What are you reading? – 9 May 2019

A weekly glimpse over the shoulder of our scholar-reviewers

May 9, 2019
Woman reading a book
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Carina Buckley, instructional design manager at Solent University, is reading Cressida Connolly’s After the Party (Penguin, 2018). “Phyllis Forrester has been in prison, she tells us, and thoroughly deserved to be there. Bitter now, and estranged from her children, we learn of the dreadful thing she did at a party that had such tragic consequences, and her experiences of another Party that slowly and inexorably crept into and took over her life. Always presented as someone who wanted the best for the country and to avoid the looming Second World War, Phyllis is an outsider who is keen to join her sisters’ world. The reader is drawn into the British Union as gradually as Phyllis was, but presumably enjoys a greater clear-sightedness, unlike our protagonist, who remains entirely and frustratingly unrepentant about her belief in the ‘irresistible’ leader. After one party, her worldview changes. After the Party, it seems nothing did.”

Dennis Hayes, professor of education at the University of Derby, is reading Sarah Hayes’ The Labour of Words in Higher Education: Is it Time to Reoccupy Policy? (Brill/Sense, 2019). “An academic study of the buzzwords and phrases, such as ‘employability’ and ‘the student experience’, that constitute ‘McPolicy’ in HE is at the core of this book by Sarah Hayes (no relation). It is worth reading for that alone, but what makes it even more interesting as a study of the McDonaldisation of higher education is that it challenges academics to wake up and notice what is going on. The literature on McDonaldisation is often fatalistic, but not Hayes’ book. She argues that academics have let themselves be imprisoned by the words used in McPolicy instead of subjecting them to the test of criticism. These words have replaced academics as the actors in higher education. If academics want to ‘reoccupy’ policy, they must begin by giving serious attention to them.”

Harriet Dunbar-Morris, dean of learning and teaching at the University of Portsmouth, is reading Salley Vickers’ The Librarian (Penguin, 2018). “Sylvia Blackwell is a young woman who moves to East Mole, a quaint market town in Middle England. The novel tells of her work turning around the fortunes of the declining Children’s Library – how to interest the children in reading, and how the books she introduces them to change their lives – and the relationships she builds with a number of local inhabitants. I had previously read Vickers’ The Cleaner of Chartres and was keen to pick up The Librarian. I wasn’t disappointed: I devoured it on holiday. Perhaps it was just a touch too easy a read, and I’d have preferred more about books in it, but it was very enjoyable. I also liked the inside cover picture and the list at the end of all the books mentioned.”

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