What are you reading? – 22 February 2018

A weekly look over the shoulders of our scholar-reviewers

February 22, 2018
Pile of books
Source: iStock

Sir David Bell, vice-chancellor, University of Reading, is reading John Grisham’s The Rooster Bar (Hodder & Stoughton, 2018). “The expansion of low-cost, private universities in the US has been a matter of significant controversy in both political and policy circles. Tales abound of over-hyped marketing, high dropout rates, poor job prospects and massive student debt. But what better way to bring these issues into the wider public domain than by making them the centrepiece of the latest John Grisham novel? Mark, Todd and Zola have all been burned by enrolling in the not-very-prestigious Foggy Bottom Law School, owned by a hedge fund billionaire. The three erstwhile law students decide to take him on and quickly find themselves in deep water. Grisham might not often feature in these pages, but which other writer has the reach to popularise a major higher education story?”


Harriet Dunbar-Morris, associate pro vice-chancellor, University of Portsmouth, is reading Emma Healey’s Elizabeth Is Missing (Penguin, 2015). “This is a book‑club choice, and not one I would have picked up myself. Narrated by the main character, it mixes the present-day story of Maud, an 82-year-old woman suffering from dementia, with her earlier life as a young girl whose sister has gone missing. The depiction of a character with dementia seems very true to life, and the narrative technique attempts to make the reader feel just as lost and confused. I am not sure it quite works, and sometimes I felt as irritated as Maud’s long-suffering daughter. The sense of relief when the two storylines were finally joined up! Healey could have done with a few Post‑it notes in her pockets (Maud’s strategy for dealing with her failing memory) to remind her what she was supposed to be doing.”


Richard Joyner, emeritus professor of chemistry, Nottingham Trent University, is reading Thomasina Miers’ Home Cook: Over 300 Delicious, Fuss-free Recipes (Guardian Books/Faber and Faber, 2017). “In 2005, Thomasina Miers won the first BBC series of Masterchef to be judged by John Torode and Gregg Wallace, and her speciality is Mexican food. Home Cook , though, is a general book targeted at the ambitious amateur. The ‘fuss-free’ recipes look relatively easy to follow, while using lots of spices and other ingredients. I hope that these can be pruned to match what my online supermarket provides! Miers has developed a broad culinary philosophy and also learned the myriad small details that make for success in the kitchen. She communicates both brilliantly. I value a new cookbook if even one recipe finds a regular place on our table. So far, my money is on Vietnamese-style crab pancakes and strawberry sorbet with dark ginger biscuits.”

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