What are you reading? – 24 March 2016

A weekly look over the shoulders of our scholar-reviewers

March 24, 2016
Books on bookshelf

Sir David Bell, vice-chancellor, University of Reading, is reading Paul Theroux’s Deep South: Four Seasons on Back Roads (Penguin, 2016). “Theroux turns his masterly travel writer’s eye to his own country. Eschewing major cities and conurbations, his journeys across the rural and small towns of states such as Arkansas, Mississippi and Alabama introduce us to a colourful range of characters and traditions. But there is no sentimentality here. This is America in the raw. Poor, racially segregated, isolated – ‘the past persisting’, in Theroux’s captivating phrase.”


Lynsey Hopkins, head of admissions, University of Sheffield, is reading Tracy Farr’s The Life and Loves of Lena Gaunt (Aardvark Bureau, 2016). “When I picked up a novel about an octogenarian, heroin-addicted theremin virtuoso, I feared that it might try too hard to be unusual and surprising. Although it’s both of those things, at heart it’s a moving exploration of the universal themes of love, loss, grief, belonging and loneliness, told in an economical prose all the more effective for being understated.”


Aminul Hoque, lecturer in education, Goldsmiths, University of London, is reading Robert Leiken’s Europe’s Angry Muslims: The Revolt of the Second Generation (Oxford University Press, 2012, 2016). “Just reread this very important book. With all the chaos going on around us, Leiken’s in-depth analysis describes why some European Muslims are ‘angry’ and disaffected. Leiken speaks of the ‘post migrant marginal man’ who ‘finds himself suspended between two cultures, neither of which offers him secure footing’. A very insightful book that needs to be read by all.”


Janet Sayers, emeritus professor of psychoanalytic psychology, University of Kent, is reading Gill Gregory’s The Studio: A Psychoanalytic Legacy (Free Association Books, 2015). “Accompanied by illuminating quotes from volumes of Freud bequeathed by her father, and beautiful reproductions of works of art bequeathed to the Tate by her uncle, Gregory’s account details the impact on her and her family of her older brother’s childhood epilepsy and early death. The result is one of the most moving books I have come across in a long time.”


Sharon Wheeler, visiting lecturer in journalism, Birmingham City University, is reading Ragnar Jonasson’s Nightblind (Orenda, 2016). “I’ve always fancied living in Iceland – particularly once I discovered that the Christmas Eve tradition is to disappear to bed early with a new book and chocolate! Jonasson, who has translated Agatha Christie into Icelandic, unwraps intense and classy Nordic noir set in the back of beyond with an unforgettable cast. It’s traditional, yet also thoroughly modern, crime fiction at its best.”

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