What are you reading? – 13 August 2015

A weekly look over the shoulders of our scholar-reviewers

August 13, 2015
Books on bookshelf

Carina Buckley, learning skills tutor at Southampton Solent University, is reading NoViolet Bulawayo’s We Need New Names (Vintage, 2013). “Ten-year-old Darling and her friends live in Paradise, a Zimbabwean slum of hunger, heat, death and games. But when she finally reaches the America of her dreams, she becomes a stranger in two countries, at home in neither. With powerful imagery and a convincing child’s outlook, Bulawayo neatly dissects the meanings of belonging and alienation, and their impact.”

Jerome de Groot, senior lecturer in English literature, University of Manchester, is reading Mark Fisher’s Ghosts of My Life: Writings on Depression, Hauntology and Lost Futures (Zero, 2013). “Fisher’s analysis of the vagaries of late capitalism – following his highly influential Capitalist Realism in 2009 – continues with this essay collection. His interests include place, nostalgia, music and film, and the book provides a pretty bleak snapshot of society and culture over the past decade or so. Its concluding essay considers Patrick Keiller, and Fisher shares much of Keiller’s fierce intelligence and thoughtful, perceptive parallel thinking about the way culture is configured.”

Catherine Goetze, senior lecturer in international relations, University of Sussex, is reading Angela Lehmann’s Transnational Lives in China: Expatriates in a Globalizing City (Palgrave Macmillan, 2014). “Lehmann investigates a neglected aspect of China’s economic rise: the influx of foreign professionals. She resourcefully analyses how these mostly young, mostly highly educated, mostly single foreigners cope with culture shock, and how the China experience fits into their life itineraries. They rarely return ‘home’ and constitute a new class of globalised migrants that deserves more attention from social sciences.”

Peter Goodhew, emeritus professor of engineering, University of Liverpool, is reading Matthew Frank’s If I Should Die (Penguin, 2014). “This debut novel won the Waverton Good Read Award for 2014-15. It is at first sight an ordinary page-turning thriller whose protagonist is a veteran of Afghanistan, but Frank shows great insight into the after-effects of violence in war on subsequent behaviour as a civilian. I was engaged and I learned something, both essential aspects of a good novel for me.”

Martin James, professor of music industries, Southampton Solent University, is reading John Doran’s Jolly Lad (Strange Attractor Press, 2015). “A music journalist’s tales of alcoholism, drug addiction and mental illness? Surely the stuff of self-absorbed drudgery. In lesser hands, it could have been a dull redemption story, but Doran’s writing is anything but prosaic. In reality this addiction memoir is as compelling as it is poetic. Drawing on his obsessions, from extreme music to hard liquor to the promotional tour for this book, he weaves a story of deeply observed and brilliantly conveyed self-doubting reflection.”

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