What are you reading? – 23 June 2016

A weekly look over the shoulders of our scholar-reviewers

June 23, 2016
Books open on table

Carina Buckley, instructional design manager, Southampton Solent University, is reading Elena Ferrante’s My Brilliant Friend (Europa Editions, 2012). “The friendship between Lila and Elena is compelling, competitive and all-encompassing, the touchstone of Elena’s life, and the reader can’t help but be drawn in. But although we are urged on by the breathless writing style and rich layers of details, delicious and complex, this is a book that leaves the reader as stupefied and dazed as a huge bowl of pasta.”

Hazel Christie, lecturer in university learning and teaching, University of Edinburgh, is reading Benjamin Wood’s The Bellwether Revivals (Simon & Schuster, 2012). “What’s not to love about a splendidly far-fetched insight into how the wealthy and privileged spend their time at Cambridge? Here, two worlds collide: that of Oscar, a care worker from a humble family, and the affluent Bellwether siblings and their coterie of college friends. Cue love over Descartes, a good dose of narcissism and murder in the organ house.”

Sue Reeves, principal lecturer in nutrition and health, University of Roehampton, is reading Mike Gibney’s Ever Seen a Fat Fox? Human Obesity Explored (University College Dublin Press, 2016). “Perhaps you think obesity is a simple result of people eating too much. While the role of overeating cannot be dismissed, this book explains the biological and social complexity surrounding the epidemic. In an erudite and entertaining way, Gibney investigates why only humans and domesticated animals get fat and hunts for a solution to an ever-growing global problem.”

R. C. Richardson, emeritus professor of history, University of Winchester, has been reading Louis B. Wright’s Barefoot in Arcadia: Memories of a More Innocent Era (University of South Carolina Press, 1974). “Here one of the most eminent American historians of his generation recalls – through rose-tinted hindsight – the rural South Carolina of his youth. Nostalgic anecdotes, homespun philosophy and gentle humour abound. (Dealing with stubborn cows and horses as a boy was good preparation for academic life, he says!) This is not simply autobiography but a defence of a coherent and integrated lost world and its values.”

Peter J. Smith, reader in Renaissance literature, Nottingham Trent University, is reading The Shakespeare Circle: An Alternative Biography (Cambridge University Press, 2015), edited by Paul Edmonson and Stanley Wells. “This collection focuses on those who surrounded William Shakespeare: family, neighbours, patrons, players and rival playwrights. It’s a compelling mixture of ‘the intimacy of daily life as it was lived out’ and detailed accounts of patronage, the wool trade, Elizabethan litigiousness and so on. The editors are refreshingly candid about the instability of biography itself: ‘Imagination is needed if we are to bring the information we have about another human being to life.’”

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