In 2020, Tūranga’s Dewey Book Group read across the entire Dewey spectrum (the Dewey Decimal system is what we use to organise non-fiction - read more about it in our FAQ) - From the 000s where subjects range from (very fittingly) books about books to conspiracy and computing, through to the 900s where travel and history reside.
Dewey Book Group
Last Wednesday of each month
6:00PM – 7:00PM
Below, Paul and Helen share their highlights after a year of effectively reading across the entire area of human knowledge. If that sounds daunting, be assured it was a fun, fascinating and highly moreish journey. Why not join the Dewey Book Group for their 2021 adventure?
From books about books, to conspiracies, journalism and computing, the 000s are full of solid reference material as well as great recreational reads.
Helen’s Pick: ‘The Bad-ass Librarians of Timbuktu’
My pick this year was 'The Bad-ass Librarians of Timbuktu', the story of Abdel Kader Haidara, an archivist determined to save precious Arab texts from deterioration in the bags of local shepherds, and more imminently, the threat of Al Qaeda. Moving, informative, and Inspiring.
The Bad-ass Librarians of Timbuktu
Paul's Pick: 'When Books Went to War'
The hero of this wartime tale is the humble paperback that provided American soldiers with an escape from the boredom and fear that hung over many a battlefield in Europe and the Pacific during the 1940s. Molly Manning's well-paced book reveals that while the Nazis were burning books, the American military were printing millions under an eclectic list of titles and opposed censorship
When Books Went to War
The 100s are the home of philosophy and ethics, filled with exciting new theories and ways of thinking.
Helen’s Pick: ‘Wittgenstein’s Poker’
This year I read of a brief but meaty philosophical argument that occurred when Karl Popper (a hugely influential lecturer for Christchurch's University of Canterbury for 8 years incidentally!) was invited to share his paper at an evening chaired by the renowned Ludwig Wittgenstein. Edmonds unpacks not only their dispute (including whether Wittgenstein really did threaten Popper with a poker!) but also examines their backgrounds in Vienna, and their opposed philosophies.
Paul's Pick: 'How the World Thinks: A Global History of Philosophy'
This book weaves together and compares different modes of thought from around the world. A great guide for looking upon age-old conundrums from a new perspective or taking a few steps in another person's shoes.
You don't have to be of a spiritual bent to appreciate the 200s, the area of philosophy and religion. Whether you are looking for an introduction to new ideas and ways of living, or just want to know a little more about the history and stories behind influential faiths, this is a fascinating area to explore.
Helen’s Pick : ‘A History of the Bible’
In this hugely informative yet entertaining look at one of the worlds most influential works, Barton examines what we know of the bible's creation, and shines new light on the meaning and history of its texts.
A History of the Bible
Paul's pick: 'Bible and Treaty: Missionaries Among Māori: A New Perspective'
Keith Newman presents New Zealand in the 19th century when missionaries were trying to convert Māori to Christianity. An intriguing historical mix of cultural clashes and co-operation at a time when Māori were in a desperate fight to retain control of their lands.
Bible & Treaty
The 300s have such a variety of topics on offer - from politics, economics, education, and law; to military history, true crime, and folklore - the reading possibilities are seemingly endless.
Helen’s Pick: ‘Mrs Sherlock Holmes’
In this extraordinary story of a woman defying society to help the under-privileged, detective and lawyer Grace Humiston, braves devious cops, underground tunnels, and white slavery rumours, to solve the mystery of 18 year-old Ruth Cruger's disappearance. Brad Ricca unfolds this engrossing case, as well as Humiston’s own extraordinary story as The first female US District Attorney in history, and the first female consulting detective to the NYPD.
Mrs. Sherlock Holmes
Paul's Pick: 'Educated'
This extraordinary memoir is a powerful reminder of the value of a good education as a young woman tries to extract herself from a frightening fate imposed by her survivalist family.
For those wishing to learn another language, or attempting to get their head around the terrifying rules of grammar, the 400s is the place to go. Thankfully, in the hands of these writers, language can also, genuinely, be fun!
Helen’s pick: ‘Eats, Shoots, and Leaves’
Lynne Truss really does make punctuation fun in this hilarious call to arms to punctuation sticklers everywhere. If you bemoan the lack of an apostrophe in the Hugh Grant comedy 'Two Weeks Notice' or firmly believe the main rule of a comma is to 'not use them like a stupid person', Lynne Truss is pinning her hopes on you.
Eats, Shoots & Leaves
Paul's Pick: 'Secret Language: Codes, Tricks, Spies, Thieves and Symbols'
A history of codes, ciphers and crosswords plus many examples of word play. Moments of fun while also informative and thorough.
As well as being the learned area of science, maths, and nature, the 500s is also an excellent area for finding engaging recreational non-fiction.
Helen’s pick: ‘The Zoo’
In the style of a novel, Isobel Charman recounts the remarkable stories and people behind the founding of the world's first zoo - from Stamford Raffles, a man who overcame a shipwreck and a series of financial disasters to bring his vision to life, to Charles Darwin, a visitor who used the zoos residents for his study. There was Charles Spooner, a vet struggling to keep the exotic animals alive, and of course the animals themselves, from Jenny the orang-utan, to Obaysch, the first hippo ever to be glimpsed in Britain.
Paul's Pick: 'Caesar's Last Breath'
Sam Kean leavens the science with entertaining anecdote and critical history as he explains the stuff of life: air. A great read.
Caesar's Last Breath
There are so many gems to be found in the 600s, from essential reads on health, business and parenting, to hobbies like animal care, craft, cooking, and gardening.
Helen’s Pick: 'Philosophy in the Garden'
Looks at how great writers - from Jane Austen to George Orwell - were heavily inspired by their gardens. From a place of reflection, to a taste of forbidden paradise, to a task of unending physical labour, the garden has constantly sown the seeds of new ideas . A read as fascinating and engaging as a walk through a beautiful garden.
Philosophy in the Garden
Paul's Pick: 'The Man in the Red Coat'
Julian Barnes chronicles the life and loves of celebrity doc Samuel Pozzi and at the same time offers insights into Parisian life during the Belle Epoque.
The 700s are home to the arts and recreation - from architecture, painting, and music; to crafts, sports and games.
Helen’s pick: ‘The Story of Art’.
As a lover of beautiful, luscious art books, I had to take on EM Gombrich’s masterpiece which spans the story of art from cave painting to early modernist work. Sadly this 70-year-old narrative does reflect some grating biases of the time (there was more than one female artist in history, thanks Ernest (grate, grate); other cultures do not get classified as ‘primitive’ just because they are not European (grate, grate), and ‘history of art’ does mean discussing other great international artists that were not European more than 5 percent of the time (ooh that’s a lot of grating…). However, if you are looking for a very accessible yet knowledgeable and astute analysis of -Western!- art, this is a tremendous introduction, and a must read for art lovers.
The Story of Art
Paul's Pick: 'Brunelleschi's Dome'
The genius behind Florence’s dome was an intriguing character who, at times, indulged in outrageous behaviour to help navigate the tortuous politics of medieval Italy. Ross King packs quite a punch in his concise history.
With poetry, plays, and books about our favourite writers and stories, the 800s are a literature lover's paradise.
Helen’s pick: ‘A Night Out With Robert Burns’
Whether you love the poems of Robbie Burns or are as yet unfamiliar with his work, this delightful collection both introduces and deepens our understanding of Scotlands favourite poet, bringing together some of his finest from 'Tam O Shanter' to 'Auld Lang Syne'. With insightful introductions to each poem by award winning novelist, Andrew O'Hagen, this is a collection to treasure.
A Night Out With Robert Burns
Paul's Pick: 'Young Romantics'
Romantics Percy and Mary Shelley and Lord Byron wrote great literature and lived chaotic lives in Europe which often caused severe hardship and anguish for their friends and themselves.
From epic histories to arm chair travel, the 900s can transport readers across continents and time. It seemed the perfect, escapist way to end a year of, well, not very much travel.
Helen’s pick: ‘Journeys’
‘Journeys’ paints a rich, evocative picture of Europe just before the second world war. From reflections on London's Hyde park to requiem for a hotel in Zurich, Zweig’s writing is sensitive and thoughtful, bringing out the character of each city. Zweig himself, jewish and a pacifist, was eventually forced to take refuge in Brazil where he and his wife committed suicide together in 1942. It’s both chilling and moving to read his work all these decades later, and to sense a man urgently capturing for us the Europe he knew and loved.
Paul's pick: 'Enemies in Love'
A sensitive German soldier, who is a dab hand at strudel, and a tall, striking American nurse build a deep and secret love in an environment blighted by racism from white Americans and Nazis alike during World War II. “Alexis Clark illuminates a whole corner of unknown World War II history” which is “sweetened by unexpected love”, according to writer Walter Isaacson.