What are you reading? – 3 December 2015

A weekly look over the shoulders of our scholar-reviewers

December 3, 2015
Book open on table

Janet Beer, vice-chancellor of the University of Liverpool, is reading Robert Galbraith’s Career of Evil (Little, Brown, 2015). “The third outing for Galbraith’s private detective Cormoran Strike is as carefully crafted, in its nicely judged prose and finely tuned plot, as the previous two. Galbraith doesn’t spare the detail of the killings and mutilations perpetrated by a sadistic serial killer, but the greater horror attaches to the revelations of the terrible mundanity and frequency of everyday as well as extraordinary cruelty. His strength lies in the grim portrayal of the practice of evil by many hands, in every dimly lit corner of British life.”

Carina Buckley, learning skills tutor, Southampton Solent University, is reading Åsne Seierstad’s The Bookseller of Kabul (Virago, 2002). “While working as a journalist in Kabul, Seierstad befriended the eponymous bookseller and, captivated by his stories, history and love of his country, set out to record the flavour of modern Afghan life by becoming an invisible member of his family. The result will infuriate, intrigue and illuminate, as it draws the reader inexorably into this most misunderstood of cultures.”

Hazel Christie, lecturer in university teaching and learning, University of Edinburgh, is reading Lizzy Hawker’s Runner: A Short Story about a Long Run (Aurum, 2015). “This is a must-read for the runners in our midst. Hawker charts her almost accidental fall into the world of endurance running. Seemingly with little thought or preparation, she finds herself taking part in the Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc (a mere 166km), and from there a passion is born. This is a lovely meditation on what it means to run and to escape from the pressures of busy academic lives.”

Graham Farmelo, by-fellow at Churchill College, Cambridge, is reading Hanoch Gutfreund and Jürgen Renn’s The Road to Relativity: The History and Meaning of Einstein’s ‘The Foundation of General Relativity’ (Princeton University Press, 2015). “Exactly a century ago, Einstein was trying – apparently frantically – to complete his general theory of relativity, with the great mathematician David Hilbert breathing down his neck, threatening to scoop him. This wonderfully scholarly but readable book traces how Einstein got to the finishing post in the nick of time, highlighting his struggles with the subtle physics and mathematics. As Christmas approaches, I shall be buying multiple copies.”

Uwe Schütte, reader in German, Aston University, is reading Patti Smith’s M Train (Bloomsbury, 2015). “Among rock musicians, Smith is undoubtedly not just the most literate but also the most literary. Starting out as a poet in the early 1970s, she has steadily, though infrequently, published collections of her verse. M Train, the unmissable sequel to her much acclaimed memoir Just Kids (2010), chronicles events with vivid detail and sharp prose, touching readers with its compassion and honesty.”

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