Category Archives: Book Review

What’s Your Dewey? 080s – Quotations, And Not Another Word About It!

We are surrounded by words – we say them, write them, think them, read them, print them, sculpt and paint them, we use and abuse them and some of us, (although I don’t quite know why), eat them in the form of soup, biscuits and cake. We are so immersed in words that there are websites devoted to famous quotes and proverbs about them! The site https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/keywords/words.html is just one example.

Despite this, there are many times I find myself without a skerrick…


…and that’s when I resort to a book (or several).

If quotations are what you seek, the 080s is where you are most likely to find books devoted to the topic – in every language.

Daily mindfulness : 365 days of present, calm, exquisite living
is part of the recent collection of works devoted to the exploration of self-actualization, and presents daily quotations to let one pause and reflect on the moment at hand. The premise underpinning this title is that being more ‘in the moment’ calms the mind and ultimately leads to a richer, fuller life. A book for people seeking encouragement to ‘stop and smell the roses’.

 If discouragement is on the agenda, then Scorn : the wittiest and wickedest insults in human history by Matthew Parris might prove more appropriate. A quirky collection of repartee, quotes span the ages from ancient Egypt to Twitter. Organised in a way to simulate disparate voices conversing, the book explores ‘the feelings and ideas which links human expressions of scorn …in a verbal sport’ (from the Introduction). Those quoted include Donald Trump, Groucho Marx, Winston Churchill and Mae West, demonstrating that abuse can be an art both figurative and evocative… enough to ‘tickle’ the ‘mad mustachio purple-hued maltworms’. You can have a sneak peak here: http://www.booktopia.com.au/scorn-matthew-parris/prod9781781257296.html

 

If on the other hand, spreading happiness is more to your liking, The Bhutanese guide to happiness : words of wisdom from the world’s happiest nation by Gyonpo Tshering, edited by Margaret Gee
may be worth a look. The Bhutanese are renown for measuring their nation’s wealth in gross national happiness. This book is a collection of quotes, phrases, proverbs and philosophies that underpin and demonstrate its people’s approach to achieving national wealth. There are some wonderful insights into alternative stances to modern-world concerns – Showing your age? ‘You don t have to smile if you are pleased, nor do you have to frown if you are displeased. People who do this don’t get so many wrinkles!’

If your tastes move toward the eclectic and the clever use of words is of interest, then Jane Austen is certainly worth a revisit. Jane Austen: Illustrated Quotations is a great place to start. Well known for her novels depicting the dilemmas of very modern women (which manage to remain relevant to this day), Jane Austen was also a prolific writer of letters and commentary on a wide range of subjects. As well as highlighting the many quotable commentaries from her novels, this book also celebrates, in words and pictures, the many observations she made in her lesser known writings. She will challenge your understanding of words!
…Which brings us back to words.


If words are your thing and you wish to celebrate words with like-minded people, why not check out this year’s Adelaide Plains Festival of Words 28-30th July 2017. The Festival includes workshops for budding writers and publishing hopefuls, shared spoken and written word experiences and links to local writing opportunities including the Gawler Short Story Competition. You can find the complete program here:
http://www.festivalofwords.info/index.html

…that is of course if you choose to be surrounded by words.

Nola Cavallaro

What’s Your Dewey? The 020s All Things Library

There is much talk about the relevance of libraries in an age when the world’s information is readily accessible in digital form – but is it true that the sum total of the world’s knowledge can be had by all, on call?  Does Google give us a level playing field when it comes to access?

There are many texts on this topic and  BiblioTech : why libraries matter more than ever in the age of Google  by John Palfrey
is one example that argues ‘anyone seeking to participate in the 21st century needs to understand how to find and use the vast stores of information available online’ and libraries are best positioned to facilitate this within our communities.

Palfrey discusses the threats posed to libraries (and therefore society) through funding cuts and argues libraries must work toward digitising print material and ensuring all digital material is readily accessible. Contents include sections on how libraries are used; what defines library spaces; librarians as networks; education;  copyright and what’s at stake if we lose libraries. Although there is a distinct USA bias to the text, anyone aware of the fate of libraries across the world will find food for thought.

Anyone who has studied the history and philosophy of knowledge, education and libraries will understand that the notion of universal access to the world’s knowledge is not new. Our attempts to manage human intellectual output can be seen in ancient times (Alexandrian Library for example) through to modern times (for example the British Library).

 

Cataloging the world : Paul Otlet and the birth of the information age by Alex Wright looks at the often overlooked contributions of Belgian Paul Otlet who first progressed the catalogue card as a means of bringing together records for everything recorded on paper. Otlet worked on creating a universal bibliography and developing a network of ‘electric telescopes’ that would allow anyone, anywhere, access to ‘books, newspapers, photographs, and recordings, all linked together in what he termed a réseau mondial: a worldwide web.’ A pioneering visionary, Otlet’s ideas seemed likely to come to fruition until  the Nazis took Brussels and seized his work. Cataloguing the world is an unexpectedly interesting introduction to recent library history.

It is well documented that the Nazis were responsible for ransacking and destroying many of Europe’s Libraries but in The book thieves : the Nazi looting of Europe’s libraries and the race to return a literary inheritance by Anders Rydell ; translated by Henning Koch, Rydell tells the hidden story of the Nazi appropriation of books from the libraries of Jews, Communists, Liberals, Catholics, Freemasons, and many other opposition groups, to be used as intellectual weapons against their owners. These books were not destroyed at the end of the war but found their way into the public library system from where a small team of librarians hope, to locate and reunite books to the decedents of the original owners.

Reading The book thieves… reminds us that one of the things that defines libraries are the people who work in them. In This is what a librarian looks like : a celebration of libraries, communities, and access to information for all by Kyle Cassidy, readers are presented with portraits and thoughts of 220 librarians of all ages, all backgrounds, all personalities and styles, to show us that librarians are not what we may expect. Through these vignettes, readers are treated to many perspectives of libraries over time and the people who have been influential in the field. Also included are original essays by well known authors, journalists and commentators such as John Scalzi, Nancy Pearl and Neil Gaiman.

Librarians have been known to defend the right to read throughout their history.  True stories of censorship battles in America’s libraries  edited by Valerie Nye and Kathy Barco tells the stories of several American librarians who have championed intellectual freedom and access to sometimes controversial material.  While the book addresses topics such as age-appropriateness, censorship, crime and cultural expression, some examples depicted can only be considered skirmishes. That being said, it is interesting to see ways in which we deliberately or inadvertently cull our library collections, restrict their access and thus diminish our community knowledge-base.

In this collection of stories, The book lovers’ anthology : a compendium of writing about books, readers & libraries by Alex Wright, offers answers to questions regarding the impact of books on humans and human society: Do books corrupt? and Do badly written books damage intellect? are just two examples being addressed through the thoughts, excerpts and essays of well known authors. Authors include Chaucer, Austen, Shakespeare, Milton, Eliot and Ruskin. ‘A treasure trove of apt quotations from more than 250 authors’ (Sydney Morning Herald); a bibliophile’s ‘essential anthology’ (Bodleian Library).

Of course there is more to a bibliophile’s obsession than just books, there is all the things that surround books – the paraphernalia and ephemera.  Letter to a future lover : marginalia, errata, secrets, inscriptions, and other ephemera found in libraries by Ander Monson  finds meaning in the objects and notations found in books. According to Monson, everything we’ve read, written, collected noted or discarded, defines us. This of course has implications for how we should deal with this ephemera and how in collected form, it contributes to our bank of knowledge.

Seed libraries : and other means of keeping seeds in the hands of the people by Cindy Conner is a reminder that libraries are not just about books but can be collections of items for preservation and education. Seed Libraries is a practical guide to saving seeds through community programs and includes Step-by-step instructions for setting up a seed library and ways to maintain the collection and attract patrons. It also provides examples of existing libraries. (www.newsociety.com)

Although Creepy libraries by Troy Taylor is aimed at children it provides an interesting view of 11 libraries around the world that are reputed to be haunted places. Readers ‘will discover one that is home to the spirit of a young girl who is depicted in its beautiful stained-glass window, one that is filled with ghosts who are distressed because it is built on top of their burial place, and one that has now turned into a bookstore yet is haunted by library patrons of the past—as well as a phantom cat. The creepy photographs and chilling nonfiction text will keep children turning the pages to discover more spooky stories’ (www.overdrive.com).

 While Creepy Libraries looks at ‘other wordly’ library occupants, Staff-less Libraries: Innovative Staff Design by Carl Gustav Johannsen considers the recent trend toward unstaffed libraries as a way to meet the challenge of decreased funding and increased demand. The book considers the pros and cons of this model and presents international experiences and examples. Contents include definitions of the ‘Open Library’ concept, historical perspectives, community profiling and technological implications. An academic text, this book is aimed at professionals and managers.

Not overly convinced of the staff-less library approach,  Improbable libraries by Alex Johnson provided an inspiring account of how librarians around the world are undaunted in overcoming financial, geographic or political challenges to reach out to those in reading need. The book showcases the changing nature of library structures and functions, with insightful interviews and over 250 colour photographs. Open-air garden libraries, pop-up libraries, mobile libraries (using bikes or camels) and the Little Free Library phenomena are all included in this exploration of these communal spaces and places that bring us together. The simple truth is … people like going to libraries. Indeed, going to the library is like getting a pay rise, according to a survey conducted in 2014 by the UK’s Department for Culture, Media and Sport. (www.theguardian.com/books)

Nola Cavallaro

 

What’s Your Dewey? 573s – Senses (As I See It).

According to the Cambridge Dictionary, ‘sense’ is an ability to understand, recognize, value, or react to something, especially any of the five physical abilities to see, hear, smell, taste, and feel. When we talk about our senses, we generally refer to the mechanisms by which our bodies react to internal or external stimuli which are many and varied within the animal kingdom. Most books that deal with the generally understood topic of the senses are to be found in the 573s – Specific physiological systems in animals, regional histology & physiology in animals.


There are many children’s books devoted to the 5 human senses. They are either sense organ specific (devoted to each of the ear, nose, eyes, skin or tongue) or general and refer to all of the 5 senses. While they are all very informative and a requisite topic for growing young minds, the ones that most intrigue are those which look at lesser known animal sensorial abilities.


Top 10 Super Senses by Virginia Loh-Hagan
This title includes many interesting facts about animals and their senses including the 15,000 taste buds of pigs, the tarsier’s exceptional night vision; and the 25,000 touch receptors in the star-nosed mole’s nose.  It is written with high interest, low complexity text and includes clear illustrations, glossary and simplified pronunciation. Preview here: http://bit.ly/2oyrj8A


A Natural History of the Senses
  by Diane Ackerman
Ackerman’s book, variously described as inspiring, charming, intriguing, knowledgeable and even pure ecstasy, has received many accolades. Each of the 5 senses are presented as realms for discovery with unique takes. Smell is named the ‘mute’ sense  with a personality that can be mapped; the skin has ‘eyes’ in the section on Touch; earth calls us in Hearing; and the walls are round in Vision. The New York Times says of it ” Delightful . . . gives the reader the richest possible feeling of the worlds the senses take in.”
Quick Look: http://amzn.to/2ooxBW4

A Tour of the Senses: How Your Brain Interprets the World by John M. Henshaw
A tour of the senses takes readers through the common understanding of the senses that help us interpret our surroundings, to the science behind the process underpinning Stimulus, Sensations and Perception. Henshaw explains how we see, feel, taste, touch, and smell. Making reference to Aristotle’s classification of the five main senses and examining sensory research today, Henshaw argues well for a reinterpretation of the number of senses available to living organisms. An interesting approach to the topic, well researched and easy to read.

We have the technology : how biohackers, foodies, physicians, and scientists are transforming human perception, one sense at a time by Kara Platoni.
Bioscience, metaperception, neurobiology, metasensory experiences, AI and augmented reality are all topics addressed in this witty, candid, intriguing and disturbing book by Platoni. An academic and science reporter, Platoni researches the ways we extend our ‘sensory experiences to make the world more real’. There is much food for thought to enlighten and challenge in this book.

Neurocomic by Matted Farinella & Hana Ros [graphic novel]
Farinella, graphic jounalist and scientific illustrator and Ros, neuroscientist  and documentary writer, introduce the complexities of the brain in graphic novel format.  ‘Neurocomic is a journey through the human brain: a place of neuron forests, memory caves, and castles of deception. Along the way, you’ll encounter Boschean beasts, giant squid, guitar-playing sea slugs, and the great pioneers of neuroscience. Hana Roš and Matteo Farinella provide an insight into the most complex thing in the universe.’ (Abebooks.com)

Meet The Award Winning Authors Tricia Stringer and Meredith Appleyard

Spend the morning with two of South Australia’s winning authors. Wednesday May 3, 10am – 12noon. Details below.

What’s Your Dewey? 600 Invention (…or did I just make that up?)

According to the Cambridge English Dictionary, the term ‘invention’ refers to something that has never been made before (a new design), or the process of creating something that has never been made before. Just looking around me from a very humble vantage, I am surrounded by a multitude of inventions, they are, after all, what makes our world so accessible to humans. I can only suppose that any book on inventions is limited at best – even if it does include 1001 of them.
1001 inventions that changed the world by ed. Jack Challoner ; preface by James O’Loghlin.
Described as an alternative history of the world as viewed through the lens of human ingenuity, this book chronicles the many life-enhancing and life-saving inventions that have graced our lives. From paper to pills, wheels to PCs, stories behind some inventive breakthroughs are revealed. The team of researchers, writers and illustrators includes historians, anthropologists, scientists and designers. Detailed illustrations and photographs accompanied by quotations from many inventors, makes this a fascinating and engaging book – even if it doesn’t include every invention you can name!
 
 Mistakes that worked : the world’s familiar inventions and how they came to be  by Charlotte Foltz Jones ; illustrated by John O’Brien.
To quote the book’s introduction; ‘Call them accidents. Call them mistakes. Even serendipity. If the truth were known, we might be amazed by the number of great inventions and discoveries that were accidental, unplanned and unintentional.’ Some of these examples include cheese, Velcro, potato chips, silly putty, penicillin and safety glass. The Introduction concludes with a quote from Bertolt Brecht ‘Intelligence is not to make no mistakes. But quickly to see how to make them good.‘    The book contains six sections: Tummy fillers; Doctor, Doctor; Fun, Fun, Fun; All Kinds Of Accidental Things; Where In The World? and What They Wear, and includes a National Inventors Hall of Fame. Although there is a clear USA bias and the text is aimed at children, the book contains some very interesting facts, humorous cartoons and is readily accessible to all readership. Quick look inside: http://amzn.to/2n9gLsV
 
 The way things work now by David Macaulay with Neil Ardley.
In the latest edition of  Macaulay’s The Way Things Work series of books, recent technology, from Touch Screens to 3D Printers, join the ranks of machines and developments that are laid bare for readers to appreciate their inner workings. Divided into 5 parts and packed with accurate, scientific information (delivered with humor by the ever-present woolly mammoth), the book guides readers through fundamental mechanical principles, linking developments of the past with glimpses of the future. Macaulay’s books are always a favorite with this inquisitive mind.
Take a quick look here: http://amzn.to/2nmTNzw
 
Inventions that could have changed the world… but didn’t! by Joe Rhatigan ; illustrations by Anthony Owsley.
Ostensibly aimed at children and young teens, this book has a great deal to offer readers interested in those inventions that either didn’t quite hit the mark, or went terribly wrong. Inventions include an Alarm Bed (it ejects the sleeper to wake him up), the three-wheeled Dymaxion Car (a front-wheel drive, bullet-shaped V8 prototype that crashed, killing its driver), and a gas-powered Pogo Stick. Included in the book are black & white copies of patent applications and color cartoon reconstructions by Owsley. While the book’s premise suggests these failed enterprises did not change the world, I can’t help but think there is much to be gained from the creative process regardless.
 
Free to make : how the maker movement is changing our schools, our jobs, and our minds by Dale Dougherty with Ariane Conrad ; foreword by Tim O’Reilly.
The Maker  movement sweeping our educational and recreational environments is what Dougherty calls the ‘renaissance of making’. Free to Make explores the way in which the phenomenon is transforming our schools, workplaces and local communities around the world. According to Dougherty, ‘The Maker Movement signals a societal, cultural, and technological transformation that invites us to participate as producers, not just consumers’. The book analyses the way the internet and open source sites have assisted a global creative climate and provides readers guidance through the various stages of development and production, from the original burst of creative excitement to the process of finding and securing manufacturing success. This is a comprehensive look at the ‘Maker revolution’ and a positive reaffirmation for those who have always been a creative Maker.

 Inventology: how we dream up things that change the world by Pagan Kennedy
In Inventology, Kennedy examines the creative process where wishes, dreams and problem solving transform into new products and technology. Kennedy interviews more than 100 inventors from different fields (psychologists, engineers, scientists and economists for example), in her search to find answers to what drives the creative process. Through these interviews, the book explores landmark inventions; colour printers, mobile phones and wheeled suitcase to name a few. The book is divided into five sections exploring different strategies for invention with recommendations for future-thinking and self-empowerment. While the book makes many interesting observations and provides encouragement to would-be inventors, it may be considered too academic for some readers.
There is of course one invention this series of What’s Your Dewey? articles relies heavily on,  that is DDC –  the Dewey Decimal Classification system. DDC was published in the United States by Melvil Dewey in 1876 when he was 21 and working as a student assistant in the library of Amherst College. You are, however,  unlikely to  find books about this invention that revolutionised information management and libraries, among the books shelved in the 600s. These, you would need to find at the 025s (Library and Information Sciences) or the 920s where you may find a biography or two on Melville Dewey, often referred to as, an Irrepressible Reformer.
Nola Cavallaro

Sources:
#invention #bookreview