Avril Goodwin, Joshua Gross, Dragana Obradovic, Brandy Schillace and Joanna Williams...

A weekly look over the shoulders of our scholar-reviewers

July 18, 2013

Avril Goodwin, campus librarian at Dumfries, University of the West of Scotland, is reading Ordnance Survey Landranger Map 49, Oban & East Mull, and Map 50, Glen Orchy & Loch Etive. “After crime fiction, my favourite holiday read is a map. Not on a hill with a compass: I prefer a large table, a malt whisky and time to let my mind wander over the pale blue lochs, the wavy orange contours. I contemplate rather than plan a route. I never did get to Portnacroish but I can recommend Port Appin.”

Feersum Endjinn by Iain M. Banks

Joshua Gross, lecturer in computer science, University of North Carolina at Charlotte, is reading Iain M. Banks’ Feersum Endjinn (Orbit, 1995). “A wonderful spin on an end-of-the-world tale in which the protagonists are a dead man and a boy who can only write phonetically and whose best friend is a talking ant. Banks takes great risks in storytelling, violating every rule known from the Greek dramatists on, and is dragging me through a bizarre world of wars, feints and secrets of the human race in decline.”

Birth Certificate by Mark Thompson

Dragana Obradovic, assistant professor in Slavic studies, University of Toronto, is reading Mark Thompson’s Birth Certificate: The Story of Danilo Kiš (Cornell University Press, 2013). “This is the first biography of Kiš, a Yugoslav Jewish writer, to appear in English – and he makes an engrossing biographical subject. Born in 1939 to a Hungarian Jewish father who disappeared during the Holocaust and a Montenegrin Orthodox mother, Kiš’ life – and his literary works – are a fascinating amalgam of cultural, linguistic and religious traditions. This biography is extensively researched and creatively structured.”

The Great Mortality by John Kelly

Brandy Schillace, managing editor of Culture, Medicine and Psychiatry and fellow in the SAGES programme, Case Western Reserve University, is reading John Kelly’s The Great Mortality: An Intimate History of the Black Death, the Most Devastating Plague of All Time (Harper Perennial, 2006). “A fascinating look at the 14th-century outbreak of ‘black death’. Interspersed with first-person accounts, Kelly’s descriptions of the dirt, grit and crowded throughways of European cities are particularly vivid. He provides a visceral account of conditions ripe for plague, and the dramatic social and political shifts that would change the social landscape for ever.”

Bringing Knowledge Back In by Michael F. D. Young

Joanna Williams, lecturer in higher education and academic practice, University of Kent, is reading Michael F. D. Young’s Bringing Knowledge Back In: From Social Constructivism to Social Realism in the Sociology of Education (Taylor & Francis, 2005). “In this call to arms for knowledge to be at the heart of education, Young decries its replacement with both skills training and relativist assumptions that there are only individual experiences and viewpoints. An inspiring book that is not about preserving knowledge in perpetuity but an argument for bringing knowledge alive through exploring its social and historical origins.”

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