What are you reading? – 15 October 2015

A weekly look over the shoulders of our scholar-reviewers

October 15, 2015
Pile of books on grass, summertime

Sir David Eastwood, vice-chancellor, University of Birmingham, is reading The Economist (weekly, first published September 1843). “When I was a teenager I read The Observer avidly and felt, with justification, that I was informed about and understood what was happening elsewhere in the world. The insularity, and often triviality, of our press means that this kind of coverage is mostly a thing of the past. Uniquely, now, The Economist offers a window on the world and a quality of journalism that demands engagement and reflection, without, of course, requiring assent.”

Matthew Feldman, professor in the modern history of ideas, Teesside University, is reading Paul Stewart’s Now Then (Armida, 2014). “Powerfully written debut novel by a noted Beckett scholar. Shades of the Irishman’s opacity abound in this psychologically deft account of a week’s remorseless descent into near-madness. Shards of often-unreliable memories cut progressively deeper each day, as the narrator’s past failings drag his present into an accusatory darkness. Heavy-going, but well worth the effort.”

Elke Heins, lecturer in social policy, University of Edinburgh, is reading Ted Schrecker and Clare Bambra’s How Politics Makes Us Sick: Neoliberal Epidemics (Palgrave Macmillan, 2015). “A compelling narrative of the ill-health effects of neoliberalism and its by-products of social inequality and market and social insecurity. Rich in up-to-date empirical data, it introduces the general reader to a political economy approach to understanding health and its unequal distribution. Demonstrating the political and thus non-inevitable character of many worrying trends such as rising obesity and stress rates, it points to real alternatives to policies that are typically justified by claiming ‘there is no alternative’.”

R. C. Richardson, emeritus professor of history, University of Winchester, is reading Simon Winchester’s A Crack in the Edge of the World: America and the Great California Earthquake of 1906 (HarperCollins, 2006). “Winchester, who is a geologist by training, places 1906 within a much longer chronology, before and after. He devotes more space to consequences than to causes – the devastating fire that immediately followed, the fillip given to the growth of Los Angeles and to Pentecostalism, and (more disagreeably) to xenophobia against Chinese residents of the city and would-be immigrants.”

Sharon Wheeler, visiting lecturer in journalism, Birmingham City University, is reading Martin Walker’s The Dying Season (Quercus, 2015). “The author, a former Guardian correspondent, has claimed a bucolic niche in the overcrowded crime fiction field, focusing on a village policeman in rural France. Walker’s lavish descriptions of meals may verge on food porn, but he makes shrewd use of his political knowledge to provide a steely backbone on France’s troubled history, albeit with Cold War information dumps that slow up the already leisurely action.”

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