Problems in the 150s

When I say problems in the 150s, I don’t mean mis-shelved books or a need for some weeding.  No, the problems are the topics covered.  When I first hit the 150s and started looking, I groaned (inwardly) about what on earth I was going to find to read.  There were books on how to get along with difficult people, how to convince others to do what you want, how to get over your childhood traumas, plus loneliness, suicide, grieving, and a whole host of other heavy topics.

As I looked, though, I started to find books that I was genuinely interested to read, and eventually even had to pare my stack down to just three.  That was when I realized something important about this experiment: if there are enough books (maybe 100 linear feet of 150s), I can always find something interesting; it’s when there’s a measly foot or two on the shelves (880s, 030s) that I really struggle.*

The contenders:

152.1 See What I’m Saying: The Extraordinary Powers of Our Five Senses, by Lawrence D. Rosenblum (2010).

155.92 Lonely: A Memoir, by Emily White (2010).

155.444 One and the Same: My Life as an Identical Twin and What I’ve Learned About Everyone’s Struggle to Be Singular, by Abigail Pogrebin (2009).

*It’s enough to make me want to start measuring shelves and posting the data….  Yes, I am my father’s daughter.

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Color

751 The Painter’s Handbook: A Complete Reference, by Mark David Gottsegen (2006).

This book is quite beautiful and very inspiring.  It’s a celebration of color, and a joyous one at that.  I think Gottsegen must have had a wonderful time working on it and I loved browsing through it.

Having said that, the book is also seriously uneven, especially for a volume that purports to be a complete reference.  The text is the equivalent of sound bites, with very little detail.  It also includes mutually contradictory statements, sometimes even on the same page (e.g., that greens are easy to mix from primary colors and that greens get muddy when mixed from primaries and so should be purchased in the tube).

Still, it is a real feast for the eyes and a treat for anyone who loves color.  A little sampler:

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The big questions, in the 120s

I must go back and double-check how the 120s are classified in the Dewey Decimal system, because this is a seriously strange mixture: part biologists on their big unifying theories of life, part philosophers on everything, and part musings on the afterlife.

My three possibilities:

121.6 Six Impossible Things Before Breakfast: The Evolutionary Origins of Belief, by Lewis Wolpert (2006).

128 The Philosopher and the Wolf: Lessons from the Wild on Love, Death, and Happiness, by Mark Rowlands (2008).

129 Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife, by Mary Roach (2005).

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Miscellaneous 030s

Like the 880s, these are mighty slim pickin’s– and I must say that it’s unlikely, given the time of the semester, that I will choose Homework for Grown-Ups.  Still, I said I’d find three possibilities in each decade and so here they are, in all their glory:

031.02 Wonders of the World, by National Geographic Society (1998)

031.02 The Uncyclopedia, by Gideon Haigh (2004)

032.02 Homework for Grown-Ups: Everything You Learned at School– and Promptly Forgot, by E. Foley (2008)

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Sappho

884.01 If Not, Winter: Fragments of Sappho, Sappho (translated by Anne Carson) (2003).

The idea of this book intrigued me, though I have to wonder how it found a publisher and, even more pressing, how it found its way to my public library.  It consists of the collected works of Sappho, the Greek poet.  I suspect I knew about as much about Sappho as the average person when I picked up this book (Greek erotic poetry? lesbian, or maybe from Lesbos?).  To be honest, I didn’t learn much more about her by reading it, as the introduction is pretty slim.  It turns out that the vast majority of her work has been lost to time, with only a few complete poems surviving.  Most of what still exists is bits and fragments from fragile rolled papyrus sheets.  Carson decided to collect and translate everything, even scraps with no more than a single legible word.  She also decided to publish them in a way that visually represents what is missing.  I thought it was an interesting idea and, sure enough, some of the fragments really work the imagination:

“their heart grew cold

they let their wings down”

or:

“just now goldsandaled Dawn”

However, I also found that the mystery fades quickly into exasperation, especially when faced with the many square brackets that represent incomplete or illegible text:

“]

]

]

]

]

] in a thin voice

]”

It was published in 2003 and, as far as I can tell, I am probably the first person to check it out.  (Sadly, the demise of stamped due dates on the pocket mean that I can no longer be certain of this, but surely the uncreased spine, clean and tidy pages, and pristine cover mean the same thing?)

When read a few pages at a time, it was pleasingly melancholy.  And in a way, the book’s lack of circulation is a nice if unintended complement to the fragmentary texts; imagine if it had been weeded from the shelves without a single check-out, mirroring the original losses.  Does that happen, do you suppose?

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Classical 880s

Well, I knew I’d have to do it some time: tackle Classical literature.  The 880s at my library consist of various translations of Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey (about 95%) plus a few collections of Greek poetry (3%) and a copy of Aesop’s Fables.   I am (not very) ashamed to admit that I simply don’t have the patience for Homer at this point in the semester, so will choose something from these three instead:

884.01 If Not, Winter: Fragments of Sappho, Sappho (translated by Anne Carson) (2003).

884.0108 Greek Lyric Poetry, translated by Sherod Santos (2005).

888 Aesop’s Fables (no date).

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Artsy (750s)

I do love me some color– so no surprise that I’ve mostly avoided the artists’ biographies that are ubiquitous in the 750s in favor of books on art supplies!  My options:

751 The Painter’s Handbook: A Complete Reference, by Mark David Gottsegen (2006).

752 The Artist’s Color Manual: The Complete Guide to Working With Color, by Simon Jennings (2003).

759.11 The Laughing One: A Journey to Emily Carr, by Susan Crean (2001).

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