What are you reading? – 4 August 2016

A weekly look over the shoulders of our scholar-reviewers

August 4, 2016
Person sat reading book at table
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Tim Hall, professor of interdisciplinary social studies and head of the department of applied social sciences, University of Winchester, is reading Danny Dorling and Carl Lee’s Geography (Profile Books, 2016). “A small book but one that is majestic in its temporal and geographical sweep. Dorling and Lee challenge the traditional division of academic geography into its human and physical subsections and argue for an integrated geographical perspective. They propose a popular critical geography. At times, the shift from global horizon scanning to the very specific is a little disorienting. However, this is the story of how the planet got to where we are today and why geography, which ‘glues all of our worries together’, can help us find a way out of this mess.”

Lucy Bolton, senior lecturer in film studies, Queen Mary University of London, is reading Hadley Freeman’s Life Moves Pretty Fast: The Lessons We Learned from Eighties Movies (and Why We Don’t Learn Them From Movies Any More) (Fourth Estate, 2016). “It’s so evocative of the decade and is bringing back such sweet and bittersweet memories about dreams and fantasies as well as real experiences and emotions. Freeman analyses the way that gender, race and class work in 1980s movies such as Pretty in Pink and Ghostbusters, and uncovers how they are so much more fascinating than their cultural sidelining suggests. Freeman has shown me that Dirty Dancing is more subversive, dangerous and profound than I remembered, and that Nora Ephron was never a Woody Allen imitation. This is a passionate immersion in a decade of movies that deserves to be regarded more highly.”

John Shand, associate lecturer in philosophy at the Open University, is reading Sebastian Faulks’ Engleby (Vintage, 2008). “I find it hard to remember in recent times reading, among books new to me, another as well written and intelligent as this. To keep one engaged with what is in many ways an unattractive protagonist is quite an achievement. The sense of place, in this case Cambridge and London mainly, is acutely captured and strewn with head-nodding acknowledgeable detail. The protagonist, Engleby, is redeemed by his often clear-eyed view of others and their failings, matched disturbingly, for the most part, by an almost total lack of understanding of himself. The book gripped me from start to finish.”

Sharon Wheeler, visiting lecturer in media studies, Birmingham City University, is reading Ken Bruen’s The Emerald Lie (Mysterious Press, 2016). “I’ve been reduced to reading a lot of the strangely lyrical Jack Taylor series through my fingers as Bruen tests how low a man can fall. Forget the TV adaptation and read the books – but start at the beginning or they’ll make no sense whatsoever. Twelve books in and the unconventional private investigator is still righting wrongs with the help of some even more out of the ordinary sidekicks – this time it’s a chap bumping people off for crimes against grammar. Bruen’s prose is spare and his take on the seedy side of Galway probably turns the tourist board puce.”

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