Tuesday, March 28, 2017

--- Bookshelves ---


The day I retired from my professional practice as a rehabilitation specialist, I walked out to my van, already packed with everything I was taking with me, drove by the power company to pay my last bill, visited the man who would clean up my apartment for me (he had a flea market business), and left Selma for good (well, I could visit some day - you never know).

This was an adventure. The snow started just south of Birmingham and never let up the whole trip. In fact, it snowed for months for most of the time after I reached my new home. I stayed over a couple of days with a friend in Missouri. I didn't think I would be able to leave because the doors of my van were frozen shut, but I banged on them and tugged on them until the ice broke. I had to climb over a tiny space in my belongings from the side door of the van before I could finish my trip through Kansas at night. That was planned. Flat country with unbroken horizons make me neurotic.

I made it to Broomfield before noon on Christmas eve of 2013.

I carried only what I could fit in my Astrovan, which was about 10% of what I had in my apartment. Months before I left, I was digitizing my library. Everything I could find as a download, I packed on CDs. I had several tapes of music I had made, many of the gospel group I had been a part of, His Own. I digitized photos and bought digital versions of movies. I kept a few physical books, but not many.

As a result, I have a digital library that many public libraries would be proud to own. Some are Kindles, which, of course, nobody owns a Kindle eBook, they just buy the rights to look at them (grph!), but I managed to replace many with legitimate PDFs and EPUBs.

So, I'll be sharing my favorites with you as I go along.

Here are a few from my generalities bookshelf.

I have a contrary nature. I've always liked things that I'm not supposed to like. I'm acrophobic, so one of my hobbies is rock climbing. I'm dyslexic, so I  like language - word puzzles, word games, etymologies, dictionaries, foreign languages. It's understandable that I would prefer the classic thesaurus to modern ones. There are plenty of thesauruses out in print and online. If you have a word processor, it probably has a built in thesaurus. But most modern thesauruses just list the words in lexicographic order and gives synonyms and antonyms. Roget's Thesaurus gives a taxonomy - word families. For instance, word number 528 is "Concealment". There are many synonyms and related nouns, verbs, adverbs, and adjectives. The next word is the opposite, "Disclosure". Both are in section II, "Modes of Communication"; which is in division II, "Communication of Ideas"; which is in class IV, "Words Related to the Intellectual Facilities. Peter Mark Roget put a lot of work in this thing. It's still printed and can be bought in book stores but it is in the public domain and can be downloaded from:

The Gutenberg Project. http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/search/?query=roget
or the Internet Archive. https://archive.org/details/Rogets-Thesaurus

John Bartlett's Bartlett's Familiar Quotations should also be familiar to anyone who has ever had to write a paper for school. It can also be found in bound volumes and it is also in the public domain and can be found at:

The Internet Archive. https://archive.org/details/shorterbartletts00bart
or the Gutenberg Project. http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/27889

Norman Lewis (2014). Word Power Made Easy. The Complete Handbook for Building a Superior Vocabulary. Anchor Books: New York, NY.  There are several good vocabulary builders out there, but this is my favorite. It's a fun book that has an interesting flow to it. It effectively associates words so learned words provides pegs to hang new words on.

A Little Bit of Everything for Dummies, 20th Anniversary Edition (2011), from the Dummy series people, John Wiley and Sons, Inc. I like most of the Dummy books to start with but this wild compendium of diversity was much too much of a temptation. It may not comment on literally everything but it does go into a lot from the Boer War to dating.

The Encyclopedia Britannica Propaedia. Outline of Knowledge and Guide to the Britannica, edited and written by an army of folks at Encyclopedia Brittanica. If you can get your hands on just this volume of the huge, popular encyclopedia, it's worth it. It has a outline of human knowledge (as claimed) but it also has great articles by experts who can write well on the major divisions of knowledge. Of course, with the 15th edition of the encyclopedia in 2010, printing stopped and the company went to a digital version. It can still be perused at libraries or bought.

CK-12 is a company that produced free textbooks and they are actually quite good (or, at least the ones I've read. There are many.) A couple relevant here are the Basic Speller, by D. W. Cummings, and Journalism 101, by Nina Scott. Look at these and all those other many at http://www.ck12.org/student.

The Dewey Decimal System has an odd little section in the Generalities around 009 called Controversial Information. In a book store, it might be called the New Age section. The same material might be shelved in 130, Parapsychology, or the cryptozoology works may end up in 590, Zoology. Who knows?

But the works of Dr. Gregory Reece deserve, at least, an honorable mention here, not because they don't belong in the top 10 list, but because they don't belong here at all. They look like books about cults and magic, and weird creatures but what he writes about isn't controversial at all - it's about the way people use controversial information. So he writes about UFO cults, and Elvis cults, and Flat Earthers, and Hollow Earthers, and why people like scary stuff, and he does it with academic respectability. His books are: Elvis Religion: The Cult of the King, UFO Religion, Weird Science and Bizarre Beliefs, and Creatures of the Night, all published by I. B. Tauris.

B. J. Hollars review of Creatures of the Night,  included the following opinion on the Alabama Writer's Forum (June 2012):

"While his in-depth research does much to arm him against the ivory tower naysayers, his occasional insertion of personal experiences with the supernatural—while interesting—ultimately does more harm than good, undercutting the credibility he has worked so hard to achieve. The book is at its best when Reece refrains from the spotlight, allowing instead his facts to drive fears, rather than his fears muddying the facts."

With that, I respectably disagree. Reece isn't an armchair scholar, he leaves the archives often to research his topics in situ. It doesn't hurt to see that a reputed expert on a topic also has hands-on knowledge.

I left out an older work by Dr. Reece, Irony and Religious Belief (2002), from the Religion in Philosophy and Theology series published by J.C.B. Mohr (Paul Siebeck), Tubingen. It is his graduate thesis which was later made available to the general public. It is a deep consideration of irony in the works of Soren Kierkegaard, Ludwig Wittgenstein, and Richard Rorty. Being deep, it might be difficult, but it is also very readable. For those that enjoy such topics, I recommend it. For those that do not, read it anyway. You could widen your horizons.

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