What are you reading? – 14 April 2016

A weekly look over the shoulders of our scholar-reviewers

April 14, 2016
Circle of closely-grouped books photographed from above

Sir David Bell, vice-chancellor, University of Reading, is reading Ann Treneman’s All In This Together: My Five Years as a Political Stalker (Robson Press, 2015). “Being a parliamentary sketchwriter is unbelievably hard. You have to be knowledgeable, topical, witty and informative – all in 600 words. In that respect, Ann Treneman of The Times was the doyenne of the trade, as seen in this account. Put aside serious history for a moment. If you want to know what the coalition government was really like, read this.”

Peter Paul Catterall, reader in history, University of Westminster, is reading W. Somerset Maugham’s Cakes and Ale (Vintage Classics, 2000). “Replete with mordant wit and acute observations of the appalling conventions of late Victorian Britain through which social gradations were subtly policed as if ‘by Laws of Nature’, in its bitchiness about the literary world of the period this novel also reminds me all too accurately of academia in the era of the research excellence framework.”

Megan Crawford, professor of education and director of Plymouth University’s Institute of Education, is reading Will Ellsworth-Jones’ We Will Not Fight: The Untold Story of World War One’s Conscientious Objectors (Aurum Press, 2008). “I have recently set myself a task to explore parts of our history that I know little about. I had a family friend who was a conscientious objector in the Second World War, but I had never really thought about how this status happened. On a recent visit to Imperial War Museum North in Salford I acquired this book, which reveals the story of Bert Brocklesby and others like him, who voiced unpopular beliefs in wartime. Definitely recommended!”

R. C. Richardson, emeritus professor of history, University of Winchester, is rereading George Sturt’s The Wheelwright’s Shop (Cambridge University Press, 2000). “This 1923 book is the most famous of the retrospectives on the English countryside produced by this Surrey author. Much is of a technical nature and the glossary of terms at the end has to be frequently consulted. But it is the elegiac observations on the passing of a traditional way of life, traditional values, and of old-style employer/workman relations that stand out most clearly.”

Sharon Wheeler, visiting lecturer in media studies, Birmingham City University, is reading Richard Tomlinson’s Amazing Grace: The Man Who Was W. G. (Little, Brown, 2015). “Tomlinson deserves the applause of the crowd for his biography of W. G. Grace, the big chap with the beard who was probably the first celebrity sports star. He’s delved into newly digitised archives and come up with a tremendous book that sheds light on Victorian England and a man who counted a US Civil War general and the Prince of Wales’ mistress among his fans.”

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