What are you reading?

A weekly look over the shoulders of our scholar-reviewers

February 7, 2013

Thom Brooks, reader in law at Durham University, is reading Scott J. Shapiro’s Legality (Harvard University Press, 2011). “Legality is the most important contribution about the nature of law in recent years and a book that raises the bar for future work in jurisprudence. With admirable clarity, Shapiro argues that legal systems should not be understood simply in terms of rules, but instead as highly complex tools for creating and applying plans. His account offers an illuminating alternative to the literature and challenges much received wisdom.”

G.R. Evans, emeritus professor of medieval theology and intellectual history, University of Cambridge, is reading Transforming the Bodleian (De Gruyter, 2012), edited by Michael Heaney and Catriona Jeanne Cannon. “This tells a story with the controversies removed. The libraries’ management deserves high praise for successfully putting through a great many practical tasks of considerable magnitude involving building and book- moving. It is an irony that this book went to press just as all hell broke loose in the summer of 2012 over the management’s lack of consultation with the academic community.”

John Holford, Robert Peers professor of adult education and director of the Centre for Research in Higher, Adult and Vocational Education, University of Nottingham, is reading Peter Cunich’s A History of the University of Hong Kong: Volume 1, 1911-1945 (Hong Kong University Press, 2012). “Lord Lugard was an empire-builder: in Africa, his Maxim guns brought new colonies; in Hong Kong, others’ opium profits funded his new university. Despite a ‘no distinction of race’ rule, only one Chinese professor was appointed before 1945. But when Japan invaded, the university’s work continued - teaching, senate, the lot - in prison camps and across Free China. This fascinating, magisterial book is beautifully written and illustrated.”

Huw Morris, pro vice-chancellor (academic) at the University of Salford, is reading Robert Tressell’s The Ragged-Trousered Philanthropists (Wordsworth Classics, 2012). “Set in Hastings in recession-hit Edwardian England, this is an account of the trials of a group of workmen as they struggle to find paid work and to feed their families. After 600 pages it is difficult to think of another work of ‘fiction’ that makes the case for the welfare state more strongly.”

Constantine Sandis, reader in philosophy, Oxford Brookes University, is reading Avner Baz’s When Words Are Called For: A Defense of Ordinary Language Philosophy (Harvard University Press, 2012). “A serious challenge to the prevailing but misguided assumption that linguistic and conceptual explorations can’t tell us anything about the nature of things. While I disagree with Baz’s wholesale rejection of philosophical appeals to the ‘correct use’ of words, it is exciting to see ordinary language philosophy being taken seriously again in these dark philosophical times.”

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