What are you reading?

A weekly look over the shoulders of our scholar-reviewers

July 2, 2009

Gary Day is principal lecturer in English, De Montfort University. "I am reading Julian Barnes' Nothing to be Frightened Of (Vintage, 2009). It's about facing the approach of death without the consolation of religious belief. As you can imagine, there aren't too many jokes but, as it's Julian Barnes, there are lots of apercus and good lines. I shall definitely miss reading him when I'm dead."

Peter Gwyn, the author of The King's Cardinal: The Rise and Fall of Thomas Wolsey, taught history at Winchester College, where he was also the archivist from 1965 to 1976. "I should mention Richard Fletcher's The Conversion of Europe (Harper Collins, 1998) and I have been looking again at G. W. Bernard's The King's Reformation: Henry VIII and the Remaking of the English Church (Yale University Press, 2007). Both are good. Bernard's book in my view did not get the praise it deserves, perhaps because fellow historians found it too threatening, whether they be Whiggish/Protestants or Revisionist/Catholics."

Barbara Jacobs is a professional writer, journalist and broadcaster, currently completing a late-life PhD on autistic intelligence at the University of Leicester, where she is a part-time tutor and research associate. "I am reading Dasha's Journal: A Cat Reflects on Life, Catness and Autism by T. O. Daria (Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 2008). It's a brilliantly quirky little book with some of the finest and most scholarly insights I've seen into autism-spectrum conditions, although using a cat as narrator/researcher may be a genre mix too far for the academic readership it deserves."

Deborah Rogers is professor of English, University of Maine. She is reading Blake Bailey's Cheever: A Life (Knopf, 2009) - "which rings in at almost 800 pages. Thank God it's highly readable. And, just for entertainment: Martha Stout's The Sociopath Next Door (Broadway Books, 2007). Don't ask - I see them everywhere. Turns out some of my best friends are sociopaths. Who knew?"

Stephen Wade is a historian of crime and espionage who lectures at the University of Hull and the School of Continuing Education, University of Oxford. He is reading James Barr's Setting the Desert on Fire: T. E. Lawrence and Britain's Secret War in Arabia 1916-1918 (Bloomsbury, 2007) - "an excellent work of revisionism. Barr has scoured the archives and found invaluable new light on some byways of military history" - and Polly Mohs' Military Intelligence and the Arab Revolt: The First Modern Intelligence War (Routledge, 2007). "Mohs takes a truly comprehensive overview of the Arab Bureau at the time."

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