Janet Beer, Tim Birkhead, Stephen Halliday, Nigel Rodenhurst and Jon Turney...

A weekly look over the shoulders of our scholar-reviewers

October 23, 2014

Janet Beer, vice-chancellor, Oxford Brookes University, is reading Shami Chakrabarti’s On Liberty (Allen Lane, 2014). “Oxford Brookes’ chancellor has written a forthright and cogent book on the subject closest to her heart. Chakrabarti makes a compelling case for the protection of the rights and freedoms that safeguard nothing less than our common humanity. This is a timely reminder of how much we stand to lose should we relinquish our stake in, and our commitment to, both the values and the legislation that protect us from personal and political harm.”

Book review: Feral, by George Monbiot

Tim Birkhead, professor of behavioural ecology, University of Sheffield, is reading George Monbiot’s Feral: Rewilding the Land, Sea and Human Life (Penguin, 2014). “Most books on conservation trot out the same dreary – and stultifying – message. Monbiot’s book is different: novel enough to be hard-hitting, inspirational and optimistic all at the same time. The media have bastardised his important notion of rewilding. I read this and felt: finally there’s a ray of hope for the natural world.”

Book review: Modernity Britain, by David Kynaston

Stephen Halliday, panel tutor in history, Institute of Continuing Education, University of Cambridge, is reading David Kynaston’s Modernity Britain: A Shake of the Dice, 1959-62 (Bloomsbury, 2014). “Kynaston’s latest book is rather more of a potpourri than the volumes that preceded it, with incomprehensible references and baffling diagrams but heavy with nostalgia for those who remember that more innocent age.”

Book review: Remember Me, by Trezza Azzopardi

Nigel Rodenhurst, part-time lecturer in English, Aberystwyth University, is reading Trezza Azzopardi’s Remember Me (Picador, 2004). “Azzopardi’s tale of a confused and dispossessed vagrant living in an abandoned shop in Norwich combines human and literary themes of identity, exile, persecution and loss with a narrative that relies on flashbacks and scattered memories to recreate the traumatised consciousness of the heroine. This novel is a page-turner that also happens to be sad, true and extremely vivid.”

Book review: Orfeo, by Richard Powers

Jon Turney, senior visiting fellow in the department of science and technology studies, University College London, is reading Richard Powers’ Orfeo (Atlantic, 2014). “Having just finished writing a book on the human microbiome, I keep finding the subject popping up in others’ books where I hadn’t expected it – just now in the effortlessly polymathic Richard Powers’ brilliant new novel, which is mainly about music, and also in Diane Ackerman’s The Human Age: The World Shaped by Us, a paean to human inventiveness as we enter the Anthropocene era.”

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