What are you reading? – July 2021

A look over the shoulders of our scholar-reviewers 

July 5, 2021
Open books

Kalwant Bhopal, professor of education and social justice at the University of Birmingham, is reading Malcolm Gladwell’s What the Dog Saw and Other Adventures (Penguin, 2010). “What the Dog Saw is a collection of short pieces taken from The New Yorker, where Gladwell – perhaps best known for The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference – has worked as a staff writer since 1996. In this provocative book, he examines a diverse range of topics: from different types of ketchup to criminology and dog training to job interviews. Gladwell takes us under the surface of the mundane to examine how everyday events can often lead us to incredible stories. Witty, compelling and absolutely fascinating, this book will entertain you for hours and leave you questioning those things you normally take for granted.”

Geoffrey Alderman, principal of Nelson College London, is reading Tara Westover’s Educated (Windmill Books, 2018). “Westover was born in 1986 in Clifton, Idaho. Her parents, who apparently practised a form of Mormonism that was extreme even by the official tenets of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, did not believe in the usefulness of formal education, hospitals and doctors, and – most fundamentally – the federal government of the US. Her birth was not registered until she was eight years of age, and, like her siblings, she was homeschooled. But as a teenager she became curious about the wider world. Almost entirely self-taught, she gained admission to Brigham Young University, and from there to Trinity College, Cambridge, where in 2014 she earned a PhD for a thesis on ‘Anglo-American cooperative thought’. Her brilliantly written and much acclaimed memoir stands as a celebration of the human spirit and its capacity to triumph over almost unimaginable adversity.”

R. C. Richardson, emeritus professor of history at the University of Winchester, is reading Bertrand Russell’s Portraits from Memory and Other Essays (Allen & Unwin, 1956). “Russell, who died in 1970 at the age of almost 100, was a famous and sometimes influential figure in British public life as philosopher, social and political commentator, educationalist, lecturer and broadcaster. A passionate believer in world harmony, he was a conscientious objector during the First World War and, much later, served as the first president of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. Collected here are essays of varying length, some of them autobiographical and others offering assessments of other writers. Two of the longest are on J. S. Mill (admired chiefly for his ethical principles) and on ‘History as an art’ (reflections on the work of G. M. Trevelyan). An admiring brief account of Joseph Conrad is included. Sidney and Beatrice Webb get a lukewarm assessment, while the portrait of H. G. Wells is generally hostile. D. H. Lawrence is dismissed as self-advertising and virtually insane.”

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