What are you reading? – 22 October 2015

A weekly look over the shoulders of our scholar-reviewers

October 22, 2015
Books on bookshelf

Thom Brooks, professor of law and government, Durham University, is reading Robert Hutton’s Would They Lie to You? How to Spin Friends and Manipulate People (Elliott & Thompson, 2014). “This book is the ultimate codebreaker guide to doublespeak, uncommunication and undamaged control used too often in politics. A must-read for any aspiring politician – or anyone wanting to understand what they’re saying.”

Carina Buckley, learning skills tutor, Southampton Solent University, is reading Helen Zahavi’s Dirty Weekend (Macmillan, 1991). “The publication uproar described this book as immoral, brilliant, violent, brave, depraved. I didn’t know any of that before I read it. I do know, now, that I don’t like it. Not a bit. The prose is choppy, repetitive, at times poetically rhythmic, but in the sense that a migraine can also have a beat. It’s angry, fearful and dated.”

Sir David Eastwood, vice-chancellor, University of Birmingham, is reading Iain Banks’ Raw Spirit: In Search of the Perfect Dram (Arrow, 2004). “I was given this by a good friend and fellow vice-chancellor. A wonderful holiday read. Banks was wrong about foreign policy and had execrable musical taste. He was right about cars and great roads, rapidly becoming illicit pleasures; and brilliant on his central theme, malt whiskies and that elusive alchemy that makes them one of life’s great pleasures. Enjoy the book’s peaty textures with a dash of water and savour its long finish.”

Matthew Feldman, professor in the modern history of ideas, Teesside University, is reading Masoud Banisadr’s Destructive and Terrorist Cults: A New Kind of Slavery (Research Institute on Destructive Cults, 2014). “Are ISIS and al-Qaeda death cults? Is this ‘parasitic milieu’ analogous to better-known enslavements involving chains and lashes? Absolutely, according to Banisadr, a survivor of Iran’s Mujahedin-e Khalq. With scientific precision, the dynamics of both well-known and obscure hermetic groups are examined, with ideology, ‘brainwashing’ techniques and charismatic leadership stressed. His conclusion? It could happen to anyone. Impressive and chilling reading.”

Sharon Wheeler, visiting lecturer in journalism, Birmingham City University, is reading A. D. Miller’s The Faithful Couple (Little, Brown, 2015). “Two lads from different backgrounds meet on a post-university tour of the US. Something happens that will haunt them for the next 20-odd years. Except it’s not that strong a hook and you spend most of the book waiting for something to happen. I’m not sure Miller nails male friendship, but he does loads better on urban atmosphere and end of the century angst.”

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