What are you reading? – 31 March 2016

A weekly look over the shoulders of our scholar-reviewers

March 31, 2016
Book open on table

Sir David Bell, vice-chancellor, University of Reading, is reading Denise Mina’s Blood, Salt, Water (Orion, 2016). “With a PhD in criminology, Denise Mina has turned her formidable intellect not to academia but to writing, among other things, West of Scotland crime novels. And a good thing too, as her stories are brilliantly constructed and fiendishly clever. No more so than Blood, Salt, Water, which features Detective Inspector Alex Morrow discovering the dark, drug-related side of genteel Helensburgh.”

Paul Greatrix, registrar, University of Nottingham, is reading Gruff Rhys’ American Interior (Penguin, 2015). “Myth and reality collide in this record of an expedition by the musician Gruff Rhys to follow in the footsteps of the remarkable 18th-century farmhand-turned-explorer John Evans. The narrative (and accompanying album) cover the history of both tours into the heart of the American interior in search of a legendary tribe of Welsh-speaking Native Americans. An extraordinary tale.”

Tabish Khair, associate professor of literature, Aarhus University, Denmark, is reading Elleke Boehmer’s Indian Arrivals 1870-1915: Networks of British Empire (Oxford University Press, 2015). “Boehmer is an authority on post-colonial literatures and an accomplished novelist. This combination makes for a lucid study of the complicated – but not necessarily riven – landscape of intercultural contacts between Britons and Indians on British soil at the height of the Empire. Focusing on both famous ‘arrivants’ (such as Tagore and Gandhi) and lesser-known ones, this is a luminous literary history.”

Sinéad Moynihan, senior lecturer in 20th-century literature, University of Exeter, is reading The Edinburgh Companion to Nineteenth-Century American Letters and Letter-Writing (Edinburgh University Press, 2016), edited by Celeste-Marie Bernier, Judie Newman and Matthew Pethers. “There really is something for everyone in this hugely impressive collection of essays: discussions of the importance of letters to US migrant histories; materialist histories of postal systems and direct mail marketing (of ideas, as well as of goods); and the significance of letters to literary culture. From treatments of the (relatively) arcane to canonical texts, the range is simply staggering.”

Sharon Wheeler, visiting lecturer in journalism, Birmingham City University, is reading James Ward’s Adventures in Stationery: A Journey through Your Pencil Case (Profile Books, 2015). “My name is Sharon and I’m a stationery addict. And so too is James Ward, who has an eye for the quirky fact and anecdote. I am currently beaming happily in a fuzzy warm cloud of nostalgia. Anyway, I can’t hang around here chatting all day – there are pens and notebooks to dribble over unbecomingly. A woman can never have too many of either…”

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