What are you reading?

A weekly look over the shoulders of our scholar-reviewers

December 13, 2012

Jerome de Groot is head of the School of Arts, Languages and Cultures and director of research training in the arts, University of Manchester. "I have spent the best part of seven months working my way through Marcel Proust's In Search of Lost Time (Vintage, 1996), with the last volume now in sight. I am writing currently about the trauma of memory, the insubstantiality of the past, our difficult relationship to history, and the ways that we are haunted by events; for all their complexity and occasional longueurs, the novels are helpful and inspiring. They are also, at times, quite exceptionally beautiful."

Paula Humfrey, lecturer in history, Laurentian University, is reading Shari Lapeña's Happiness Economics (Brindle and Glass, 2011). "It's deeply satisfying to envision the mechanics by which a media-savvy, powerhouse economist (her) navigates marriage and raises children with a poet who deeply resents the world of commerce (him). We who lead scholarly lives wince reflexively at the possibilities. Lapena's novel deftly refracts the freak show going on in the minds of Will and Judy Thorne as their respective muses battle it out in downtown Toronto, to sharply funny and profound effect."

Michael King, emeritus professor in the School of Law, University of Reading, is reading Niklas Luhmann's Theory of Society, Volume 1 (Stanford University Press, 2012). "Social theory has never been an easy read, and Luhmann's painstaking account of how modern society came into existence and operates as a complex network of self-referring communication systems (politics, economy, law, science, religion, etc) is no exception. Yet this is social science as it has never been seen before. Anglo-American empiricists, ignore it at your peril!

John McIlroy is professor of employment relations, Middlesex University Business School. "In a year that saw the BFI Hitchcock retrospective, Vertigo supplanting Citizen Kane as Sight & Sound's greatest-ever film and the American premiere of Hitchcock, I revisited Stephen Rebello's Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho (Mandarin Books, 1992), on which Sacha Gervasi's movie is based. Rebello mingles meticulous research, gossip and critical insight in reconstructing the making of a masterpiece and the troubled human being who made himself a great popular artist."

Judie Newman, professor of American studies at the University of Nottingham, is reading Barbara Kingsolver's Flight Behavior (HarperCollins, 2012). "If you didn't care about global warming before, you will do once you read this novel. A rural Appalachian community suddenly becomes the overwintering spot for migratory monarch butterflies displaced from Mexico, pursed by scientists, tourists and oddballs. By turns enlightening, lyrical, heartbreaking and extremely funny, it's a real page-turner."

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