Book Review Tuesday

Curious about how the Internet has changed how we view facts, knowledge, and expert opinion?

Too Big to Know: Rethinking Knowledge Now That the Facts aren’t the Facts, Experts and Everywhere, and the Smartest Person in the Room Is the Room by David Weinberger is an interesting and accessible optimist’s view of how the Internet has changed our understanding of information.  David Weinberger highlights new knowledge gathering concepts such as “crowd sourcing” research, appealing to “citizen-experts,” and the benefits and risks in allowing everyone an equal voice in the conversation.  Weinberger acknowledges that this last attribute can be both populist and unsettling when trying to determine an expert opinion on a topic.

Weinberger takes the time to place these new knowledge concepts within historical context.  I appreciated Weinberger’s explanation of the concept of long form thought.  In the past, when communicating with colleagues was more difficult and print media limited the ability to correct mistakes or offer clarification on a topic, experts tended to write long form arguments.  This is where one would try to think of all the arguments that could be made against one’s theory and offer a clarification or rebuttal to this imagined argument.  Weinberger offers Darwin’s On the Origin of Species as an example of this, saying, “Darwin spends a full six out of fifteen chapters addressing objections he imagines his readers may have” (p. 94).  I also enjoyed the section where Weinberger admits, and explicates his reasoning for, writing a long form argument – this book – about web form knowledge.  While I am not sure I agree with the cover flap’s claim that “this groundbreaking book shakes the foundations of our concept of knowledge,” the context that Weinberger put around how information “works” in the digital age is well worth reading.

The library call number for this item is HM851.W4297 2011.

-Carrie Fry, Electronic Services/Systems Librarian, Librarian for Health Sciences

The two Books of homilies (copy dated 1676)

Steve Perisho, Theology and Philosophy Librarian, and curator of the Library’s Emmanuel Room, talks about a rare find in the Wesleyan, Wesleyan Holiness, and Free Methodist Collection and recounts the history surrounding this unique item. Lee Staman did the initial research into the Senkler family.

When the thirty-five-year-old Anglican priest John Wesley, six months or so after having felt his heart “strangely warmed”, 1 “began more narrowly to inquire into . . . the doctrine of the Church of England” 2, he turned to the Edwardian Book of homilies, and before the year was out had published a twelve-page condensation of three of them entitled The doctrine of salvation, faith, and good works (1738) 3. This “went through [twenty] editions in his lifetime and was a staple . . . [of] Methodist instruction.” 4 “The book which, next to the Holy Scripture, was of the greatest use to [the earliest ‘Methodists’] in settling their judgment as to the grand point of justification by faith,” he noted (looking back almost fifty years later in 1787), “was the Book of Homilies.5

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Notes:

  1. John Wesley, ed. Albert C. Outler (New York: Oxford University Press, 1980 [1964]), 66.
  2. Journal II, 101, as quoted in John Wesley, ed. Outler, 121.
  3. 13th ed., 1797:  http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00000069/00001.
  4. John Wesley, ed. Outler, 66, as corrected in Doctrinal and controversial treatises I, ed. Randy L. Maddox, vol. 12 of The works of John Wesley =The bicentennial edition of the works of John Wesley, ed. Randy L. Maddox (Nashville:  Abingdon Press, 2012), 29.
  5. Sermon 107, “On God’s vineyard.” Sermons III, 71-114, ed. Albert C. Outler, vol. 3 of The works of John Wesley =The bicentennial edition of the works of John Wesley, ed. Albert C. Outler (Oxford:  Oxford University Press, 1986), 505.  See also Michael Pasquarello, “Evangelizing England:  the importance of the Book of homilies for the popular preaching of Hugh Latimer & John Wesley,” Asbury theological journal 59, nos. 1-2 (Spring/Fall 2004):  151-159.

February Reading List

Want to catch up on your reading list of works by and about African Americans in honor of Black History month? Drop by the SPU library and take a look at the book display adjacent to the Circulation Desk to preview some of our relevant items.

Book display organized by Stephanie Rubesh, Access Services

New books you might want to add to your list of must-reads include:

I have a dream, by Martin Luther King, Jr.Kadir Nelson
An illustrated edition of Martin Luther King’s famous “I have a dream” speech.

 

Life upon these shores : looking at African American history, 1513-2008 by Henry Louis Gates
African American involvement in American history, society, politics, and culture.

 

Unspoken : a story from the Underground Railroad by Henry Cole
A wordless picture book.

 

For more items, including ebooks, owned by our library and related to African American literature, culture, and history, click here to view a WorldCat list.

Book Review Tuesday

Color: A Natural History of the Palette by Victoria Finlay

Have you ever wondered where the colors for paints and dyes come from? We see color around us every day, on our cars, our clothes, even on the carpet. But where do the colors come from?

In Color: a Natural History of the Palette, Victoria Finlay gives a chapter on each color of the rainbow and talks about how people, from ancient times to the 20th century, made dyes and paints using the materials around them. Indigo comes from the indigo bush, for example, orange from a root called madder, blue from stones mined in Afghanistan, and red from the blood of an insect, the cochineal. The colors come from every corner of the world – India, Australia, Mexico, China, England – and Finlay takes us to each place as she searches for the stories of the people who make and use the colors in their painting and dyeing. It was all very fascinating and well-written. However, I think the book could be a great basis for a documentary or mini-series. I’d like to be able to see the paintings Finlay references, and watch people making the colors. This is the book’s one deficiency; the illustrations are all in the middle (and there aren’t many) and I had to keep flipping forward or back to see them as they were referenced in the text. This criticism aside, Color: A Natural History of the Paletteis a fascinating and thorough look at the way human beings have brightened their surroundings.

The library call number for this item is ND1488 .F56 2003.

-Adrienne Meier, Librarian for the Social Sciences/University Archivist

Book Review Tuesday

Empire of Shadows: the Epic Story of Yellowstone by George Black

The title of this book is slightly misleading. I expected a history of Yellowstone Park that included its discovery by Europeans; the establishment of the National Park; the building of its famous hotel, the Old Faithful Inn; the advertisement of the park to would-be visitors; and the scientific studies done on its geysers, hot springs, and wildlife populations. Of these topics, Black only discusses the discovery of the park and (slightly, at the end) the establishment of the National Park. In fact, the book does not even make it to the 20th century, ending instead with the death of Yellowstone explorer Captain Gustavus C. Doane in 1892. Black’s focus is not so much on Yellowstone Park itself, but on the events and expeditions that led to the creation of the park.

The book begins with the Lewis and Clark expedition, telling how tantalizingly close the Corps of Discovery came to “Wonderland” on their way to and from the Pacific. Black describes in detail the Native American tribes of the area – Piegan, Nez Perce, Crow, Blackfeet and others -  and spends many chapters telling of the relations between these tribes and  the white trappers, miners, and eventually, pioneers who moved into their territory in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming. It is, in many ways, a sad story filled with misunderstandings, murders and massacres, with both whites and natives seemingly unable to coexist with the other.

As part of this saga of interracial relations, Black introduces the settlers and soldiers who would form the first major exploration party in 1870. He describes how these principal players made their way to Montana, and what happened during their expedition in 1870. It is fascinating to read the account of this expedition, although a larger map of the area would have made the narrative more clear.

After describing the 1870 expedition, Black sums up the creation of the National Park, and comes to the conclusion that we will never really know who came up with the idea; there are too many competing claims with the same amount of evidence (which is to say, not much). He then tells the story of some of the first tourists, and of the last battle between the U.S. Army and the Nez Perce, part of which took place within the current boundaries of the Park. Finally, Black gives a brief epilogue, tying up the lives of the principal players of the 1870 expedition.

This is an interesting book, filled with fascinating characters from history. While it can sometimes be difficult to keep them all straight, Black does a good job of describing their importance to the creation of the very first National Park. A more detailed map and some more photographs and illustrations would have made the book even better, but overall, this is a solid history of one particularly recognizable corner of the American West.

The library call number for this book is F722.B53 2012

-Adrienne Meier, Librarian for the Social Sciences/University Archivist