What are you reading?

A weekly look over the shoulders of our scholar-reviewers

Ben Ambridge, lecturer in psychology, University of Liverpool, is reading Gary Marcus' Guitar Zero: The Science of Learning to Be Musical (Oneworld, 2012). "This book chronicles a psychology professor's attempt to learn the guitar at age 40. As someone on nodding terms with Marcus from the conference circuit, I can confirm that he comes across as an unlikely rock god. Yet, armed with his intellectual firepower and the latest research on music tuition, learning and practice, he indeed goes from zero to hero."

Tim Birkhead, professor of behavioural ecology, University of Sheffield, is reading Stuart Firestein's Ignorance: How it Drives Science (Oxford University Press, 2012). "If you teach science, read this short book. There's no excuse for teaching what we know (facts): what we should be teaching is the messy but exhilarating process of science - what we don't know. This book radiates sensible advice, including this: if your students ask whether something will be in the exam, then the way you teach is wrong. Absolutely right!"

Rebecca Braun, lecturer in German studies, Lancaster University, is reading Feridun Zaimoglu (Lang, 2012), edited by Tom Cheesman and Karin E. Yesilada. "Who determines what and whom an author represents? Through essays, interviews and previously suppressed literary material, this volume makes the career of this Turkish-German writer accessible to an English-language audience. Zaimoglu has increasingly represented himself as a 'settler' in German culture, and I'm enjoying thinking through the challenge to ethnic binarisms such settlement entails."

Matthew Feldman, reader in contemporary history, Teesside University, is reading John Bolin's Beckett and the Modern Novel (Cambridge University Press, 2013). "Bolin incisively stresses the importance of novelists such as Andre Gide and his masters Dostoevsky and de Sade in the development of Beckett's novels - between Murphy and Malone Dies - with Watt acting as a literary fulcrum. Powerfully argued, the book offers a timely reminder for more philosophically oriented critics (myself included!) that Beckett was first and foremost a man of 'arts', and only secondly one of 'letters'."

Joanna Williams, lecturer in higher education and academic practice, University of Kent, is reading Jane Robinson's Bluestockings: The Remarkable Story of the First Women to Fight for an Education (Penguin, 2010). "Told through diary entries and letters home, this offers a compelling account of the first female students to attend university. Robinson describes how their determination to engage in intellectual discovery engendered heroic efforts to overcome poverty and prejudice. Yet these women never sought protection or concessions: instead, they devised imaginative ways around chaperones, curfews and restrictions."

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