Union and which is now best-known for "throat singing". Sadly Feynman never made the trip, though the author did eventually succeed, but the story of all the attempts they made and the Tuvan pen-pal they acquired was a lot of fun anyway. (In a side note of interest to members of this group, I note that when someone writes a book about a famous physicist trying to travel to what is technically Siberia (the Asian part of Russia), you get what may be the only book in the world that's cross-classified as QC/Physics by the LC and 957/History of Siberia by Dewey!)
If you like physics, Six Easy Pieces by Feynman is spectacular.
I'm not really the target audience for that one, but thank you -- it may be a useful recommendation for someone else here!
89, 90 -- My book club read Six Easy Pieces, but it wasn't easy enough for me! But I found it interesting how often he said "we don't really know . . . "
307: The Works: Anatomy of a City
My wife bought this not from any particular interest in infrastructure or urban planning but because of the neat graphical design of the book; it was clear from flipping through it in the bookstore that someone had really read their Tufte. It is a beautifully put together book that happens to be about how a city works, and specifically about New York City. I've never even been in NYC (not counting changing planes at the airport), and have no particular interest in it, but this book was fascinating, both in the little details and in the big-picture stuff (like just how deeply, profoundly unsustainable New York is!) The book sometimes seemed to be mostly for an extremely insular New York audience (are there really people who don't know that 911 is a nationwide thing?) but with a little skimming of some of the more specific details it was still interesting as a detailed case study.
091: The Voynich Manuscript
Recommended by Kira waaaaay back in message 3. Thanks, Kira! It was indeed interesting.
I just read an article on that the other day arguing it was a fraud probably made to bilk a credulous collector. Sadly I can't find the article.
That's certainly one of the hypotheses discussed in the book, and the one the authors find most believable (and me too), though the question of when the fraud took place (i.e. was it Voynich himself, the 'discoverer' of the manuscript, or was it an earlier fraud?) remains unanswered.
381: Cheap: The High Cost of Discount Culture
Disjointed. I was stuck in an airport, I'd finished my other book, this was the most readable-looking thing in the bookstore. The chapters individually are usually pretty interesting, there's some neat facts in here, but it doesn't hold together and Shell doesn't offer any suggestions for what to do about the problems she describes.
Thanks for the reminder about The Voynich Manuscript; I was just thinking I needed something in the 000s.
998: The Ends of the Earth
I had a surprisingly hard time finding something for 998 -- it seems like all the Antarctic exploration books I looked at were just filed under 910. Still, this collection of excerpts, both fiction and non-fiction, fit the bill, was mostly interesting, and added several books to my wishlist. I did find some of the Antarctic portions repetitive; the journals from one early expedition are much like those from another, in their repetition of cold, lack of food, and miles covered in sledging.
With a 99x I'm now 10/10 in the 900s (as well as in the 500s and 800s)!
#100 Congratulations on another 10/10 milestone! You're way ahead of me - the most I've got is 6/10 in the 800's and 5/10 in the 300's and 900's.
Thanks! Being a scientist by training helped a lot in the 500s, and getting 10/10 in the 900s was one of my goals for 2010. (I think I had 7/10 when I started the challenge.)
#102 - lucky you! Being an accountant by training only provides me with a few sections in the 650's (which also seems to include secretarial topics like shorthand). However, I see that I haven't even filled in the few spaces that I do have professional reading for.
I recall you mentioning before that your area of expertise is astronomy - is that right? Can you recommend anything in that field for a non-scientist that hasn't been dumbed down too much? (Just because I didn't study science doesn't mean that I'm incapable of learning. It annoys me when authors oversimplify things.)
sjmmcreary, unfortunately, I don't tend to actually read much popular-level astronomy these days, so I don't have any first-hand recommendations. Neil Tyson's books like Death by Black Hole might be interesting. Stephen Hawking certainly isn't dumbed down, but A Brief History of Time is probably showing its age, and it's also rather narrow in focus on cosmology rather than observational astronomy. Frankly the best material here is probably in magazines like Astronomy or Sky & Telescope.
carlym, thank you! That was one of my goals for 2010 -- I'd been sitting at one book left for each of the goals for a while, until I realized that it was September already and I needed to actually focus if I wanted to reach them.
592: Waiting for Aphrodite
Eh. A set of article-length writings (though there's no indication they were actually published independently) about various invertebrates the author found interesting, interspersed with personal anecdotes about why they interest her. Accessible, informative in parts, but just not that interesting or well-written.
411: Lost Languages
This book was a lot of fun. I like both linguistics and codes and puzzles, and undeciphered scripts fall very nicely at the intersection of the two. It's a very nicely put-together, extensively illustrated volume talking about decipherment, starting out with short histories of three important successful decipherments (Egyptian hieroglyphics, Linear B, and the Mayan glyphs), and moving on to discuss a dozen or so undeciphered scripts. I was going to recommend it to _Zoe_ specifically before I checked and saw that she already has it in her library; oh well.
That one has been on my wishlist for a while now. I keep hoping it will pop up on BookMooch so I can snag a copy. Now even more so.
I still appreciate the recommendation, since I haven't actually gotten around to reading the book yet!
794: The Turk: The Life and Times of the Famous Eighteenth-Century Chess-Playing Machine
That's a shame. The Turk is probably one of the most interesting hoaxes I've heard of.
>111 Oh, that's too bad. It's a fun topic. In fact, I'm still tempted to read the book despite its mediocrity.
I know! Such a great topic, and I've enjoyed Standage's other books, but this one just didn't do it for me. I think there just may not have been enough material for a book here; there was a bit too much blow-by-blow ("And then he took the Turk to another city, where it played against X. And then Y published another explanation that wasn't quite right.") for my tastes; I'd have liked more contextualization (the parts talking about automata in general and at the end talking about computer chess were among the better parts of the book).
fundevogel, one of the things that was interesting is that I'm not sure anymore that "hoax" is the best word to use, since I'm not sure the intent to deceive was there. It may have been more akin to stage magic, especially toward the end of the Turk's career; nobody was expected to believe that an automaton was really playing chess on its own, and the fun was in trying to figure out how the trick was done. It may have started off as a hoax, in that people were supposed to believe it really was autonomous, but that didn't last as long as the Turk did.
I should point out that I try to keep my ratings relatively balanced; the 2.5 stars I gave this is "Below average", not "Book-hurlingly awful" as it would be for some.
A few more squeaked in before the end of 2010:
636: Buffalo for the Broken Heart: A short memoir about a South Dakota rancher's transition from raising cattle (ecologically devastating) to raising bison (much better for the prairie). Nothing too profound, but well-written (the author's a novelist) and interesting enough if you have some interest in the region. It reminded me a bit of Waiting for Coyote's Call, which was an ER offering (which I didn't request, because it was an ebook) which some people may have read. I finished this one a few weeks ago and forgot to update the thread.
590: The Animal Review: I'm almost embarrassed to count this piece of fluff (a Christmas gift from my brother in our annual book exchange, overcompensating for the Serious Weighty Novels he's given the past few years) but it's a valid fit for the category. With tongue firmly in cheek the authors assign grades to various animals (pandas: fail, for their difficulty reproducing. King cobras: A+, because are you going to tell the cobra it got a bad grade?) Amusing, but don't spend money on a thin read-once humor book that will take you half an hour to read. (This was an ER offering, which I didn't request at the time.)
359: The Frigate Surprise: I don't need to say much here. If you're a Patrick O'Brian fan, you'll be interested anyway; if not, you won't. This also got me a VA in the LC Challenge.
Not bad, considering I didn't seek any of these out as new categories!
509: The Age of Wonder:
My review appears to have been eaten by gremlins, so while I'm trying to see if I have a local copy saved (I used to do all my reviews in Google Docs, but lately for some reason it's been unusably slow for me), I'll just say that this was a bit of a disappointment; it reminded me of why I don't read many biographies, by spending too much time on the personal lives of the scientists involved (and spending only a sentence or two on some major discoveries that weren't the ones he'd chosen to focus on.) One line about Davy's discovery of sodium, but pages worth of his (not very good) poetry. Holmes also strays too far out of his area of expertise when he tries to mention modern analogues, particularly the Hubble Space Telescope, and fails miserably; everything he says about is is misinterpreted, missing the point, or just plain wrong. It mostly gets very good reviews, and I don't think it's a bad book; it just didn't work for me.
499: In the Land of Invented Languages
This was an absolute delight. It's a history of, as the title suggests, invented languages, which mostly sort themselves into three historical eras (the philosophical attempts to design a 'perfect' language derived from a hierarchical arrangement of all the concepts in the universe; the utopian attempts to foster peace and understanding through a universal language (the most successful of which is Esperanto); and the languages created for the sheer fun of playing with language, the best-known of which is Klingon (which, I was surprised to learn, was actually created by a real linguist, and has a full and very complicated grammar including many features not found in any European languages and not found together in any natural language, rather than just being a bunch of words to be substituted into English sentences.) The creators of the just-for-fun languages come off better than most of the utopians (many of whom seem rather megalomaniacal), and Okrent doesn't take the easy route of mocking speakers of Esperanto or Klingon.
One bit toward the end, when she's attending a conference for creators of languages, struck me in particular, since it expresses a sentiment I think almost anyone who's been a graduate student in any field can identify with:
I was...reminded of the reasons I had gone into linguistics in the first place -- my own heart-fluttering fascination with languages. Over the years that visceral feeling had been somewhat dampened by the intellectual focus that an academic track demands. All linguists begin with that spark of love for language, but they sometimes end up so involved in supporting a theory or gathering evidence against someone else's theory that they forget it. Languages become cold bundles of data that they pick through for what they need. There is value in this kind of activity, and sometimes excitement as well, but it rarely inspires delight.
If I were the type to write in books, this would get a big fat YES THIS in the margin. Substitute "astronomy" for "linguistics" and other suitable replacements, and it's exactly right. Sometimes things are a lot more fun at the amateur level when you can remember what got you excited in the first place rather than wondering why your code won't compile.
By the way, for anyone doing the LC Challenge as well, this is a PM, which is a difficult category too.
That sounds fascinating! Thanks for the recommendation and great review.
624: Why Buildings Stand Up
To make a long story short, I read this because my father-in-law doesn't have a copy of Why Buildings Fall Down. It's an overview of exactly what the title suggests (though "buildings" should be understood to include other large structures like bridges); a chapter on a particular structural element like arches or roofs, followed, usually, by a chapter about a particular building exemplifying that element, like the Brooklyn Bridge for bridges. The example chapters were pretty interesting, but the general chapters dragged. This could have been improved by better illustrations, I think. The book's not at all technical, and that may actually be a detriment; a few sketched force diagrams could have really helped me understand what the author was talking about in several places.
I read that some time ago. I don't have the strongest recollection of it but do agree that the chapters on specific structures stood out. It was the first thing I ever read that really made me appreciate the Eiffel Tower.
158: Ask For It: How women can use the power of negotiation
I belatedly realized that this surpassingly dull bit of career-development drivel (my wife had been it hounding me to read it; finishing it was the easier course of action compared to explaining why I didn't) at least gets me a new section on the challenge, its only redeeming feature.
204: I want to be left behind
Not what I was expecting, and a bit of a disappointment, but the 2xx are hard enough for me that anything that didn't make me want to throw the book against the wall is probably a good thing here. (And it's even a new division, my first for 2011; those are getting harder and harder to come by.)
614: The Ghost Map
Late to the party on this one, I'm afraid. An interesting read, but not one to read at the breakfast table.
#124 The fact that you refrained from throwng this book against the wall is impressive. I have to admit that it sounds awful to me. But congrats on the new division.
In an unusual turn of events, none of your books ended up on my wishlist this month! (I'm bracing myself for next month.)
408: The Last Speakers
I already had this on my shelf when fundevogel posted her review, or I may not have picked it up, despite it filling a difficult category. It's more about dying cultures than languages; Harrison argues that if you've got a single word for, say, "uncastrated three-year-old male reindeer", it's easier to talk about reindeer than otherwise, but that's about as far as his emphasis on language goes. He doesn't actually go into what makes these languages interesting linguistically at all, which risks suggesting to most readers that languages are just a collection of vocabulary with nothing interesting structurally going on. I'd have liked to see more than one brief mention early on about actual issues of linguistics.
(As an aside, Harrison totally misses the point on the whole tiresome "How many 'Eskimo' words for snow are there" thing; even I know that most of it's just that many of the Inuit languages are agglutinative, so that what would be a long string of adjectives in English is a single word. There's nothing profound revealed by having "freshly fallen snow with a hard crust on top" be all smushed together instead in one word instead of nine, if your language is one that routinely does that sort of thing and makes words as needed.)
Disappointing right? It got me all excited with the early chapter about how language can influence cognitive process with the bit about the how that nomadic tribe communicated location and directions and then it just fizzled out.
Do you think it ought to be taken off the suggestions wiki or left with a caveat?
I'm inclined to leave it with a caveat. In my opinion it wasn't actively bad, just disappointing. If someone finds something that's actually good for that category, though, I'd remove this one.
419: Talking Hands by Margalit Fox
Talking Hands is a riveting account of the linguistics of sign language and language in general through the lens of a small village in Israel. In the Bedouin village of Al-Sayyid, thanks to a small founding population and continued isolation, approximately 4% of the population is deaf; enough that rather than each deaf individual developing an ad hoc system of “homesign” to communicate with their immediate family, the community developed a unique sign language used by both deaf and hearing residents. “Signing villages”, as they are called, arise under these circumstances, but the unique languages they develop tend to last only a few generations before migrations and the influence of the locally dominant sign language kill them off.
The book alternates chapters between the account of a team of linguists visiting Al-Sayyid to study the language, as a rare window into the early stages of language creation development, and a more general overview of the linguistics of sign and of languages in general. The Al-Sayyid chapters describe the linguists’ efforts to learn about the unique language of the village; ironically, because they aren’t sent away to special schools for the deaf where they learn Israeli Sign, the hearing residents often use a ‘purer’ version of the language than the deaf residents.
581: Seed to Seed by Nicholas Harberd
Boy was this a bust. Extremely technical details of how particular genetic expressions and proteins affect plant growth, interspersed with stream-of-consciousness meanderings about the author's day-to-day experiences with plants. The contrast between the two was not interesting or insightful, and despite Halberd's efforts did not give me a sense of science and everyday life existing side-by-side; it gave me a sense that he had taken a personal journal and a lab notebook, threw the sentences in the air, and put them back together in an arbitrary order.
Lorax, the 419 sounds really interesting. My parents and one set of grandparents were deaf so this is an interesting subject for me. Another wishlist book! Thank you.
514: The Poincare Conjecture by Donal O'Shea
A very readable account of the history of what was one of the longest-standing unanswered questions in mathematics when it was finally proven several years ago. O'Shea does a very good job of making very difficult math indeed seem to be hovering just out of reach, without using a single equation in the text. (The lack of equations was actually detrimental once or twice; when he was explaining the concept of the three-sphere, a higher-dimensional analogue of the sphere, it would have helped if he'd reassured us that, yes, it is indeed represented by w^2 + x^2 + y^2 + z^2 = 1, rather than just providing a topological definition and leaving it at that.) Recommended for anyone with any interest at all in math, and it gets a tough category.
It's too bad that of your last three books, two look interesting, but I own the one that was a dud! Plant biology has never been very interesting to me, anyway.
So far behind!
I don't think these are necessarily in order, but since my last post I've read:
391: Indigo: In search of the color that seduced the world by Catherine McKinley
This was an ER book, and the marketing material was a trifle misleading. My review is here, but in a nutshell, it's a memoir, not a microhistory.
522: Giant Telescopes by Patrick McCray
I enjoyed this quite a bit, but I don't think a general audience really would. A new 52x is pretty difficult for me; as I've noted many times before, that's an area where Dewey really shows its age, and the classification bears no resemblance to the modern field of astronomy. 522 gets books on telescopes, but not on the instruments that go on them (which go off in 621 for engineering for 535 for optics depending on the whim of the cataloger). This is a case-study of the Gemini telescopes, among the first in the modern era of large telescopes. If I didn't already know most of the people involved, I doubt I would have found this very interesting. While I haven't read it, I think The Perfect Machine about the much earlier construction of the Palomar telescope would be a better 522 for a general audience.
929: The Language of Names by Justin Kaplan and Anne Bernays
See my review.
968: Long Walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandela
I felt really bad about not having read this. I'm sure I was the last person on the planet to read it and have very little to add.
A few more, from the last couple of months:
546: The Disappearing Spoon by Sam Kean
An interesting, easy read. The conceit is that it finds something interesting to say about each of the elements, either chemically or historically; obviously, this is easier for some than for others, but it succeeds fairly well, and it's a fun little read. (The title comes from a parlor trick where someone makes a spoon out of gallium, a metal which is solid at room temperature but liquid at human body temperature; they then give the spoon to a guest to use to stir their tea, and watch with amusement as the spoon dissolves into the unsuspecting guest's beverage. Obviously the tea is not to be consumed after this.)
936: Seahenge by Francis Pryor
The title here is a little misleading; the titular henge makes up only a small part of the book. That's actually a good thing; an entire book about the find would probably have been much too detailed for a popular-level book. Instead, this is an overview of the author's career in the archaeology of Bronze Age Britain. He talks about a variety of finds, from their discovery (usually using clever aerial imaging techniques to find differences in vegetation due to wetter or drier ground over old sites) through the actual excavation to the interpretation of the findings. I'm a little skeptical of his readiness to attribute ritual significance to anything and everything (I was reminded of David Macaulay's excellent Motel of the Mysteries), but I enjoyed the book and learned a lot. The actual discussion of Seahenge itself was one of the less interesting parts of the book, to be honest.
939: The Road to Ubar by Nicholas Clapp
Coincidentally, another archaeological detective story, this one about the search for a "lost city" in what is now Yemen, that was mentioned in old documents and appeared on ancient maps but was completely unknown. I picked this up because I remembered hearing about how satellite imagery was used to find it, by registering the different appearance of the packed ground under old caravan routes than elsewhere. That was a brief part of this book, most of which covered descriptions of earlier, unsuccessful quests for the city and of the actual successful expedition, which was described in tedious detail -- not just the actual digging, but dull little anecdotes about parceling out the MREs they were eating among Muslims, vegetarians, and omnivorous Americans. It wasn't a bad book, but I'd definitely recommend Seahenge for a 93x long before this one.
999: Other Worlds by Michael Lemonick
This was a hard category to nail down! 999 is supposed to be "history of other worlds", but books about space exploration go in 629, so nothing about the Apollo program is here, books about possible future Mars exploration seem to be in 919 ("travel to other regions"), technical books about SETI are all over the place, and most books on exoplanets are in 523. Somehow, this one -- a multi-pronged overview of the early days (i.e. mid- and late-1990s) of astrobiology -- ended up here. There wasn't really anything new here for me, but I did enjoy it anyway. It's quite dated (when it was written, only a handful of exoplanets were known, compared to more than 600 now) but would be a good introduction to the field.
blows away dust and cobwebs
Wow, it's been a while since I've remembered to update here. Process has slowed, of course, but not by that much! Let's see, where did I leave off?
330: Return of Depression Economics and the Crisis of 2008 by Paul Krugman
I actually read this one quite a while ago, but somehow I neglected to update this at the time; I probably didn't notice that it was a new category. Or maybe I just updated the LC challenge and forgot to update here. At any rate, highly recommended; it made me smarter.
516: The Golden Ratio by Mario Livio
Solidly average. But hey, do you have a better suggestion for geometry?
587: Oaxaca Journal by Oliver Sacks
When I first saw the classification on this one I thought it must be misfiled, but no, this really is where it belongs. This is a brief account of Sacks' trip to Oaxaca with a group of fern enthusiasts, to observe and study the region's diverse and unusual ferns. There's enough focus on the plants to justify the classification and enough discussion of the other attractions of the region and the fern enthuiasts themselves to make it interesting. This is the one I just finished, and what made me actually remember to update here.
633: The Complete Chile Pepper Book by Dave DeWitt
Another long-ago read, that I only noticed when I was going through my catalog to see what I'd missed for this update. This was an ER book long ago, and my review is here.
971: Sable Island by Marq de Villiers
A strange little book about a strange little place, a sand-dune island far off the coast of Nova Scotia. This finished up the 97x for me.
Update as of May 2012:
I've read books from all ten classes.
I've read books from all divisions in three classes: 5xx, 8xx, and 9xx.
I've read books from all sections in two divisions: 00x (counting only the sections that are actually used, 001-006; 007-009 are unassigned and I've never actually seen a book assigned to 000 that I believe belongs there rather than being misclassified) and 97x.
I have read books from:
10/10 (100%) of classes
76/99 (77%) of divisions
237/908 (26%) of sections
Incidentally, I decided not to read How to Lie with Statistics for 311. I'm not going to learn anything from it - it's quite elementary - and it's in 311 only by historical accident; newer editions are in 519 with the rest of the probability and statistics books. So I really would be reading it purely for the tick, and I'm not going to do that. I've never understood why social-science stats are separated out into the 310s while statistics for every other application are put in with probability and the rest of math, either.
631: Dirt: The Ecstatic Skin of the Earth
It's a shame that this wasn't a better book, since this is such a tough category. It's a disconnected series of musings about, as the title suggests, dirt. It was much more philosophical and less factual than I'd been expecting. It does have the virtues of being both short and readable, though, so if you really want something for this category you could do worse.
"...social-science stats are separated out into the 310s while statistics for every other application are put in with probability and the rest of math, either."
I had thought it was something along the lines of stats such as X number of people live 'here' or do 'this' or some other tidbit that one might whip out as a conversation starter vs. experimental statistical applications, probability, math, etc.
but honestly i haven't looked that closely at it so am not sure if this breakdown is accurate ... or worthwhile if indeed the case.
Ah, so "demographics" then rather than "statistics" per se? That makes sense (though it doesn't explain the former placement of How to Lie with Statistics in the 31x.)
a lot of the examples in how to lie were of demographic nature -- and showing how to skew demographics, say by using a mean vs median or by careful selection of sample size or population.. it got into some issues of probability and representativeness, but from what i recall didn't go as much into depth about things like detection limits (read: alpha) or power of the tests (read: beta), etc. and dealt only cursory with error (from what i recall).
Update from the last few months:
028: Rereadings edited by Anne Fadiman
The introduction to this book was intriguing, with Fadiman talking about revisiting the Narnia books with her young son, and noticing all sorts of problematic issues and plot problems that she hadn't noticed as a kid, and worrying about them, and her son not caring. Rereading once-cherished books with adult eyes was a great premise, so I picked up the book. Unfortunately, most of the essays didn't live up to this promise. The problem for me was twofold - first, the age cutoff for first reading was too old at 25, so that many of the writers chose a book they'd loved in college or graduate school, rather than admitting to a childhood infatuation with Nancy Drew or a high school obsession with Tolkien. Second, and related, most of the choices were unfamiliar to me, and several seemed deliberately pretentious. The ones I found most enjoyable were in fact where the writer stuck closer to the spirit of the introduction - one about a series of nurse novels, and one about Andersen's "The Snow Queen". Former English majors would probably get a lot more out of this than I did.
824: My Name is Red by Orhan Pamuk
The 8xx are an interesting class here. For most of us, the majority of our books are in 813 and 823, but past those and a few for literature originally in major European languages it rapidly becomes hard slogging. (Classicists will have an easier go of it, I suspect, with Latin and Greek each getting their own division). So I'm always happy when I can knock off another section here. My Name is Red is set in sixteenth-century Ottoman Istanbul, among a group of miniaturists commissioned to illustrate a book for the Sultan. The plot, for what it matters, is a murder mystery - one among the group has been murdered by another, and as Black (recently returned from afar) investigates, the reader is supposed to uncover the culprit from the interweaving stories told by various other characters. (I failed, paying too much attention to detail rather than to voice. This effort echoes one of the recurring motifs of the book about the nature of individual artistic style, frowned upon in the society of the time. I'm not a good enough reviewer to talk about this in detail, but I am glad I read it.
985: Turn Right at Machu Picchu by Mark Adams
After tackling the Pamuk I needed something a little easier going. This is an account of the author's attempt to retrace the steps of Hiram Bingham, the first outsider to find the Incan city of Machu Picchu (I say "outsider" in an attempt to distinguish not only the Incan inhabitants who left the city but also the local Peruvian inhabitants who knew it was there and just didn't make a big deal of it). Since it interweaves the very entertaining story of his own journey with historical accounts of Bingham's travels and discussions of what is known about Incan history, it gets the "history" classification rather than the "travel" (books of this sort can often go either way). I still plan on picking up something more substantial like the Last Days of the Incas that's been on my wishlist for ages, but this will do for the category.
I like the premise of Rereadings and have been hoping to re-read a few of the books that I really enjoyed in middle school and high school. It's a little scary though, the possibility of overwriting the thrill I remember having. It's a shame the book didn't live up to it's introduction.
I actually haven't benefited from the classics advantage, but I think that's because I've been too picky about what I list and read. If a book consists of 1/3 text and 2/3 commentary, I haven't been counting it as "read" because there's so much of it that I'll just have glanced through randomly. And so that eliminates pretty much everything I've read. Meanwhile, I've always avoided reading books in translation because I could in theory read them in the original. But that takes time, so I don't.
I've been eyeing Turn Right at Machu Picchu in the bookstore lately. Would you recommend it as worthwhile reading beyond this challenge?
I would still recommend it, yeah; it's just not going to give you a lot of details on the Incan history, as opposed to the current situation and Bingham's explorations.
Last few months got me:
409: Empires of the Word by Nicholas Ostler
This was very interesting, and an approach I hadn't encountered before. It's a history of the rise, spread, and decline of major world languages, from Akkadian and Sumerian to English. It's not primarily focused on changes in the languages themselves, though that is mentioned, more on how and why they spread as they did. Ostler talks about the different ways that languages spread and the reasons people have for learning them, with each chapter focused on a different world language.
579: Microcosm: E. Coli and the new science of life by Carl Zimmer
An interesting look at one of the most ubiquitous organisms on the planet, and how much we've learned from it about life in general.
My pace has been slowing lately; I'm now at
10/10 (100%) of classes
76/99 (77%) of divisions
243/908 (27%) of sections
My next milestone will probably be to get all ten divisions in the 6xx, since I have a 677 on my TBR stack;
I think I'm going to focus for a bit on reading the new divisions in my TBR pile. I'd like to be able to complete more "all sections in a division", but that doesn't seem very likely - they all seem to have one or two really problematic ones.
I just picked up Empires of the Word recently and I'm glad to see that it's better than I expected.
The language class is a finicky one to find books for...
It's quite interesting. The language class is an odd one - there's a lot of good stuff in 40x and 41x, but unless you're learning a language and have lots of references around for it (that you're actually going to count as having read, which most people aren't going to do for a dictionary or the like) the later divisions get pretty thin on the ground.
Um, responding to an old comment....
I actually like the fact that a lot of the language class is about learning languages. I have this idea of the challenge being about getting a good 19th-century education, and so I should really be familiar with French and German and Greek and Latin, to the point of having read grammars. At least one day, ideally ;)
121: Doubt by Jennifer Michael Hecht
A very dense history of doubters - exactly what they're doubting is less important for the book than the fact that they did, and it of course changes over time. It's very respectful to all the religious beliefs that it discusses, and many or most of the figures described, especially earlier on, are not atheists in the modern sense but exist entirely within their religious context. (That didn't stop the hierarchies from regarding them as dangerous heretics, of course!)
404: The Bilingual Edge by Kendall King
See my review. Don't bother if you aren't a parent and reasonably multilingual yourself (more than my "I can along haltingly and stumblingly in Spanish"), even though it's a tough category. All it did was make me feel like I'll be letting my son down because I'm not comfortably bilingual enough to carry on actual conversations in another language.
538: North Pole, South Pole by Gillian Turner
There are some of the 53X categories that have an odd excluded middle of books; there are books intended for little kids, books intended for graduate students and above in physics, and absolutely nothing in the middle. A good example of this is 533, on fluid dynamics; there are books about “air” for small children, intimidating textbooks on fluid mechanics for physicists, and a desert in between. (Just so you know where I’m coming from on the “intimidating” bit, I have an undergraduate degree in physics and a PhD in astronomy. I’ve taken graduate-level courses in general relativity and quantum mechanics. These are nothing compared to the terror that is fluid dynamics, which is why it’s not often a required class. The equations for GR and QM are at least soluble; the question of whether or not the key equations for fluid mechanics even always have solutions in all situations is considered one of the most important unsolved questions in mathematics.)
Until recently, 538 (magnetism) was one of these categories; books for little kids playing with magnets and an odd few textbooks on NMR, and not much else - the unification of electricity and magnetism was more or less contemporaneous with Dewey’s original work (allowing for some time for the understanding to percolate down to the general public), so his classification has in this case as in so many others been overtaken by events, with modern texts on electromagnetism falling in 537. A history of the study of geomagnetism, though, pretty neatly falls into this elusive category, and this is one - it's interesting and readable to boot!
562: The Crucible of Creation by Simon Conway Morris
Sort of an odd duck, this combines a fairly detailed description of various Burgess shale fossils in context with some axe-grinding against Gould's Wonderful Life that seemed out of place (it's not Gould's fault that Hallucigenia was originally identified wrong-way-up, and Morris so spectacularly misses the point of Gould's almost tautologically obvious "if you reran the history of the earth you wouldn't get humans" that it seems almost deliberate.) The part about the biology and the fossils is quite interesting, so I'd skip the first two chapters (containing some axe-grinding and a rather tedious overview of geological time that's pitched much lower than the rest of the book) if I were you. I particularly liked the "time machine" conceit to describe what the animals may have looked and acted like in life, though I wish he would have said whether the colors he attributes to them are anything other than pure speculation.
Doubt sounds interesting and I don't have anything in that section. Going on the list. Nice review - thanks! How do you like this weird touchstone?
By the way - did you like I Want to be Left Behind and the Guerrilla Girls book? I love their work (GG) and the title of the other one really makes me laugh.
It's been an irritation for quite some time that the touchstone algorithm will pick a popular book that happens to contain a word over one where the title is just the word in question!
I want to be left behind was a major disappointment - the title sounded so wonderful! But the 2xx (other than the 29x) are like pulling teeth for me, so anything that I could actually finish and didn't make me want to throw it against the wall is probably as good as I'll get.
I liked the GG book.
I've been perusing your library by the way - very interesting!
Thanks - I have a pretty insatiable curiosity. I got to see the Guerrilla Girls by the way when they came to our local state university. It was pretty fun, especially as it's a pretty conservative campus.
Too bad about left behind, but my library has it so at least it won't cost me anything to check it out. It would make a nice tee shirt.
241: God Believes in Love by Gene Robinson
This is not a book I ever would have picked up on my own - a book written from a Christian perspective, for Christians, trying to convince them that same-sex marriage is okay is not exactly the sort of thing that an atheist happily married to another woman is going to find useful. Still, it was a gift from my (also not Christian) mother-in-law, and I took it in the spirit in which it was intended and read it. It's short, and it got me a new division. It's exactly what it sounds like - an examination and debunking of the most common Christian arguments against marriage equality from the most prominent gay clergyman in the country.
I'm glad you're managing to find some readable books in the 200s, even if they aren't great.
Well, I think that for its target audience it would be a very good book. I'm just not in the target audience.
You might enjoy this clip of Wolf Blitzer trying to get a tornado victim to thank the lord she survived.
It's weird that so much of the news in this country feels the need to set itself within a religious context when the story has nothing to do with religion. It makes it hard to take them seriously when they pander to religion.
571: Packing for Mars by Mary Roach
Roach writes very popular pop-nonfiction, but for one reason or another none of her earlier works appealed to me. (Stiff? Morbid. Spook? Either reducible to one sentence: "There is no evidence for any sort of afterlife, but many formulations are non-disprovable and thus not amenable to scientific inquiry" or credulous nonsense. Bonk? Almost certainly too heteronormative for my taste. (Note to people for whom that word may be unfamiliar; that's not the same thing as "anti-gay". That's "assuming that people, or in this case sex, is heterosexual unless there's a compelling reason for it to be otherwise", and in this case would mean relegating non-heterosexual sex to a single section or an occasional footnote rather than discussing it throughout the book.)
This one, though, didn't push any of my "avoid" buttons, and it netted me a new section, so I thought I'd give it a try. Roach's style annoyed me at times - she was too much in love with her own cleverness and seemed to be laughing at her own jokes, and there were a few too many "X did not return my email/phone calls" for my liking, but it was an interesting enough subject. (I will add, though, that the "sex in space" section did nothing to counter my suspicions about Bonk.) The title's a trifle misleading, since the focus is more historical than forward-looking - while long-haul space station stays could be viewed as preparation for crewed missions to Mars that's more marketing than reality - but I suppose there's no pithy one-word title for "Space Biology!"
I'll probably pick up her new Gulp when it's out in paperback (I still need a 612), but this doesn't make me rethink my opinions of any of her earlier work.
Classes: 10/10 100%
Divisions: 77/99 78%
Sections: 250/908 28%
My mini-challenge for the year for 2013 was to read four new sections in the 5xx, my strongest class (I have three so far, and a half-dozen TBR to choose from), three total from my three weakest classes (1xx, 2xx, and 4xx; I have four) and three more overall to get me to a total of ten new sections (counting the extra 2xx, I have two already, and am currently reading another). So I should have no problem meeting that.
Mary Roach's earlier books might not be quite what you think. I read Spook and Bonk and thought they were both pretty hilarious. She takes a very anthropological approach to both subjects and did not seem to be promoting a viewpoint. In Spook, she is certainly not trying to gather scientific evidence in favor of an afterlife or anything like that; she has a decidedly skeptical attitude. The parts I remember from Bonk relate to weird scientific and quasi-scientific studies of sex--more about the mechanics/biology of sex than the sociology or psychology of sex, so I didn't really find it to have a hetero or homosexual viewpoint (although maybe, as a heterosexual, I don't notice a slant in that direction). I would say that a good summary of all her books would be, "Here are some things you probably didn't know that I found odd, interesting, or funny."
Not every book is for every person, so I'm not trying to convince you to read these, but just to provide some info.
I am 99.9% sure that if a heterosexual person did not notice anything in a book about "the mechanics and biology of sex" that it is heteronormative. You'd have noticed if every section mentioned non-het sex. This isn't saying anything negative about you, just that fish tend not to be quite as aware of water as land animals are. Regardless, though, this isn't the place for this discussion; I was just (fruitlessly, apparently) hoping to short-circuit the inevitable "Oh, Roach is amazing, you should read all of her books!" recommendations.
502: The Ig Nobel Prizes 2 by Marc Abrahams
Whee, a new Dewey from a bathroom read! This is a fun little compilation of summaries of work earning the "Ig Nobel Prizes" over the years, an "honor" given to work that is either trivial (a fluid-mechanics simulation to determine why shower curtains billow inwards), bizarre (the anti-grizzly-bear suit of armor) or actively bad (the invention of the junk bond). There's not much out there for 502 - it's sufficiently generic that works aimed at scientists are going to fall under their subject areas rather than here - so this book or its predecessor are almost certainly your best bets.
Nice choice! I have another one by Abrahams slated for my go at DDC 502.
506: Seeing Further edited by Bill Bryson
Back when I started this challenge, and was looking around on LT for good books in various sections, I concluded that there were some where the only way I'd ever get a book would be if something new was published. This is one of those sections; "Societies", under general science, doesn't have a lot to offer - except for a book about the Royal Society! This isn't a history, as I was initially expecting; it's a collection of varied articles, some of a more historical or biographical bent and some more pop-science, related in some way (some more directly than others) to the Royal Society, founded 350 years ago and serving as a who's who of British scientists throughout its history. As can be expected from any anthology, the quality and interest of the essays was variable, but overall this was well worth a read.
347: My Beloved World by Sonia Sotomayor
I'd been wanting to read this since I read reviews when it came out, relating Sotomayor's story of learning to give herself insulin injections at the age of nine. My wife felt the same way and actually bothered to put a hold on it at the library. (I don't tend to use the library much; I don't like feeling pressured that I have to read THIS book NOW, and besides our local library isn't very good. I'd rather do what I call "book rental" - buy a cheap copy from Better World Books or at a library sale, and donate it back to the Friends of the Library for another sale when I'm done with it, which may be years later.)
(For any non-Americans who may be reading this I should mention that Sotomayor is currently a US Supreme Court Justice, Obama's first nominee.) The first half of the book lives up to its promise - she talks about growing up in the projects in New York with an alcoholic father, going to a Catholic school where the nuns knew she was smart but didn't know what to do with a smart, ambitious girl and didn't know how to teach anything other than rote memorization of facts. The descriptions of her family are very well-written and intensely personal, to the extent that I doubt she used a ghostwriter. As a result, she struggles at college (Princeton) from never having learned to synthesize information or write an essay presenting a central argument. The book becomes less interesting following her graduation from law school; she made the decision to stop when she became a federal district court judge in 1992, so her rise to the high court is not discussed, and frankly the discussion of her life as a prosecutor and in private practice aren't terribly interesting. Overall, though, it's a very good book, and if you don't need it for the Dewey there's no shame in putting it down when your interest starts flagging.
I was doing a little catalog maintenance and realized that I can swap out my old stats textbook for an actual readable book in 519, Nate Silver's excellent The Signal and the Noise.
I wonder how she could get into Princeton if she didn't know how to synthesize information or write an essay presenting a central argument?
It was largely based on her obvious potential and raw intelligence; it was the early days of affirmative action, and they recognized that a Puerto Rican woman from the projects in the Bronx may not have had the same educational opportunities as their traditional student body of rich white men.
177: I don't know by Leah Hagar Cohen
(Darn it, if I hadn't responded to Ella_Jill, I could have had the message number match the section! Talk about a blown opportunity.)
Anyway, this was my ER book, and I haven't reviewed it yet but wanted to post here while I remembered. I'll link to the review later. This is a very short book (just over 100 pages in mass-marked paperback format) about more or less exactly what the subtitle claims. It discusses the reasons people have for being unwilling or unable to admit ignorance or uncertainty, and the consequences of that fear. There's an interesting undercurrent of impostor syndrome throughout the book, never actually called out by name but always there; if you're worried that you're a fraud and don't belong where you are, you're going to be less willing to ever admit you don't know something (and risk confirming the impression you think others have of you), whereas if you're confident in your own abilities and that not knowing one particular thing isn't totally damning, you're more likely to admit that ignorance.
Recommended even if you don't need the category.
422: Origins of the Specious by Patricia O'Connor
This is a book to be used as a weapon against annoying prescriptivist pedants - the sort who tell you that you shouldn't split infinitives in English, or that because "they" is a plural pronoun it cannot also be a singular one (oddly, nobody seems to have the same objection to "you"!) It's a slim volume, so giving it to them or using the information in it is probably a better approach than physically hitting them on the head with it, but honestly I'd have no objection to the latter. :-)
This isn't a usage book (at least one of the reviews on LT seems a little confused on that point); rather, it discusses the origin of many misconceptions about what constitutes "proper" usage (like the split-infinitive and no-singular-they "rules"); some were arbitrarily invented at some point, some were once correct but have become obsolete with language change, and others may be technically correct but not worth the fight (though the etymology of the word "niggardly" is not racist, enough people think it is that it's not worth using the word and causing serious pain; just say "miserly" instead). It's an enjoyable read - as long as you aren't a prescriptivist pedant, who may be annoyed that the book doesn't claim to provide a Final Word on the "correct" version of English.
That sounds fun! I am getting sloppier daily since I have retired. Some days I still care, some I don't, but a I spend larger amounts of time on smaller keyboards and autocorrect takes over my life.......
And how! I love that more people are learning to embrace language as the democratic beast it is rather insisting on its governance by arcane rules.
667: A Perfect Red by Amy Butler Greenfield
(Note: the prevailing classification for this book on LT is 677, which is for textiles. While that's not an obviously outright fabrication, 667 is for dyeing, which is where my individual copy has it and which is IMO the best fit. It's too bad, because I don't have anything in 67x, but I'm not going to start picking convenient misclassifications just to get new divisions.)
A couple years ago I read Indigo as an ER read, and was disappointed; I'd hoped for a microhistory of the dye, talking about its origin, importance, and usage. What I got then was a memoir; in A Perfect Red I got everything I wanted then. With the frame of discussing the dye cochineal, derived from an insect that feeds on prickly pear cacti, this book discusses the interpretations and class association of color throughout European history, the Spanish colonies in the New World, the development of synthetic dyes (Perkins and mauve are name-checked here, which makes me want to read Mauve and complete the set of "books about dyes" on LT), and the resurgence of natural coloring in food with the findings of health concerns surrounding synthetics. (Cochineal is still widely used today in food, though vegans have started to complain as they realize it's derived from insects, and some manufacturers are moving away from it.)
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