What are you reading? – 21 January 2016

A weekly look over the shoulders of our scholar-reviewers

January 21, 2016
Book open on table

Sir David Bell, vice-chancellor, University of Reading, is reading Selina Todd’s The People: The Rise and Fall of the Working Class 1910-2010 (John Murray, 2014). “Corbynistas everywhere will enjoy this. It is polemical at the same time as being compelling, serious and scholarly. Todd defines ‘working class’ very broadly, and that is both a strength and a weakness. In addition, the workers always seem to be acting collectively, even when they don’t know it. A kind of false consciousness, perhaps?”

Thom Brooks, professor of law and government, Durham University, is reading Dan Jarvis’ Why Vote Labour 2015 (Biteback, 2014). “A collection of crisp essays making the case for a Labour government under Ed Miliband. How differently everything turned out. But a nonetheless fascinating guide to the One Nation Labour that almost was, and where the party must rebuild.”

Carina Buckley, learning skills tutor, Southampton Solent University, is reading Muriel Barbery’s The Elegance of the Hedgehog (Gallic Books, 2009). “In a smart Parisian apartment building, the concierge has a secret. Beneath a carefully gruff exterior beats a love for culture and the arts, and Renée knows far more of, and thinks more about, the world than any of her residents. Warm, wry and painful, this is a book about dreams and ambitions, and the exquisite risks they bring with them.”

George Roddam Currie, emeritus lecturer in education, University of Glasgow, is reading, yet again, Lord Russell of Liverpool’s The Scourge of the Swastika: A Short History of Nazi War Crimes (Pen & Sword, 2013). “First published in 1954, this pocket-sized book remains an authoritative and evidential source of the horrors of the Holocaust that is well in keeping with the vast tomes of the present day that demand to be weighed rather than read. A benchmark classic that deals effectively with Hannah Arendt’s ‘banality of evil’ and should be read by all, especially as we approach Holocaust Memorial Day on 27 January. This year’s theme is ‘Don’t Stand by’.”

R. C. Richardson, emeritus professor of history, University of Winchester, is reading Walter Johnson’s Gilbert White (Macdonald Futura, 1981). “First published in 1928, this book’s reprint is now doubly retrospective. It offers an astute but usually defensive and affectionate portrait of the author of The Natural History of Selborne and proceeds in a systematic, leisurely way to take stock of different aspects of his life, context and subject matter, especially the teeming variety of nature that inspired him. The striking juxtaposition between White’s evocative prose and stilted poetry is underlined.”

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