What are you reading? – 3 September 2015

A weekly look over the shoulders of our scholar-reviewers

September 3, 2015
Books on bookshelf

Sir David Bell, vice-chancellor, University of Reading, is reading Benjamin Johncock’s The Last Pilot (Myriad Editions, 2015). “Johncock’s impressive debut takes us back to the era of test pilots and the dawn of the space age. Jim Harrison is a man pushing technology to the limits at the same time as dealing with immense personal tragedy. This clever fusion of fact and fiction, combined with a sparse writing style, is a Great American Novel – written by a Brit.”

Richard Bosworth, senior research fellow at Jesus College, Oxford, is reading Mimmo Franzinelli’s L’arma segreta del Duce: La vera storia del Carteggio Churchill-Mussolini (Rizzoli, 2015). “The UK has a ludicrously reverential Churchill myth. But in Italy there is a similarly overblown view of him as ruthless Machiavel and killer. Popular historiography there maintains that proof lies in the ‘lost’ Churchill-Mussolini correspondence. But now Franzinelli has brilliantly demonstrated that ‘falsehood is the only truth’ in the manifold surrounding conspiracy theories. Should the British government offer him a title if the result is the end of a history war that has run on since 1945?”

Carina Buckley, learning skills tutor, Southampton Solent University, is reading Patricia A. DeYoung’s Understanding and Treating Chronic Shame: A Relational/Neurobiological Approach (Routledge, 2015). “DeYoung identifies shame as lying at the root of many of the issues she encounters as a psychotherapist, and uses it as a framework for understanding the feeling of unworthiness that can plague and disrupt some people’s lives. (Philip Larkin had it right, for sure.) She offers readers and clients ‘an engaged presence, not advice’ in clear, caring, valuable prose.”

Paul Greatrix, registrar, University of Nottingham, is reading Stanley Middleton’s An After Dinner’s Sleep (Windmill, 2014). “It’s terrific to see Middleton’s books reissued after decades in the literary wilderness. This novel is a great example of his understated, subtle and incisive observations of suburban existence, in which a widower has his life turned upside down by an old flame who knocks on his door one day. Finely wrought.”

Gina Rippon, chair of cognitive neuroimaging at Aston University and honorary fellow of the British Science Association, appears this week at the British Science Festival. “Oliver Sacks has a wonderfully quirky way of seeing through the eyes of those whose damaged brains can be a source of valuable information for neuroscientists, and of reminding us that our ‘participants’ are people too. On the Move: A Life (Picador, 2015), Sacks’ latest autobiography and, sadly, probably his final book, promises the same kind of insight into his own story and how it produced this unique commentator on the human condition.”

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