Freakonomics Audio Book Length Bibliography

  • Freakonomics

  • Revised Edition
  • By: Steven D. Levitt, Stephen J. Dubner
  • Narrated by: Stephen J. Dubner
  • Length: 6 hrs and 55 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall

  • Performance

  • Story

Steven D. Levitt is not a typical economist. He is a much-heralded scholar who studies the riddles of everyday life, from cheating and crime to sports and child-rearing, and whose conclusions turn the conventional wisdom on its head. Thus the new field of study contained in this audiobook: Freakonomics. Levitt and co-author Stephen J. Dubner show that economics is, at root, the study of incentives: how people get what they want, or need, especially when other people want or need the same thing.

  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Good, but be careful

  • By Shackleton on 07-03-08

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Edited: Mar 21, 2015, 12:35am

This is a great idea. Most of my reading is in only a few categories and this looks like a fun way to expand a bit. Here's what I've read since I started keeping track in 2002. I'm also going to start including audio books here, but I've only kept track of them since 2007.

001 - Knowledge: How to Fake a Moon Landing
004 - Data processing & computer science: Interconnecting Cisco Networking Devices: Accelerated (CCNAX): Volume 1
005 - Computer programming, programs, data: Secrets and Lies: Digital Security in a Networked World
020 - Library & Information Sciences: This Book is Overdue
031 - General encyclopedic works -- American: The Know-It-All: One Man's Humble Quest to Become the Smartest Person in the World
069 - Museum Science: Mr. Wilson's Cabinet of Wonder
091 - Manuscripts: The Friar and the Cipher

129 - Origin and Destiny of Human Souls: Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife
133 - Specific topics in parapsychology and occultism: In the Devil's Snare: The Salem Witchcraft Crisis of 1692
146 - Naturalism: Darwin's Dangerous Idea
153 - Mental Processes and Intelligence: How We Know What Isn't So
192 - Modern British Philosophy: Unpopular Essays

220 - Bible: God's Secretaries: The Making of the King James Bible
222 - Historical Books of the Old Testament: The Book of Genesis
248 - Christian experience, practice, life: The Screwtape Letters
262 - Ecclesiology: The Myth of Pope Joan
291 - Comparative religion: A History of God

303 - Social processes: Guns, Germs, and Steel
305 - Groups of People: The Plot: The Secret Story of the Protocols of Zion
304 - Factors affecting social behavior: The World Without Us
327 - International relations: Thirteen Days
330 - Economics: Freakonomics
337 - International economics: The Lexus and the Olive Tree
338 - Production: The Cartoon Introduction to Economics: 1. Microeconomics
339 - Macroeconomics: The Cartoon Introduction to Economics: 2. Macroeconomics
355 - Military science: Intelligence in War
359 - Sea forces & warfare: Six Frigates
363 - Other social problems & services: Global Warming, Global Threat
364 - Criminology: The Devil in the White City
370 - Education: The Abolition of Man
384 - Communications, Telecommunications: The Victorian Internet
394 - General customs: A History of the World in 6 Glasses


Edited: Aug 5, 2014, 12:02pm

409 - Geographical & persons treatment: Empires of the Word
417 - Dialectology & historical linguistics: The Story of Human Language
423 - English Dictionaries: The Professor and the Madman

500 - Natural Sciences and Mathematics: The Canon
510: Mathematics: Innumeracy
520 - Astronomy and allied sciences: Cosmos
521 - Celestial Mechanics: Feynman's Lost Lecture
523 - Specific celestial bodies and phenomena: The Planets
526 - Mathematical geography: Longitude
529 - Chronology: Calendar
530 - Physics: The Physics of Superheroes
537 - Electricity: Electric Universe
540 - Chemistry & Allied Sciences: The Cartoon Guide to Chemistry
550 - Earth sciences: The Map That Changed the World
551 - Geology, hydrology, meteorology: Six Degrees
553 - Economic Geology: Salt
567 - Fossil cold-blooded vertebrates: Tyrannosaurus Sue
576 - Genetics and evolution: The Blind Watchmaker
581 - Botany: Seed to Seed
597 - Cold-blooded vertebrates, fishes: Close to Shore
598 - Aves (Birds): The Beak of the Finch
599 - Mammals: Masters of the Planet: The Search for Our Human Origins

609 - Technology - Historical treatment: Cathedral, Forge, and Waterwheel
611 - Human Anatomy: Your Inner Fish
613 - Personal Health and Safety: Nutrition Made Clear
614 - Incidence and prevention of disease: Plagues and Peoples
623 - Military and Nautical Engineering: Trinity: A Graphic History of the First Atomic Bomb
624 - Civil engineering: Why Buildings Stand Up
629 - Other engineering: A Man on the Moon
641 - Food and Drink: In the Devil's Garden
646 - Sewing, clothing, personal living: Getting Things Done
648 - Housekeeping: Dishwasher
681 - Precision instruments and other devices: The Difference Engine

711 - Area Planning: City: A Story of Roman Planning and Construction
726 - Buildings for religious purposes: Cathedral
737 - Numismatics: Illegal Tender
741 - Drawing and drawings: Understanding Comics
761 - Prints and Printmaking: Relief Process: God's Man, Madman's Drum, Wild Pilgrimage
781 - General Principes & Musical Forms: How to Read Music
791 - Public performances: If Chins Could Kill
792 - Stage presentations: Something Like This
795 - Games of Chance: Quick Guide to Winning Blackjack
796 - Athletic & outdoor sports & games: Great Football Writing


Dec 12, 2007, 1:10am

919 - Pale Blue Dot by Carl Sagan. A very readable book about the exploration of the solar system both past and future.

I got a little lucky here. I started reading it before the challenge and assumed it would be another 520 (Astronomy) but multiple sources, including LT, have it as 919 - Geography and travel: Other areas, which I agree is a better fit. I'm guessing that wouldn't have been the "other areas" Dewey would have meant.


Edited: Dec 22, 2007, 12:23pm

648 - Dishwasher by Pete Jordan. "Dishwasher Pete" describes his quest to professionally wash dishes in each of the 50 states. It was entertaining but gets repetitive. I would have preferred more info about the different locations and less of the "I'm too cool for this" attitude.

It's a 648 - housekeeping. I guess no difference is made between private and commercial housekeeping. I'm not sure what 647 - management of public households covers. Part of the fun of this challenge is looking at a category and then browsing a section of library I rarely visit.

On the plus side, I enjoy stories of people's quirky jobs or hobbies - so this may be a good way to cover a range of categories.


Edited: Mar 8, 2008, 11:56am

540 - The Cartoon Guide to Chemistry by Larry Gonick. This is a quick overview of chemistry written in the style of a comic book, by the author of the Cartoon History of the World series. I thought it was a good introduction. A few chapters toward the end got a little more detailed then I was looking for - but nothing too bad that I got totally lost.

There isn't much to say about it's classification. It's under 540 - Chemistry.

Year end count: 7/10, 32/99, 43/909


Jan 2, 2008, 9:26pm

>7 carlym:

It was, although I think the humor is better in the history ones. There's more material and he can work the jokes into the narrative itself. Still, the chemistry version definitely keeps up the whole "learning can be fun" vibe.


Edited: Jan 20, 2008, 1:07pm

646 - Getting Things Done by David Allen is about creating a system of organization for both your work and personal life. The system focuses on getting the stuff you are trying to keep track of out of your head (and recorded somewhere), being clear on the outcomes you want for your stuff, and always knowing what the next concrete action you need to do to move towards that outcome is. I don't think I'll incorporate the complete system, but there's some good tips in there.

The category 646 is a strange one - Sewing, Clothing, and Personal Living. The first two have a clear connection but third (where this book obviously fits) seems tacked on. I wonder if it was added later on or if there's a historical reason they're combined. A few libraries put it as 158 (Applied Psychology) which also fits the practical nature of most of the book.


Jan 22, 2008, 12:50am

>10 Morphidae: Neat. Let me know what you think of it. I had no idea how popular it was until I started looking around on the internet to see what software people were using for the lists and stuff.

I started trying it out at work last week - the collection phase was very tedious, but I do feel better thinking I've got it all.


Jan 22, 2008, 7:59am

I use for my lists, it works very well with the GTD process, and then I have my calendar. Keeping my email box empty has been a huge help.


Edited: Feb 2, 2008, 6:56pm

304 - In The World Without Us, Alan Weisman speculates on what would happen to the Earth if all of humanity suddenly disappeared. From the quick decay of New York City's infrastructure to the long lasting nature of plastics and radioactive material, Weisman's thought experiment provides a fascinating way of looking at man's impact on the environment.

It's categorized as 304 - Factors affecting social behavior. At first glance the category seems odd - in a setting without humanity, there's no social behavior to affect. There's a lot of other books on the enviroment (which would meet the category) so I guess that's why it ended up here. 577 - ecology is also related but not a perfect fit either.


Mar 6, 2008, 9:27pm

809 Rings, Swords, and Monsters are a set of audio lectures by Michael Drout giving a overview of modern fantasy. Tolkien takes up about 1/2 the lectures, with other ones covering children's, Aurthurian, and Victorian fantasy as well as magical realism.

It's an 809 - literary history and criticism which is fairly straightforward, although I notice a lot of criticism is just under the same fiction category as the works themselves (813, 823, etc.). His lectures cover authors from several countries though, so it wouldn't fit as neatly in to any of those.


Edited: Mar 6, 2008, 9:40pm

291 In A History of God, Karen Armstrong traces the traces the development of how the Jewish, Christian, and Islamic religions view God. The book is extensively researched, very detailed, and - while I found it a a bit of a tough read - does an admirable job covering the subject's 4000 years.

At 291 one it's my first 200 category. 291 is Comparative Religion which fits well. It does show some of the bias of the Dewey system when this category that covers such a wide range gets a single 3 digit category, while more specialized topics in Christianity get their own individual ones.


Mar 6, 2008, 10:48pm

A History of God does seem like a momentous task. Did you find it a tough read because of style or subject matter? Or something else?


Edited: Mar 7, 2008, 1:00am

>16 carlym:

Mostly, it was the level of detail that made it tough. The subject is so vast, there's just so much information. Although I've seen people recommend it as an introduction, I think I would have been off reading it after having read a more bare bones outline of some of the topics. As someone who only has a cursory knowledge of some of these beliefs, there were instances where I had a hard time really differentiating between various camps whose positions on a subject all seemed so close. I did best when I just tried to take 20-25 pages chunks at a time and call it a day. It was both very interesting and somewhat confusing to see how many times throughout the history of those religions that people would be grappling with the same questions.

The style is decent. It's a bit dense and academic but there are plenty of references to back up her points without cluttering the text further. Her opinions sneak in a little more often then I would have liked but it wasn't too distracting. After reading the introduction, I was afraid that she had a major act to grind, but if she did, she keeps it out of most of the text.

Overall, I'd recommend it - just be ready to put some effort in.


Mar 8, 2008, 11:55am

I wanted to add some counts to see how I'm doing. I'd also like to concentrate on the secondary level (first two digits) categories - but not exclusively. I hope I counted the not assigned / no longer used categories right.

8/10, 33/99, 47/909


Mar 10, 2008, 8:53pm

812 The Crucible is a play by Arthur Miller that dramatizes the Salem witch trials to show how people's fears can be manipulated. Miller discards the cultural and historical influences of the event and focuses on a very personalized story, where mass hysteria, deceit, conformity, and resistance make for a moving tragedy. It's a short but very powerful read.

The Dewey category is 812 - American Drama, which is self-explanatory. I haven't given much thought to the Dewey fiction categories so it's nice to knock one of those out. I was struck by how readable it was, so hopefully I can fill out the other drama categories.


Edited: Jun 30, 2008, 10:57pm

153 How We Know What Isn't So feeds my interest in why people believe things - especially fringe beliefs like paranormal phenomena and the more out there conspiracy theories. How We Know What Isn't So looks at the issue from a psychological perspective by focusing on the cognitive and social elements of how we are given and how we perceive information. The book is at it's best (parts 1 and 2) when it concentrates on specific psychological processes that usually work to our advantage and how they can fail us when it comes to critical thinking - especially when these points are illustrated with simple psychological experiments.

The book is 153 which is Psychology - Mental Processes & Intelligence. While that's completely fitting, it's interesting to see that other books on the topic of critical thinking and uncommon beliefs are scattered throughout the catalog. Sagan's Candle in the Dark is under 001 for knowledge and Why People Believe Weird Things is 133 for parapsychology. The fact that they fit in their own section well despite being about the same general topic highlights the fuzziness of having to organize physical books.


Edited: May 28, 2008, 12:28am

500 The Canon, A Whirligig Tour of the Beautiful Basics of Science, this book presents a quick overview of one or more of the major basic concepts in several fields of science. There's chapters on math, statistics, physics, chemistry, biology, geology, and physics.

Because it covers topics from through out the 5XX range, it gets labeled a general 500 - Natural Sciences and Mathematics.


Jun 30, 2008, 10:53pm

641 In the Devil's Garden: A Sinful History of Forbidden Food is a popular history of food taboos and traditions. Allen presents numerous interesting anecdotes about how some of these attitudes may have arisen and their fascinating consequences. My Favorite was the history of different types of bread in France and how they were associated with the various classes.

Simply enough, the book is a 641 - Food and drink.

Thanks to kaelirenee for the recommendation in an earlier Dewey thread.


Edited: Jul 8, 2008, 9:42pm

833 I can't summarize the plot of The Metamorphosis any better than the opening line:

One morning, upon awakening from agitated dreams, Gregor Samsa found himself, in his bed, transformed into a monstrous vermin.

What follows is Gregor's and his family's attempts to deal with the situation. Sometimes sad and sometimes funny (in an absurdist way), this classic novella is a quick but thought provoking read.

It's an 833 - Germanic fiction.


Edited: Jul 8, 2008, 9:43pm

948 The Vikings is a 36 lecture (18 hour) Teaching Company course that does an admirable covering three basic topics. 1) pre-Viking Scandinavia, 2) the famous Viking raids, and 3) the changes in Scandinavia during the Viking age. This was a pretty thorough introduction to the subject and an enjoyable change from some of the lighter "pop" histories I've been reading.

The audio lectures were cataloged the same as they would be if it was a book which was a 948 (even though it was shelved separately).


Jul 8, 2008, 9:56pm

End of second quarter counts:

9/10, 36/99, 53/909

For the rest of the year, I'd like to get that last 3 digit categories (the 400's) and another 3-4 two digit ones.


Jul 8, 2008, 10:41pm

The Vikings is one of the first TTC lectures I listened to. Prof. Harl has been a favorite ever since.


Edited: Jul 10, 2008, 9:52pm

>26 DaynaRT:

Thanks - I wouldn't have thought to look for other courses by the same lecturer. For some reason, I assumed they'd only do one course. My local library systems has a few of the others. Is there any you'd recommend. I'm thinking about the Byzantium one - you could tell from comments in the Vikings one that he was passionate about the topic.


Aug 11, 2008, 9:55pm

526 Longitude: The true story of a lone genius who solved the greatest scientific problem of his time by Dava Sobel finds European nations more and more dependent on maritime activities - especially over long distances - but without the ability to accurately determine longitude at sea. The book does a good job of explaining the problem, some of the various attempts to solve it (some quite clever, others pure chicanery), and the eventual solution by an amazing piece of machinery.

The topic is 526 - mathematical geography - which makes sense given the book's title. The book, however, doesn't talk much about longitude itself. There is a little of that - what it is, why the particular divisions were used, how they came to choose where to start counting - but it's very cursory. The main thrust of the book is really on time and navigation. The various astronomical and mechanical methods for determining longitude are all based on comparing times. Plus, the book really centers around a series of chronometers. As such I think 529: chronology is just as fitting a category.


Aug 13, 2008, 4:59pm

Longitude is on my TBR list for 526, so I'm happy to see positive comments about it! Maybe longitude itself isn't that interesting, and that's why she included other topics?


Aug 14, 2008, 12:21pm

>29 carlym:

Oh, certainly. She puts in enough stuff about longitude itself to give you all the background you need for the main part of the tale. I don't think the book would be helped by a more rigorous mathematical explanation of angles and arc lengths. I was only thinking about the contents of the book vs. the Dewey category it was placed in.


Edited: Sep 12, 2008, 4:23pm

364 In The Devil in the White City, journalist Erik Larson presents a history of the 1893 Chicago World's Fair (known as the white city) and the story of H. H. Holmes, a serial killer who preyed in the fair's surroundings. I really enjoyed the part about the fair which makes up the majority of the book. The stuff about Holmes was less interesting, although that's not surprising since I'm not much of a fan of the true crime genre. I also thought Larson never really did a good job tying the two topics together. Despite jumping back and forth between them, they read as two separate tales. Those criticisms aside, the story of the fair is intriguing and well told, and I'd still recommend the book.

It's a 364 - Criminology, which works for me. Although as I said most of the emphasis is on the fair, Holmes does get a full story in the book and hey, he's the title character.


Edited: Oct 6, 2008, 5:11pm

384 The Victorian Internet by Tom Standage

With this book on the invention and rise to prominence of the electric telegraph, Standage describes an interesting moment in history where the world becomes seemingly smaller. He does a good job relating the changes this technology forced in so many fields - government, news media, war, business, etc., while never losing sight that the device never lived up to the hype that often accompanies new technology - it doesn't lead to civilization's end or remove all obstacles to a peaceful world despite such outrageous predictions. There are also several anecdotes about the culture, strange uses, and misunderstandings that surrounded the telegraph. Finally, although he only touches on it with the title and in the introduction, the similarities between the story of the telegraph and that of the internet are plain for the reader to see.

It's a 384 - Communications; Telecommunications which does seem to be the best fit.


Oct 16, 2008, 2:32pm

423 The Professor and the Madman by Simon Winchester

When first compiling the Oxford English Dictionary, its creators requested submissions of literary quotes demonstrating the meaning of the word being defined. The Professor and the Madman recounts the tale of one of the most efficient and frequent of these volunteers - William Minor, who happens to done all his work for the dictionary while incarcerated in an asylum for the criminally ill. Winchester does a good job of setting the backdrop of the monumental undertaking of the dictionary's creation as well as telling the tragic story of Dr. Minor.

When I first read the list of categories, I was afraid that 423 would be only actual dictionaries - but I was pleasantly surprised the variety there - with books about dictionaries and some humorous compilations.

Also, this is my first 4xx category, so I now have one read in each of the first level divisions.


Oct 17, 2008, 7:32pm

Also, this is my first 4xx category, so I now have one read in each of the first level divisions.

Congrats on the big milestone!


Oct 17, 2008, 10:49pm

Thanks _Zoe_, I know I've no chance of actually completing the challenge so having little goals along the way is fun. And thanks for setting up the challenge in the first place, I'm really enjoying it.


Oct 23, 2008, 3:35pm

843 The Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo

This book was not at all what I expected. I never knew that it was historical fiction (written in the 1830's about 15th century Paris) nor that the hunchback was only one of of several main characters. (I now know that the original French title was simply Notre-Dame De Paris).

Once you get past a few very long descriptive passages in the beginning, the book is a well told and effective tragedy. The plot has several contrivances and the characterization is not always subtle (most of the major players are emotionally very dysfunctional) but the ending remains powerful. There's also some nice touches of humour throughout and an excellent moodiness and atmosphere set by the author.

It's 843, French fiction


Nov 9, 2008, 11:39am

I'm a little late, but you're welcome! I can't take credit for thinking of the idea, though; that was Morphidae.


Edited: Nov 21, 2008, 2:07pm

510 Innumeracy by John Allen Paulos

In this short book, the author discusses what boils down to a society that is, more often than not, bad at math - or at least lacking a basic foundation in the subject. The book is most interesting when it's actually talking about math itself - how to think about estimating, probability, large numbers.

It's 510 (Mathematics), which is fitting since it contains segments on general principles (511), arithmetic (513), and a lot on probabilities (519) plus a general description of math's role in society.


Jan 5, 2009, 12:06am

611 Your Inner Fish by Neil Shubin

This is an evolutionary history of several parts of human anatomy including such diverse items as limbs,ears, and teeth. Shubin, drawing from fossils and genetic evidence, does a good job presenting how these parts developed across various species. I really enjoyed the book and never felt the author was dumbing down the material as seems so common in popular science works.

It's a 611 - Human Anatomy. I notice that more and more books seem to have a Dewey category on the copyright page (like the LOC). I guess that makes this an easy decision and prevents any categorizing under evolution instead

970 1491 by Charles Mann

1491 covers 'recent' developments in the study of pre-Columbian history in the Americas. The author presents a heavily researched account of how Native Americans arrived in the Americas earlier than popularly believed, where more numerous than popularly believed, and were also more sophisticated in their technology.

It's a 970 - General history of North America. There's no perfect fit since there's no general Americas category - only North (970) and South (980) America.


Jan 5, 2009, 12:16am

End of year counts:

10/10, 40/99, 61/909


Jan 28, 2009, 4:10pm

537 Electric Universe by David Bodanis

Electric Universe presents several key developments in the history of the discovery and mastery of electricity. Although the individual aspects covered are interesting and well told, with the exception of a long section in the middle consisting of diary entry after diary entry, the work often feels disjointed. It seems that the author just grabbed random developments that he found interesting rather than try to find a stronger theme to tie the whole work together.

It's 537 - Electricity. That makes sense although I think more time is spent on applied rather than theoretical developments which might put it somewhere under Technology. Electricity itself, however, is the only thread present in each subject so I agree that's the best fit.


Apr 2, 2009, 12:05pm

891 We by Yevgeny Zamyatin

We, written in the 1920's, is a Russian dystopian novel. The narrator starts the book as a proud worker drone in the strictly regimented and totalitarian One State, but his world view is turned upside down when he becomes infatuated with a mysterious woman. The prose - an often disjointed, almost stream of consciousness narration with rapid shifts in the protagonist's mindset - highlights the psychological aspects of people living in such a world. A very person reaction to a completely impersonal system.

It's an 891 - Literatures of other Languages - East Indo-European & Celtic. Obviously the desire to fit everything into 10 categories creates this odd 89x group, but it's interesting to see that what today would be considered one of the world's major literary powerhouses (Russia) is buried 2 levels deeper than others. It's also a chance to see Dewey's patterns at work. I usually see the book as 891.73, where the xx1.7 is Russian (same as it is under 490 - languages) and the 3 is fiction (same as it is under other 8xx categories, 813 - American fiction).


May 19, 2009, 4:21pm

359 Six Frigates by Ian Toll

Six Frigates relates the history of the United States' early navy. Skipping the naval history of the American Revolution, he focuses on the Quasi-War with France, the first set of conflicts with the Mediterranean pirates, and the War of 1812. The title refers to a early budget measure where the government sets aside funds to build its first six frigates; frigates that go on to play roles throughout the book.

359 Sea (Naval) forces & warfare is an obvious choice for the work, although I was surprised that that particular category is under the 350s (Public Administration) so far from history.


Jun 17, 2009, 10:58pm

553 Salt by Mark Kurlansky

Starting with ancient Chinese and Egyptian societies and working up to modern day multinational corporations, this book explorers the role salt has played throughout civilization. Trying to survey the intersection of a single common commodity and world history makes for an interesting but unfocused book. There's a ton of fascinating tidbits throughout the work but it tries to cover to vast a subject without the deft hand of something like A History of the World in Six Glasses.

553, economic geology, seemed like a narrow category but it had a surprisingly wide range of topics. I expected a lot of books on diamonds and oil, but found ones on sand, amber, salt, and precious metals.


Edited: Jun 26, 2009, 10:44pm

974 Changes in the Land by William Cronon

Changes in the Land is a cross discipline work detailing the effect that English colonists had on the environment of New England in the 17th century. Cronon does a good job handling the complex interplay of history, culture, economics, law, and ecology of the natives and colonists. This is a scholarly work with copious sources and directly sourced statements.

It's a 974, General history of North America; Northeastern United States. As a cross-discipline work I guess it could go in a few different categories, but most other books on colonial interactions with native Americans are in the 970s as well.


Jul 23, 2009, 4:19pm

Mid year counts:

0/10, 41/99, 66/909

where the 10 represents top level categories in which I've read 1 book from each second level group.


Jul 23, 2009, 4:21pm

792 Something Like This by Bob Newhart

This is an audio recording of some of Bow Newhart stand-up routines. In any anthology you're going to get some hits and some misses but this had plenty of hits. Some routines (Abe Lincoln and the ad-man and the one on defusing a bomb) were hysterical and those I didn't love gave me a few smiles and never felt like they were going on to long.

It's a 792, Stage presentations, which if you're assigning Dewey numbers to everything (it's not really an audio-"book") makes sense.

629 Man on the Moon by Andrew Chaikin

This history of the Apollo moon missions focuses on the astronauts and some of the support crew. Chaikin uses numerous interviews to provide a real sense of these people. It's a good overview of the missions that actually went to the moon (the preparatory missions that traveled there, the landings, and the failed Apollo 13). I wouldn't of minded a bit more about earlier Apollo missions (maybe use Apollo 4 to talk about the rocket scientist von Braun and little more about NASA administrator Mueller).

629 is "Other branches of Engineering" which is where much of the early space race and moon mission works are located. Newer stuff, even those that focus on the technology - like the Mars rovers - often appear to be in 52x Astronomy section.


Aug 26, 2009, 5:49pm

>44 lucien:- Too funny. You and I have almost polar opposite opinions of Salt and History of the world in six glasses (the latter I admit I'm still only about halfway through - I'm somewhere in the rum/liquor section).

I keep thinking that 6 Glasses will have more continuity, but I feel that the combination of intentionally jumping between alcohols and time/space, as well as the layout with short sections makes the reading very choppy. At times I feel the writing is just there to tick each box, but that really all he wanted to say was the interesting factoid towards the end of each section/chapter that could be useful to whip out at a cocktail party.

Salt was more compelling of a story to me for the first half than the second, but the continuity of one commodity, Kurlansky's writing, and the fact that I was listening and enjoyed the narrator's voice all pulled it together for me.


Aug 27, 2009, 4:18pm

>48 bfertig: - Ha, that is interesting. I think, for me, the fairly consistent structure of each section (some history of the drink followed by how it interacts / represents some aspect of history) was enough to tie it together, especially considering the breezy nature of the writing.

It's been a while since I read 6 Glasses, but I remember thinking he did a job including information on how the drink represented or illuminated an aspect or era of history rather than being the driving force behind it. I often feel these micro-histories oversell their topic.

I liked Salt for the most part and agree that the first half was better than the second (although I thought Gandhi's salt march was summarized very well and definitely made me want to learn more about it). I also listened to the audiobook* and I think, given the scope and detail, that may have been a mistake since I couldn't look into any notes the author may have included. For example, I wasn't convinced by his argument that salt supplies were such a decisive factor in the American Civil War, but couldn't follow-up on his sources. I thought the writing was fine would like to try one of Kurkansky's other works, like Cod.

*assuming there's only one edition, that's the one read by Scott Brick who I greatly enjoy. He also read The Devil in the White City which I included here for criminology.


Oct 14, 2009, 5:08pm

581 Seed to Seed by Nicholas Harberd

Struggling to find a new direction for his research in plant genetics, Nicholas Harberd turns to observing plants in their natural setting rather than his lab for inspiration. As part of that process, he chronicles a year in the life a small plant. Visiting the plant throughout the year he describes what's happening to that plant - changes which he sees directly as well as genetic and cellular processes underly those changes. I found the parts about the observed plant as well as his descriptions of his lab work very interesting but felt the book dragged with his repetitive musings on how he was stuck deciding on which new project to pursue and how he felt about the scientific world view. There was never enough depth to make those bits interesting. He does an excellent job describing the nitty-gritty science. He's usually clear and concise without talking down to the audience.

It's a 581 botany since he's using the particular plant that he observes and researches to explain plant growth in general.

It's also my first 58x making the 500s the first group in which I've read one of every second level category.


Oct 14, 2009, 6:06pm


It's also my first 58x making the 500s the first group in which I've read one of every second level category.

Congratulations on the milestone! The 500s were my first for that too.


Oct 14, 2009, 9:51pm

#50 Congratulations on the milestone - I haven't managed it yet. The botany book looks interesting and (yay) my library has a copy!


Oct 14, 2009, 11:01pm



Oct 14, 2009, 11:09pm

Congrats! It's interesting to hear which groups tend to be completed first. I'm not there yet, but I expect it will be the 900s (is there an unambiguous but less awkward way to say "the 10 categories of the 900s"?).


Oct 15, 2009, 12:08am

A milestone, nice! It will be a long ways before I get to that one.


Oct 15, 2009, 4:58pm

Thanks everyone. I'll need to pick a new mini-challenge for next year.

>54 _Zoe_:
is there an unambiguous but less awkward way to say "the 10 categories of the 900s"?

I fight with the phrasing for that all the time. The pdf on dewey summaries from the oclc labels them as 10 classes, 100 divisions, and 1000 sections, but I don't know if it's any clearer or less awkward to say something like "all 10 divisions of the History and Geography class".


Oct 15, 2009, 10:43pm

#56 Thanks for sharing the "official" labels - I think it actually is much less awkward than the way I've tried to refer to the different subdivisions. So, there are no "categories"?


Oct 16, 2009, 1:55pm

Yeah, I think it will make things easier. Thanks! So, I think I'll get through all the 900s divisions first.


Oct 25, 2009, 2:12am

I've decided to refer to them to hours, minutes and seconds. I can't remember how classes, divisions and sections relate to each other.


Nov 26, 2009, 12:26am

796 Great Football Writing

American football that is. It's a collection of essays, articles, and fiction selected by the editors of Sports Illustrated going back quite a few years. They're broken up into different sections - such as the early game, great games, famous writers, player's careers, player's lives after they retire, and the downsides of the game (steroids, wear and tear on the players, serious injuries). Like any anthology there were hits and misses, probably a few more misses than hits. The most interesting to me was the series of vignettes about the earliest football games and players and the last section on the serious problems in the sport. Ultimately though I just can't get that into sports writing. I enjoy the games, but can't relate to the life or death level of importance some writers and fans attach to them. But finding that out is part of the point of the challenge I suppose.

It's 796 which is Athletic & outdoor sports & games. Not surprising but it was interesting to browse the section in the library to see what sports are most represented. Baseball wins by a long shot in my local branches.


Nov 28, 2009, 8:12am

Baseball also seems to attract more good writers than football. I suppose that's because it's considered a bit more intellectual and, to me, anyway, is more aesthetically pleasing. Were there any famous writers included in the football anthology?


Nov 29, 2009, 12:28pm

In the introduction, Peter King mentions how baseball is often seen as the domain of great sports writing and claims that part of the anthology's point is to show that football has it's fair share. To this end, there is a section with famous writers - Jack Kerouac, Don Delillo, David Halberstam, and John O'Hara.

I think your point about there being something inherent in baseball that produces (or attracts) better writing is a good one. I'm not sure what it is, though. I wonder if part of it is simply that the game itself suffers the least when it's related solely by a verbal telling. I've always thought that's what makes it such a good radio sport.


Dec 16, 2009, 11:31pm

822 The Tempest by William Shakespeare

The banished Duke of Milan uses his sorcery to shipwreck his enemies on the island where he lives out his banishment. He seizes the opportunity to set things right. It's a very interesting play with both a lot of backstory but a tightly plotted series of events that take place over a very short period of time.

It's an 822 - English drama. There's no surprise there, but I was surprised to realized I haven't read a Shakespeare play since 2002.


Dec 29, 2009, 4:17pm

End of year counts

1/10, 42/99, 71/909

I'm thinking my goal for next year should be to either get 8 more second level divisions so I'm half way there or try for all 10 sections in a single second level division (most likely 97x).


Jan 9, 2010, 10:20am

069 Mr. Wilson's Cabinet of Wonder by Lawrence Weschler

The first part of this book describes the The Museum of Jurassic Technology, a strange museum / art piece that houses works of art and samples of natural history - samples which are sometimes factual, sometimes embellishments with some basis in reality, and others that seem made up whole cloth. The result is a weird and maddening place. Weschler captures those feelings well in his writing and the way he unravels the story behind the exhibits. The museum and book seem to be making a statement about both appreciating wonder and about the nature of knowledge - especially how people trust the knowledge of an authority (like a museum). The second part of the book is a more straightforward history of the 16th century wonder cabinets of which the museum reminds the author. These were scatter shot collections of art works and natural objects (often ascribed supernatural origins) collected by the wealthy.

The book is a 069, museum science. That's fitting enough even though The Museum of Jurassic Technology is more like a single large piece of art.


Jan 9, 2010, 2:23pm

@65 I've been to the museum once before reading the book and once after. I thought the author did an excellent job of unwrapping the narrative of the museum without giving away too much.

I will agree that the museum was certainly maddening to see the first time. I wanted to be able to figure out what was bogus and what wasn't. It's rare that you're in a situation where everything must be critically evaluated be for you can reasonably access it. After reading the book I've given up trying to sort the facts from the fiction there and just enjoy it a as a bizarre little curio.


Jan 10, 2010, 11:26am

Where is the museum?


Jan 10, 2010, 3:52pm

Los Angeles -- Culver City to be specific. It's worth checking out if you're ever in the area.


Edited: Jan 11, 2010, 3:49pm

>66 fundevogel:
without giving away too much.

I agree that this was key to his success in conveying the atmosphere of the museum.

I do notice that most of the people who either review or comment on the book have been to the museum. I'm starting to wonder if the museum itself isn't made up and the online commentators are all in on the conspiracy!


Jan 11, 2010, 6:02pm

That would certainly take the similarity to Tlön, Uqbar and Orbis Tertius even further. Excellent story by the way, if you only ever read one by Borges make it that one.


Mar 14, 2010, 12:52pm

609 Cathedral, Forge, and Waterwheel by Frances and Joseph Gies

This is a very good overview of the, as the subtitle says, Technology and Invention in the Middle Ages. It covers what inhabitants of the Middle Ages inherited from the Romans, imported / adapted / incorporated from outside (the Chinese and Arab civilizations), and created on their own. The authors also use this subject to help dispel the notion of the "Dark" Ages, showing a vibrant era, while not to be romanticized, was capable of real progress.


Mar 14, 2010, 8:20pm

I imagine it's peppered with words you can only find in the OED. I love those.


Mar 14, 2010, 10:52pm

The construction of cathedrals and similar buildings in the Middle Ages always amazes me--it's just hard to imagine how they planned and built some of those buildings without the tools, physics, and math that weren't developed until later. Sounds like an interesting book!


Mar 17, 2010, 11:21pm

>72 fundevogel:
There were a good few. Every gizmo has several doo-dads that do one very specific and unique thing. Not to mention that every inch of a cathedral seems to have it's own name. As an overview, they mostly stick to secondary sources so you don't get as many fun archaic words as you might hope.

>73 carlym:
The cathedrals are really remarkable. The authors do talk about how so much of what went in to those buildings (even little things like stained glass and metallurgy) was discovered through trial and error with little understanding of the underlying science.

I'm also amazed about how long they worked on some of those cathedrals. Here in the States, we're lucky if we can keep a public work going from one session of Congress to the next!


Edited: Mar 26, 2010, 4:39pm

829 Beowulf translated by Seamus Heaney

This is Heaney's recent verse translation of Beowulf, which I got way more into than I would have guessed. His introduction gives enough of an overview of what he was trying to do for the layman like myself to appreciate and I enjoyed the tale itself - both the story and language. This version also has the original Anglo-Saxon on the opposite pages which was interesting but I couldn't make too much out of it. I wonder if the (unfortunately abridged) audio version has any of that read aloud. I'd love to hear it.

It's an 829, which is Old English (Anglo-Saxon). The 8x9s don't follow a pattern as closely as the other 800 divisions. 819 (American) is unused, 849 (French) uses it for Provencal - which I think could be Old French or the modern uncommon dialect, 869 (Spanish) uses it for Portuguese (is there no Old Spanish?), 899 just uses it as a general "other", while 88x flips it and puts 881 - 888 as Classical Greek and 889 as modern Greek.


Mar 26, 2010, 7:11pm

McWhorter mentions that translation in the book I'm reading now. He said it attempts to mimic old English language style. I think he meant is uses modern word groups to translate what would have been compound words that didn't survive to modern English. But that was many chapters back, I'm trying to remember what was said from a vague note I made.

It's definitely the translation I'd want to read.

As I recall Provencal is another variant of French. There used to be a lot of very different versions of French spoken throughout the country, but at some point the government mandated that everyone quit their local language and all speak Parisian French. I believe Provencal was one of the other variants that was stomped out. However, unlike the others it was later revived by people that found cultural value in it.


Mar 28, 2010, 10:45am

The Heaney translation of Beowulf made me understand why the story has survived this long.


Edited: Jun 10, 2010, 12:57pm

551 Six Degrees: Our Future on a Hotter Planet by Mark Lynas

Six Degrees aggregates numerous scientific articles on climate change to describe what the world will look like at each one degree increase in average global temperature. It paints a pretty bleak and vivid picture of what the future may hold. The structure is a bit artificial - things that start at say two degrees are still going on (and are now stronger) at three - so there's some jumping back and forth and repetition that would have been avoided if another approach was chosen. Given the amount of discussion in recent climate negotiations over what increase we should be aiming for, however, I thought the choice of laying the book out like that was a good one. I thought most of the book was very well done. Only the final - appeal to do something - chapter was weak. Can I call Godwin's law on a book?

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