The week in books

October 2, 2008

Travelling Heroes: Greeks and their Myths in the Epic Age of Homer by Robin Lane Fox, reader in ancient history, University of Oxford. Allen Lane, £25.00, ISBN 9780713999808

"(Lane Fox's) arguments rest on a virtuoso but ultimately rather fragile display of erudition. They will enthral those who wish to be seduced. They will provoke and infuriate (rather than seriously annoy) many of his colleagues. And they will presumably make him a 'travelling hero' with the local tourist board on the island of Evia."

Mary Beard, Financial Times

Masters and Commanders: How Roosevelt, Churchill, Marshall and Alanbrooke won the War in the West by Andrew Roberts, honorary senior scholar in modern history, University of Cambridge. Allen Lane, £25.00, ISBN 9780713999693

"Given the popularity of the period, Roberts has done exceptionally well to unearth some new material, notably the verbatim notes taken of the British War Cabinet meetings by its assistant secretary, Lawrence Burgis, and similar notes of full Cabinet meetings, which were released only in 2007."

Saul David, The Sunday Telegraph

Why There Almost Certainly is a God: Doubting Dawkins by Keith Ward, Regius professor emeritus of divinity, University of Oxford. Lion Hudson, £7.99, ISBN 9780745953304

"Ward uses one of science's finest achievements - the discovery of the bizarre quantum world - as a weapon with which to undermine the materialist world-view championed by Dawkins. The appealing simplicity of the latter evaporates when you look at the building blocks of the universe closely. The fact that modern physics' best theories about the universe are verifiable experimentally counts in their favour, but Ward only needs you to concede that his 'God hypothesis' is simpler to have exposed a chink in Dawkins' armour."

Laurence Phelan, The Independent on Sunday

The Slave Ship: A Human History by Marcus Rediker, professor and chair in the department of history, University of Pittsburgh. John Murray, £9.99, ISBN 9780719563034

"One wants context. What did slave-trading Christian gentlemen, like the otherwise philanthropic MP and governor of the Bank of England, Humphry Morice, believe? Rediker is also light on the reasons for the trade - profit and greed - and on the economics of it and its sordid ships. He cautions that if he has done 'any justice to the subject', this will be 'a painful book to read'. Even with its faults of omission, so it proves."

Ross Leckie, The Times

Balti Britain: A Journey Through the British Asian Experience by Ziauddin Sardar, visiting professor of post-colonial studies, City University. Granta Books, £20.00, ISBN 9781862079311

"Balti Britain tells the history of Asians in the UK, from the 17th century to 7/7 and the terrorism arrests of the last few years, mingled with a history of his family's arrival in Britain. Sardar's recurring theme is that a nation that doesn't explain its imperial past is haunted by it."

Jeevan Vasagar, The Guardian.

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