What are you reading? – 29 March 2018

A weekly look over the shoulders of our scholar-reviewers

March 29, 2018
Person reading books in library
Source: Alamy

Annmarie Adams, professor of architecture and social studies of medicine, McGill University, is reading Maggie Berg and Barbara K. Seeber’s The Slow Professor: Challenging the Culture of Speed in the Academy (University of Toronto Press, 2016). “I generally avoid self-help books, but this slim volume, inspired by the Slow Food movement, is such a delicious and necessary read for those of us who feel we’re never reading, publishing, advising, administering or teaching enough. It’s a beautifully written call to action, distinctively peppered with personal anecdotes and scholarly references. Major points include the dangerous celebration of overwork in many universities; the important role of emotions in good teaching; the ways certain kinds of research are prioritised over others; and the deep value of co-authorship. Just as we need to slow down and taste our food, we also need to work thoughtfully, which takes time and focus.”

Kalwant Bhopal, professor of education and social justice, University of Birmingham, is reading Paul Beatty’s The Sellout (Oneworld, 2017). “‘This may be hard to believe, coming from a black man, but I’ve never stolen anything. Never cheated on my taxes or at cards. Never snuck into the movies or failed to give back the extra change to a drugstore cashier…’ and on it goes. Reading these opening lines of the prologue to The Sellout, I knew I was in for a treat. But I never imagined this book would make me laugh out loud the way it did! The lacerating satire attacks how racism has shaped black America through the legacy of slavery and segregation. The book is an explosion of humour and racial and cultural provocation; it challenges the reader to question the meaning of racial inequality and black identity in America. It seems even more relevant in the age of Trump. Beatty is a genius!”

Sir David Eastwood, vice-chancellor, University of Birmingham, is reading Chris Bonington’s Ascent: A Life Spent Climbing on the Edge (Simon and Schuster, 2017). “Bonington more or less invented the modern idea of the professional mountaineer through writing, lectures, endorsements and sponsored expeditions. (Predictably, he was later derided by those whose careers he had made possible for being excessively commercial, ruthless and media-driven.) Here he locates his career within the history of climbing. His achievements were huge: the first British ascent of the north face of the Eiger; massive expeditions to conquer the south face of Annapurna and the south-west face of Everest; a later return to Alpine-style expeditions; and a demonstrable love of the epic nature of his sport. There is quiet reflection here, genuine sadness at the loss and tragedy he has witnessed, and a huge affection for Lancaster University, where he was chancellor for a decade. A remarkable life recollected in something approaching tranquillity.”

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