What are you reading? – 3 March 2016

A weekly look over the shoulders of our scholar-reviewers

March 3, 2016
Woman reading on park bench

Geoffrey Alderman, professor of politics and contemporary history, University of Buckingham, is reading Willie Lamont: History Man (Linda Lamont, 2016). “William M. Lamont is an authority on 17th-century Puritanism, but also on how teachers should teach history. As he was prevented by illness from completing his autobiography, his wife has put together essays from his many students and colleagues. I was delighted to be asked to contribute to this Festschrift with a difference, into which one can dip again and again for inspiration and enlightenment.”

Stephen Halliday, senior member, Pembroke College, Cambridge, is reading Hugo Vickers’ Behind Closed Doors: The Tragic, Untold Story of Wallis Simpson (Arrow, 2012). “Amid the accounts of jewellery, aristocrats, society figures and a manipulative lawyer are a few gems that give fresh insights into an affair that is overlaid by more tragedy than romance. The main beneficiary was Great Britain, which got a better king and queen than it would otherwise have done.”

Mary Hamilton, professor emerita, adult learning and literacy, Lancaster University, is reading Vicky Duckworth and Gordon Ade-Ojo’s Adult Literacy Policy and Practice: From Intrinsic Values to Instrumentalism (Palgrave Macmillan, 2015). “Part educational philosophy, part historical evidence, this book charts how adult literacy policy changed in England as it was absorbed by the human capital theory of skills. It is a welcome provocation to think beyond the numbers generated by international assessments to what the authors argue is the real transformative purpose of adult education.”

Bruce Scharlau, senior lecturer (scholarship) in computing science, University of Aberdeen, is reading Richard Sheridan’s Joy, Inc: How We Built a Workplace People Love (Portfolio, 2015). “This account of Menlo Innovations, a software firm, has lessons for all organisations. The fun stories tell about ‘doing the right thing’ so that staff can bring babies to work, and confirming the ‘let’s run an experiment’ approach as a way to enable evidence-based policies. Read, then run an experiment.”

Peter J. Smith, reader in Renaissance literature, Nottingham Trent University, has just finished Susan Hill’s The Soul of Discretion (Vintage, 2015). “The eighth and last of the crime novels featuring Hill’s melancholy detective Simon Serrailler. The grim brutality of her crime fiction is evident in this story of an undercover mission to infiltrate and expose an internet paedophile gang. Serrailler’s professional and family life is bleakly drawn, but the writing is consistently compelling and convincing. The series’ hallmark is a glum uneasiness of which Hill is in complete control – a terrific and sustained achievement.”

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