What are you reading? – 6 August 2015

A weekly look over the shoulders of our scholar-reviewers

August 6, 2015
Books on bookshelf

Keith Kahn-Harris, associate lecturer in the department of psychosocial studies, Birkbeck, University of London, is reading Robert Walser’s Running with the Devil: Power, Gender, and Madness in Heavy Metal Music (Wesleyan University Press, 2014). “This new edition is a great opportunity to revisit a classic text. The musicological analysis of classic heavy metal is as penetrating as it was 22 years ago, but other than a new introduction by Harris Berger and a new short afterword by Walser, it hasn’t engaged with the subsequent development of metal at all. Pity.”

R. C. Richardson, emeritus professor of history, University of Winchester, is reading Dava Sobel’s Longitude: The True Story of a Lone Genius Who Solved the Greatest Scientific Problem of His Time (Fourth Estate, 2014). “An accessibly written account of the perseverance and perfectionism of the Yorkshire-born watchmaker John Harrison (1693-1776), who devised the first working chronometer giving reliable longitude readings. He wrestled not only with the scientific and mechanical problems but also the entrenched bias of leading astronomers of the day, so there was something uncannily appropriate that this accuracy-fixated, self-taught man died on the same day and same month in which he had been born.”

Megan Crawford, professor of education and director of Plymouth University’s Institute of Education, is reading E. L. Konigsburg’s From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs Basil E. Frankweiler (Atheneum, 2007). “First published in 1967 and winner of the 1968 Newbery Medal, this is a lost gem from my American childhood that I have just rediscovered. Narrated by the eponymous Mrs Frankweiler, it tells the story of how Claudia and her brother Jamie run away from home to the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art. Encompassing identity, sibling relationships and the eccentricities of old age, it’s a gently funny and touching book.”

A. W. Purdue, visiting professor of history at the University of Northumbria, is reading Jeremy Black’s Clio’s Battles: Historiography in Practice (Indiana University Press, 2015). “Historians are a quarrelsome lot, and no interpretation of historical developments goes unchallenged for long as revision is followed by re-revision. The history of history is, indeed, largely a succession of debates. This wide-ranging study considers Chinese and Japanese historical writing, as well as that of British and European historians and most branches of the historical discipline.”

Nigel Rodenhurst, part-time lecturer in English, Aberystwyth University, is reading Biyi Bandele’s The Street (Penguin Classics, 2012). “Bandele’s depictions of multicultural loners and oddballs in millennial London infuse the pages with warmth and colour. A heckler, a stalker and a man who awakens from a 15-year coma during which he dreamed a hellish alternative existence suggest a surreal and offbeat perspective. However, the reader must acknowledge that such characters exist, so it is also jarringly familiar.”

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