What are you reading? – 16 May 2019

A weekly look over the shoulders of our scholar-reviewers

May 16, 2019
Stack of books

Sir David Bell, vice-chancellor and chief executive of the University of Sunderland, is reading Chris Mullin’s Hinterland (Profile, 2016). “Retired MP Chris Mullin is well known for his gently waspish diaries from the New Labour era, building on his reputation as a political novelist. He was a doughty campaigner, too, helping to free those unjustly convicted of terrorist offences in the 1970s. Now he has written his autobiography. Like the man himself, the book is self-deprecating and funny, as Mullin is an acute observer of everything going on around him. He was also an assiduous representative of his constituents, reminding us of the value of this aspect of elected office. While politics often seems to exist in a bubble, this book is testimony to the value of maintaining a hinterland and a broad range of interests. A lesson in life for all.”

Karen McAulay, performing arts librarian and postdoctoral researcher at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, is reading Jamie Thom’s Slow Teaching: On Finding Calm, Clarity and Impact in the Classroom (John Catt Educational, 2018). “Since completing a postgraduate certificate in higher arts education a couple of years ago, I’ve taken a greater interest in pedagogical matters, while a chapter on effective revision particularly attracted my attention as a parent! Although the author writes from a secondary rather than tertiary education perspective, the title itself appealed to me, breathing a more mindful, measured approach to teaching. Having himself experienced burnout after a rapid progression to managerial status, Jamie Thom urges the reader to prepare, deliver and mark with thoughtful deliberation, not aspiring to set the world aflame by placing unreasonable demands upon oneself – a valuable message for anyone embarking on a teaching career. Twenty-one chapters appear under seven different headings, including planning, classroom strategies and CPD. The book ends with a comprehensive and very current bibliography. Recommended.”

Stephen Halliday, senior member of Pembroke College, Cambridge, is reading David Macpherson’s Marie de St Pol (CreateSpace, 2018). “This account of the Countess of Pembroke, founder in 1347 of one of Cambridge’s oldest and most revered colleges, is based on facts that are known or can reasonably be surmised. For a woman of the 14th century, Marie is quite well documented and comes across as a person of considerable enterprise as well as piety. She lived through the turbulent reign of Edward II, of whom her husband – Aymer de Valence, Earl of Pembroke – was a prominent and long-suffering supporter, and she was comforted in her 50-year widowhood by Elizabeth de Clare, whose endowment of Clare College in memory of her own husband probably influenced Marie to found Pembroke in memory of Aymer. She created the first Cambridge college chapel (later a library and still in daily use). A comforting reminder that the legacies of medieval women sometimes outlasted those of male warriors and politicians.”

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