Steve's Reviews > Isms And Ologies: 453 Difficult Doctrines You've Always Pretended To Understand

Isms And Ologies by Arthur Goldwag
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's review
Sep 25, 2010

really liked it
bookshelves: reference
Read in July, 2009

In Isms and Ologies, Arthur Goldwag takes a look at 453 doctrines, ranging from the everyday to the thoroughly obscure (Mugwumpism?) and offers some wonderfully clear and sometimes quite detailed explanations. This could easily have ended up as as one of those lightweight anthologies of trivia, but Goldwag has crafted something more meaty than that - a genuinely informative reference guide that I would almost be comfortable calling an encyclopaedia.

That said, it's not all art movements and political ideologies, and while most doctrines stay true to the title, ending in ism or ology, they don't all keep to this format (Bauhaus, Game Theory and Occam's Razor are just some of the non-conforming square pegs in this respect). The book is conveniently organised: all entries are initially indexed in alphabetical order with page numbers, then the listings themselves are categorised into 7 sections (science, economics, religion, etc.)

Explanations range from a paragraph to several pages, and for the most part the author succeeds in remaining largely unbiased. Perhaps Wikipedia would offer much similar content and more, but would it collate everything together in this way and make it so readable? That's the beauty of compilations like this: that it's all in one book, and comes alive with the author's own particular wit.
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