What are you reading?

A weekly look over the shoulders of our scholar-reviewers

September 10, 2009

Daniel Binney is an administrator in the department of history, Classics and archaeology, Birkbeck, University of London. He is reading China Mieville's Looking for Jake and Other Stories (Pan Macmillan, 2005). "A wonderful collection in a neglected medium: the short story. Stories as dark as they are imaginative, evoking a glorious sense of disconnection, and inviting readers to use their own capacity for fright and romance. A work from behind some twisted mirror."

David Cromwell is a researcher at the National Oceanography Centre, Southampton, and co-editor of media-watch project Media Lens. He is reading Chris Harman's A People's History of the World: From the Stone Age to the New Millennium (Verso, 2008). "Ambitious and inspiring. From the Neolithic revolution to the 'New World Disorder', Harman presents a grassroots view of human history in which ordinary people take centre stage for once. The interplay, indeed conflict, between the pursuit of shared human goals, revolutionary events, technological changes, environmental pressures, and warlike and imperialistic forces, is ever more relevant."

Richard J. Larschan, professor of English, University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, is reading Darrell Kastin's The Undiscovered Island (Center for Portuguese Studies and Culture, 2009). "A remarkably accomplished first novel, combining an epic quest, meticulously researched Azorean history and legend, lyrically written. The Portuguese-American heroine, a female Telemachus in search of her missing father, experiences high adventure ending in self-discovery. Especially recommended for lovers of magical realism."

Mica Nava is professor of cultural studies, University of East London. She is re-reading Tony Kushner's We Europeans? Mass Observation, 'Race' and British Identity in the Twentieth Century (Ashgate, 2004). "Drawing mainly on Mass Observation diaries and ethnography, this book provides a more fractured picture of attitudes to foreigners and racial 'others' in mid-20th-century Britain than most accounts have allowed. Xenophobia, although widespread, was not unopposed. A rich and complex history of (anti)racism as well as social investigation."

Philip Smallwood, professor of English, Birmingham City University, is reading Geoffrey Wheatcroft's Yo, Blair! (Politico's Publishing, 2007). "It delves beneath the shifting and shifty exteriors of the Prime Minister's ready collusion with George W. Bush and the ideologues of US neoconservatism. In the best traditions of Augustan satire, Wheatcroft gives no quarter and allows his anti-hero all the means to expose himself. Nor is Blair seen as solely to blame. The bedazzled House of Commons and the whole parliamentary process are held to account, making this pungent book like a political Dunciad."

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