People who love books often accumulate large collections. And it can be frustrating when you find yourself wanting to consult a particular book and you find yourself wasting a lot of time trying to track it down. You’re pretty sure you own it, but it’s lost among all the others. I talk about the ten major classifications in the Dewey Decimal Classification (DDC) system in an earlier post.
Very few personal collections contain books in every category. You may be surprised to find 90 percent of your books can be grouped into one specific section. If you have a lot of books about religion(s), this post will help you further subdivide them as many libraries would.
A word about religion in DDC
For years, some people have been disturbed about the official Dewey classification structure for 200-299, the religion section. The system was created by Melvil Dewey and was first published in 1856. Given Dewey’s nineteenth-century biases, Christianity has more than its fair share of the dedicated division numbers. And while this lamentable, it’s important to note that every religion in existence does have a unique number in the system. The problem is that all non-Christian religions are all placed in the last subdivision–the 290s.
Some libraries have reworked the numbers to better reflect their own communities, and the editors who make Dewey’s decisions are fine with that. The only argument against doing so is that it changes the library from the standard structure which might confuse a few patrons temporarily.
If you are offended by this section of the system and would like to come up with your own, please feel free to. Your home collection is yours to do with as you’d like.
The Dewey Classification manual defines religion as “beliefs, attitudes, [and] practices of individuals and groups with respect to the ultimate nature of existences and relationships within the context of revelation, deity, and worship.” This may or may not include a diety.
Books that cover multiple religions, comparative religions, and books on religion in general, belong in this division.
Recommended books in general religion:
- World Religions: The Great Faiths Explored and Explained edited by John Bowker
- Beyond Tolerance: Searching for Interfaith Understanding in America by Gustav Niebuhr
- The Meaning of Belief: Religion from an Atheist’s Point of View by Tim Crane
- God Without Religion: Questioning Centuries of Accepted Truths by Sankara Sananam
- Four Testaments: Tao Te Ching, Analects, Dhammapda, Bhagavad Gita: Secret Scriptures of Taoism, Confucianism, Buddhism, and Hinduism by Brian Arthur Brown
- Three Testaments: Torah, Gospel, and Quran by Brian Arthur Brown
210-219 Philosophy and theory of religion
This section is not limited to Christianity. It is the place for books on natural theology, philosophical theology, and concepts of God such as:
- Rationalism (free thought)
Theodicy, the vindication of God’s justice and goodness in the face of existing evil and suffering, is shelved here. Science and technology in religion are also placed in this section.
Recommended books in philosophy and theory of religion:
- Anarchy Evolution: Faith, Science, and Bad Religion by Greg Graffin
- The Case for God by Karen Armstrong
- A Secular Age by Charles Taylor
- How Large is God? Voices of Scientists and Theologians by John Marks Templeton
This Bible is the Holy Scriptures of Judaism and Christianity, no matter the translation or version. The scriptures and holy books of other religions are shelved in the 290s. In addition to the scriptures themselves, all dictionaries, encyclopedias, concordances, handbooks, commentaries, and harmonies relating to the Jewish and Christan Bible(s) go in this section.
Recommended books in the Bible:
- Bible Almanac by J. I. Packer
- How to Read the Bible: A Guide to Scripture, Then and Now by James L. Kugel
- The Historical David: The Real Life of an Invented Hero by Joel Baden
- The Prophets by Abraham Joshua Heschel
- Saint Peter: Flawed, Forgiven, and Faithful by Stephen J. Binz
- The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer
- The Epistle to the Romans by Karl Barth
- Revelations: Visions, Prophecy, and Politics in the Book of Revelation by Elaine Pagels
Some of the books that go in the 230s include Christian mythology, specific Christian theologies, doctrines of specific denominations and sects, God’s relation to the World, Jesus Christ and his family, salvation and grace, eschatology; covenants, and catechisms.
Recommended books in Christianity and Christian theology:
- Basic Christianity by John R.W. Stott
- Proving God: Swedenborg’s Remarkable Quest for the Quantum Fingerprints of Love by Edward F. Sylvia
- The Jesus I Never Knew by Philip Yancey
- The Nature and Divinity of Man: A Christian Interpretation by Reinhold Niebuhr
- Be Transformed: The Healing Power of the Sacraments by Bob Schuchts
- My Life with the Saints by James Martin
- The Coming of God: Christian Eschatology by Jurgen Moltmann
240-249 Christian moral and devotional theology
This section houses Christian ethics and codes of conduct, prayers and meditations, evangelistic writings, Christian experience and practice, and guides for the Christian life.
Recommended books in Christian moral and devotional theology:
- The Four Loves by C.S. Lewis
- Boundless Compassion: Creating a Way of Life by Joyce Rupp
- My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers
- Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster
- The Wisdom of Time by Pope Francis and Friends
- Waiting for God by Simone Weil
250-259 Local Christian church and Christian religious orders
Books related to the management of churches, biographies of church leaders, preaching, sermons, pastoral work and works by pastors are some of those shelved in the 250s.
Recommended books in Christian orders and local church:
- Strength to Love by Martin Luther King Jr.
- Immeasurable: Reflections of the Soul of Ministry in the Age of Church, Inc. by Skye Jethani
- A Spirituality of Service: Reflections on a Life-Long Journey of Faith and Work among the World’s Poor by Jerry Asker
260-269 Christian social and ecclesiastical theology
This section houses books on the church and its role in society, as well as mission work. Books about associations for religious work and religious education are shelved here too.
Recommended books in social and ecclesiastical theology:
- The Naked Public Square: Religion and Democracy in America by Richard John Neuhaus
- A Public Faith: How the Followers of Christ Should Serve the Common Good by Miroslav Volf
- The Popes: A Concise Biographical History edited by Eric John
- The Power of Godliness: Mormon Liturgy and Cosmology by Jonathan A. Stapley
- The Missionary Movement in Christian History: Studies in the Transmission of Faith by Andrew F. Walls
- Just As I Am by Billy Graham
270-279 History, geographic treatment, biography of Christianity
Books on the early history of the Christian church and famous church leaders are housed in this division.
Recommended books in the history of Christianity and the Christian church:
- The Reformation: A History by Diarmaid MacCulloch
- The Templars: Knights of Christ by Regine Pernoud
- The Gnostic Gospels by Elaine Pagels
- God is Red: The Secret Story of How Christianity Survived and Flourished in Communist China by Liao Yiwu
- The Cross and the Lynching Tree by James H. Cone
- The Evangelicals: The Struggle to Shape America by Frances Fitzgerald
280-289 Denominations and sects of the Christian church
This division contains books on every specific branch of the Christian church from Greek Orthodox to the Cowboy Church.
Recommended books in Christian denominations and sects:
- Abducted in Iraq: A Priest in Baghdad by Saad Sirop Hanna
- Still: Notes on a Mid-Faith Crisis by Lauren F. Winner
- Martin Luther: A Spiritual Biography by Herman Selderhuis
- Freedom’s Prophet: Bishop Richard Allen, the AME Church, and the Black Founding Fathers by Richard S. Newman
- The Mormon Experience: A History of the Latter-Day Saints by Leonard Arrington
- Amish Grace: How Forgiveness Transcended Tragedy by Donald B. Kraybill et al.
290-299 Other religions
Every other religion, denomination, cult, and sect in the world goes in the 290s. I suspect that in many libraries in America through at least the late 1950s, this was a limited section. In many libraries today, it takes up roughly half the 200s section.
A brief sampling of what you can find here are Classical religions (Greek and Roman); Germanic religions (Scandinavian and Norse); religions of Indic origin (Buddhism, Jainism, Hinduism, Sikhism); Zoroastrianism; Judaism; Islam, Babism, and the Baha’i Faith. Finally, all other religions including but not limited to, Tibetan, Black African, and South American religions, and modern revivals of old religions.
Recommended books in other religions:
- The Power of Myth by Joseph Campbell
- The Illustrated World’s Religions: A Guide to Our Wisdom Traditions by Huston Smith
- Mythology by Edith Hamilton
- Nine Lives: In Search of the Sacred in Modern India by William Dalrymple
- The Living Buddha: An Interpretive Biography by Daisaku Ikeda
- Why is the Dalai Lama Always Smiling? A Westerner’s Introduction and Guide to Tibetan Buddhist Practice by Tsomo Lama
- The Wisdom of Not Knowing: Discovering a Life of Wonder by Embracing Uncertainty by Estelle Frankel
- If the Oceans Were Ink: An Unlikely Friendship and a Journey to the Heart of the Quran by Carla Power
- Sufism and the Way of Blame by Yannis Toussulis
- Whispers of the Ancients: Native Tales of Teaching and Healing in Our Timeby Tamarack Song
- Exodus! Heirs and Pioneers, Rastafari Return to Ethiopia by Giulia Bonacci
- Mastering the Toltec Way: A Daily Guide to Happiness, Freedom, and Joy by Susan Gregg
- Water from an Ancient Well: Celtic Spirituality for Modern Life by Kenneth McIntosh
- Inside Scientology: The Story of America’s Most Secretive Religion by Janet Reitman
If you’re not entirely happy with the traditional Dewey arrangement, you can see at least two examples of how this section has been reworked under the 200s (on the right) on 025.431: The Dewey Blog.
Leave a comment below if you have a better way to rework the system.