What are you reading? – July 2020

Our regular look over the shoulders of our scholar-reviewers

July 20, 2020
Pile of books
Source: iStock

John Pritchard, director of strategic planning at Durham University, is reading Tim Dee’s Greenery: Journeys in Springtime (Jonathan Cape, 2020). “In this most vibrant of books, Dee provides a celebration of what D. H. Lawrence called ‘the world’s morning’ and what the author refers to as the ‘greenery which is spring’. A time of renewal and hope, spring is the season that is anticipated more than any other – we are always on the lookout for signs. Having noted that spring moves north at about the speed of a swallow’s flight, the author tracks the season and its migratory birds from South Africa to Arctic Scandinavia. In so doing, the reader’s experience of spring is stretched chronologically, geographically and culturally. This is a masterwork in interdisciplinarity, with deep ornithological insight enriched by a keen appreciation of Shakespeare, Coleridge and Wordsworth. Greenery is also a personal book. It is reviving my spirits as we travel through troubled times.”

Kalwant Bhopal, professorial research fellow and professor of education and social justice at the University of Birmingham, is reading Sam Harris’ Letter to a Christian Nation: A Challenge to the Faith of America (Bantam, 2007). “This short book attacks the existence of religion head-on. The writing style is both challenging and confrontational: ‘Either Christ was divine or he was not. If the Bible is an ordinary book, and Christ is an ordinary man, the basic doctrine of Christianity is false.’ Harris pulls no punches, and his view that it is a ‘moral and intellectual emergency’ that nearly half of all Americans believe in Christianity is a key theme throughout. This book will offend, enrage or delight you, but in any case it is a must-read that is bound to change how you think about religion in all sorts of ways.”

Carina Buckley, instructional design manager at Solent University, is reading Lisa Randall’s Warped Passages: Unravelling the Universe’s Hidden Dimensions (Penguin, 2006). “Since Einstein and relativity, we’ve become familiar with thinking of time as a fourth dimension and the quantum realm as being very weird. But that’s only a tiny part of the story. Randall, a theoretical physicist dedicated to model building as a way of practical experiment, undercuts that familiarity by introducing several more dimensions, some of inconceivably small size, existing within a five-dimensional ‘braneworld’. This is, necessarily, a highly complex and many-layered exploration of particle physics, yet also a wholly enthusiastic account of particles, waves, branes and dimensions that comes across as a personal and meaningful journey for the author. Although she could write with a little more clarity, some challenging concepts are on the whole well explained and pretty accessible if you’re willing to concentrate.”

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