What are you reading?

A weekly look over the shoulders of our scholar-reviewers

July 16, 2009

Sally Feldman is dean of media, arts and design, University of Westminster. "In The Children's Book (Chatto & Windus, 2009), A.S. Byatt creates a maelstrom of stories and characters centred around a fictional writer of children's books at the turn of the last century. The political, artistic and intellectual climate of those febrile years make a brilliant backdrop, filled with my favourites: feminism, fairytales and fantasy, revolution, education and art."

Fred Inglis is emeritus professor of cultural studies, University of Sheffield. He is reading Graham Robb's "magnificent and amazing" The Discovery of France (Picador, 2008). "It is wondrous in its sheer detailing of the multiplicity and (mostly) awfulness of life among the rural poor up to 1900 or so, and no less dazzling in the ease and mastery with which the details become a single strong narrative."

Laleh Khalili is senior lecturer in Middle East politics, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. She is reading Talal Asad's On Suicide Bombing (Columbia University Press, 2007) and M. Jacqui Alexander's Pedagogies of Crossing (Duke University Press, 2006). "Asad's work is an immensely thoughtful meditation on why we express horror at suicide bombing but not at massive state violence (say, in aerial bombings). As for the Alexander book, I am blown away by its radical critique of empire and hegemony, but also its feminist commitments - all done in wonderfully lucid language."

Isabelle Szmigin is professor of marketing, Birmingham Business School, University of Birmingham. "I am reading Ammon Shea's Reading the Oxford English Dictionary: One Man, One Year, 21,730 Pages (Allen Lane, 2008), for the beauty of words like 'Inspirado (n) A person who thinks himself inspired' ... I know a few."

Judith Weingarten is an Aegean archaeologist and member of the British School at Athens. "I am reading Dick Davis' wonderful translation of Abolgasem Ferdowsi's Shahnameh: The Persian Book of Kings (Viking, 2006). Prose, poetry, legend, history, folklore - this is the story of Iran from the Creation to the conquest of the exhausted Sassanian Empire by the Arabs: 'But for the Persians I will weep, and for/the House of Sassan ruined by this war:/Alas for their great crown and throne, for all/The royal splendour destined now to fall.' It couldn't be more topical."

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