What are you reading? – 28 July 2016

A weekly look over the shoulders of our scholar-reviewers

July 28, 2016
Woman reading book and drinking tea on bed
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Daniel Binney, postgraduate administrator, department of history, Classics and archaeology, Birkbeck, University of London, is reading Hugo Drochon’s Nietzsche’s Great Politics (Princeton University Press, 2016). “Who would not welcome ‘Nietzsche’ and ‘politics’ appearing together? But this book is not so much a reclamation of his thinking on the subject as a reconstruction of the development of political thinking in the philosopher’s works, so often missed by those who require thinking and expression less profound to make sense of such. Coherent, detailed and balanced.”

Mary Evans, centennial professor in the Gender Institute, London School of Economics, is reading Margo Jefferson’s Negroland: A Memoir (Granta, 2016). “Negroland is an unusual contribution to the history of African Americans: an account of the lives of materially ‘comfortable’ black citizens. But the fierce and vicious range of racism remained even though Jefferson was privileged by birth and remains privileged by profession. However, the book suggests no assumption of that entitlement known to white people in the same situation as Jefferson’s family. As this makes clear, the social walls made by racism were considerable.”

Sir John Holman, emeritus professor of chemistry, University of York, is reading Sarah Bakewell’s At the Existentialist Café: Freedom, Being and Apricot Cocktails (Chatto & Windus, 2016). “I initially turned to this book for insights into authenticity and the nature of being. It turns out to be a tour not only of phenomenology and existentialism but of 20th-century European history in general, told through intimate insights into Sartre, de Beauvoir, Heidegger and friends, their interminable quarrels and their energetic sexual and intellectual lives.”

Richard Joyner, emeritus professor of chemistry, Nottingham Trent University, is reading Groovy Science: Knowledge, Innovation and American Counterculture (University of Chicago Press, 2016), edited by David Kaiser and W. Patrick McCray. “The hippy counterculture of 1970s America was profoundly anti-science. Not so, or at least not always, argue the contributors to this sparkling volume. Proponents of groovy science included Abraham Maslow, the Esalen Institute, John C. Lilly, Timothy Leary, the Whole Earth Catalog, the University of California, Santa Barbara physics department, artisanal cheese makers and, surprisingly, Hugh Hefner. Tune in and turn on.”

R. C. Richardson, emeritus professor of history, University of Winchester, has been reading Special Relationships: People and Places by the late Asa Briggs (Frontline Books, 2012). “This joins together – not altogether seamlessly – lively autobiographical reflections with reminiscences of some of those Briggs knew over a very long, richly varied, pioneering and successful career as academic historian and university administrator. His quintessential provincialism and global interests and connections are neatly juxtaposed. Insights abound, though at times there is perhaps too much name-dropping and self-congratulation.”

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