Jacqueline Baxter, Costica Bradatan, Luke Brunning, Megan Crawford and Sandra Leaton Gray...

A weekly look over the shoulders of our scholar-reviewers

March 19, 2015

Jacqueline Baxter, lecturer in social policy, The Open University, is reading Daniel Weinbren’s The Open University: A History (Manchester University Press, 2015). “A fascinating history of the politics and passion that led to creation of the first ‘University of the Air’. Weinbren’s inspiring account reveals how the university with its open access policy became the UK’s biggest provider of part-time higher education, changing the lives of thousands that would otherwise have been denied the opportunity.”

Book review: The Island of Knowledge: The Limits of Science and the Search for Meaning, by Marcelo Gleiser

Costica Bradatan, associate professor of humanities, Texas Tech University, is reading Marcelo Gleiser’s The Island of Knowledge: The Limits of Science and the Search for Meaning (Basic Books, 2014). “Gleiser is a theoretical physicist and astronomer with interests – and insights – in philosophy, religion, literature and all things human. In this wonderful, unique book he makes the case for a humanity subject to error and failure, a science that has inherent limits, and a universe that remains mysterious. This image of imperfection, however, is something humanists and scientists alike should celebrate – for it is what can make our lives meaningful.”

Book review: Alienation, by Rahel Jaeggi

Luke Brunning, doctoral candidate in philosophy, University of Oxford, is reading Rahel Jaeggi’s Alienation (Columbia University Press, 2014), translated by Frederick Neuhouser and Alan E. Smith. “In navigating dated essentialisms and anarchic postmodernism, Jaeggi mines the intellectual seam between Rousseau and Marx. She deftly resurrects the unfashionable concept of alienation in examining the veiled or distorted ways we relate to our identities and social world. Social critique will be reignited by the thought that people are not alienated from their ‘authentic selves’ but in their actions.”

Book review: Do No Harm, by Henry Marsh

Megan Crawford, professor of education and director of Plymouth University’s Institute of Education, is reading Henry Marsh’s Do No Harm (Orion, 2014). “I wasn’t sure I would enjoy this first-hand account of a neurosurgeon’s work, but I did – enormously. Marsh’s own character comes through, as do the varied lives of the people – patients and other doctors – he encounters in his daily working life. The limits of what man can do are laid out, as are the daily dilemmas surgeons face. It is frank, well written and deeply fascinating.”

Book review: Tod auf der Piste, by Nicola Forg

Sandra Leaton Gray, senior lecturer in education, UCL Institute of Education, is reading Nicola Förg’s Tod auf der Piste (Death on the Ski Slope) (Piper, 2014). “In the bookshop in Munich airport recently I discovered an entire literary genre that had previously escaped me, namely the Alpine thriller in which innocent tourists are bumped off on wellness holidays and corpses in ancient ski suits are wedged into hillsides. Crimes are largely solved over a stein of local beer while wearing traditional costume. How could I have missed this as a cultural phenomenon?”

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