The Dewey Decimal System is a library indexing method developed in the 19th century by Melvil Dewey. You know the one--a three digit number followed by a decimal sign, some more numbers and possibly a few letters. The first digit sorts the books broadly into categories: Generalities (0XY), Philosophy and Psychology (1XY), Religion (2XY), Social Sciences (3XY), Language (4XY), Natural Sciences & Mathematics (5XY), Technology (6XY), The Arts (7XY), Literature & Rhetoric (8XY), and Geography & History (9XY).
Of course there are deeper levels to this rabbit warren. Each of those classes is subdivided and then divided some more. This attempt to classify all knowledge is, of course, flawed. However, it gives me an idea: read your way 'round the library!
I made a foray to the nearby branch of the Alexandria public library last weekend to assess the plausibility. I checked out the following volumes:
- Library: an Unquiet History, by Matthew Battles. DDC = 02W.XYZ
- The Origins of Knowledge and Imagination, by Jacob Bronowski. DDC = 12W.XYZ
- The Bible in Translation: Ancient and English Versions, by Bruce Metzger. DDC = 22W.XYZ
- People and Politics: an Introduction to Political Science, by Herbert Winter and Thomas Bellows. DDC = 32W.XYZ
- The Story of English, by Mario Pei. DDC = 42W.XYZ
- The Astronomer's Universe: Stars, Galaxies, and Cosmos, by Herbert Friedman. DDC = 52W.XYZ
- The Tower and the Bridge, by David Ballington. DDC = 62W.XYZ
- Elements of the Art of Architecture, by William Muschenheim. DDC = 72W.XYZ
- A History of English Literature, by William Neilson and Ashley Thorndike. DDC = 82W.XYZ
- The Borgias, by Ivan Cloulas. DDC = 92W.XYZ
Now, be it known: finding books that represent the classes is not necessarily straightforward. For one thing, I decided that I might want to do more than just the ten books. I might want to do the full century. Another: the library's holdings are limited, and not all librarians classify the same book in the same way; some books can be shelved as multiple classifications. They didn't even have Life of Samuel Johnson, which I really wanted to get for the 92W.XYZ classification, as 92W.XYZ is the clearest opportunity for biography--and I've never read it! Last: if you are willing to specialize a bit, you need to remember that the different subclasses aren't necessarily analogous maps into the classes.
Anticipating that I might decide to do the full hundred, or at least give it a real shot,I chose to arbitrarily go with the W2.XYZ call number, but one could chose others, or not worry about the division.
What do you think?
UPDATE: Also, I read Moneyball, by Michael Lewis, recently: pretty good. I'm reading Thinking in Time: the Uses of History by Decision Makers, by Richard Neustadt and Ernest May: really pretty neat.