What are you reading? – 19 April 2018

A weekly look over the shoulders of our scholar-reviewers

April 19, 2018

Lincoln Allison, emeritus reader in politics, University of Warwick, is reading Mikiso Hane’s Japan: A Short History (Oneworld, 2013). “When in Tokyo...I am one of many who must read the history of the country they are in and Hane’s version is the leading contender for Japan. He was a Californian of Japanese extraction who lived from 1922 to 2003. If you want to know how a Shogunate became an empire or how the world’s friendliest and politest people have sometimes seemed to be the world’s cruellest, then his balanced account of the religious and military strains in Japanese culture will help. It is, however, a bald, if convincing, narrative. It is not well written and there is no sense of the author having any kind of grand and clear vision of Japanese history. To use a word I have rarely used in book reviews, it is functional; it serves its purpose.”

R. C. Richardson, emeritus professor of history, University of Winchester, is reading Pamela Sambrook’s The Servants’ Story: Managing a Great Country House (Amberley Publishing, 2016). “This administrative and social study by a well-seasoned writer on servant life deals chiefly with Trentham, Staffordshire, the flagship country house and estate of the enormously wealthy and extravagant Dukes of Sutherland in the first half of the 19th century. An extensive and varied surviving family archive enables employer-servant relations to be brought into sharp focus and there are illuminating portraits of individual land agents and sub agents, house stewards, housekeepers, nurses and housemaids, among them some servant dynasties. But it is at times a plodding and repetitive book. The same personal stories are retold from different angles; it is inadequately indexed; and it is marred by careless proof-reading.”

Ella-Mae Hubbard, senior lecturer in systems engineering, Loughborough University, is reading Richard E. Mayer’s Computer Games for Learning: An Evidence-based Approach (MIT Press, 2014). “Using games in education is not a new idea – it was first considered about 50 years ago. However, it seems to be becoming more prevalent, so perhaps this book is timely. It interests me because I really want to understand how to incorporate computer games into learning effectively. They need to be engaging, clearly addressing key learning objectives, and also fun. I confess that I was also hoping to find scientific evidence that playing computer games is basically learning, giving me a good excuse to play more! Yet a cautionary note runs through the book: don’t use games for the sake of it – and if you are going to use them, plan well and understand what you’re trying to achieve.”

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