What are you reading? – May 2021

A look over the shoulders of our scholar-reviewers

May 24, 2021
Stack of books
Source: iStock

Kalwant Bhopal, professor of education and social justice at the University of Birmingham, is reading Fatima Bhutto’s The Runaways (Penguin, 2020). “The Runaways is the story of three teenagers: Anita, who lives in Karachi’s slums; Monty, whose family are members of the rich elite; and Sunny, a disillusioned, unfulfilled teenager who lives in Portsmouth. The book follows what happens to them when their worlds collide unexpectedly in circumstances beyond their control. This powerful and compelling novel explores the blurred lines around whether extremists are made or born – and the tragic consequences that follow. It exposes the vulnerability of youth and how it can be exploited in the quest for acceptance and belonging. Although The Runaways tackles subjects that we often shy away from, Bhutto does so in a shocking but deeply moving and compassionate manner.”


Karen McAulay, performing arts librarian and postdoctoral researcher at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, is reading Allie Morgan’s Librarian: A Memoir (Ebury, 2021). “Morgan is already known through her @grumpwitch Twitter postings. Her book is an extension of her observations about working in branch libraries, and the people and communities dependent upon them. It’s both a love letter to the libraries she grew up with and a poignant narrative about mental health and her recovery from serious trauma – something she attributes largely to her new-found career in a deprived Scottish locality. Since I am a librarian myself, one might expect this book to appeal to me. I can tell that Morgan’s account – bang up to date, including the Covid lockdown and cautious autumn reopening – is accurately observed, with moments to smile at, empathise with and sigh over. A stupendous advocate for public libraries, she highlights the needs of the most deprived members of our communities, the scandal of public library cutbacks and her determination to increase footfall, provide and improve essential services and engage with patrons.”


R. C. Richardson, emeritus professor of history at the University of Winchester, has been reading John C. Atkinson’s Countryman on the Moors (edited by J. G. O’Leary; Macgibbon & Kee, 1967). “This is only a truncated version of a much lengthier and richer text first published under the title of Forty Years in a Moorland Parish in 1891. Written by a long-serving Anglican clergyman, it offers some commentary on the somewhat tenuous state of the church in the North Riding of Yorkshire. But there is far more here on the lives of ordinary countryfolk, local peculiarities, the rural landscape and rural customs, superstitions, witches and wise men, dog-whippers in churches, Yorkshire dialect – and the brutally harsh northern winter weather. Space is also found for an account of the author’s antiquarian interests and his amateur archaeology project.”

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