What are you reading?

A weekly look over the shoulders of our scholar-reviewers

October 8, 2009

Mary Evans is visiting fellow, Gender Institute, London School of Economics. "I have just read Hilary Mantel's Wolf Hall (HarperCollins, 2009). Even if Philippa Gregory's The Other Boleyn Girl was a more inventive take on Tudor history, Mantel is as readable about the terrible Tudors. Despite the familiarity of the story, she goes a long way towards allowing the past an integrity and agency of its own."

Keith Kahn-Harris is honorary research fellow, Birkbeck, University of London. He is reading Alain Corbin's Village Bells: Sound and Meaning in the 19th-Century French Countryside (Macmillan, 1999). "I am fascinated by the politics of sound, and Corbin's book provides an exhaustive survey of a now-vanished world of campanological power plays. A dense read, but Corbin is convincing."

Tim Kendall, professor of English literature, University of Exeter, is reading John Carey's William Golding: The Man Who Wrote 'Lord of the Flies' (Faber, 2009). "Ignore the headlines. Carey's impressive biography presents Golding in all his contradictions: the war hero afraid of the dark; the class warrior discreetly campaigning for a knighthood; the sailor who loathed the sea; the religious agnostic. Golding considered himself to be a 'monster', but Carey describes 'a deeply self-examining and self-blaming man who ... saw the seeds of all evil in his own heart'."

Ben Rogaly, senior lecturer in human geography, University of Sussex, is reading Robert Young's The Idea of English Ethnicity (Wiley-Blackwell, 2007). "Rooting his analysis in a careful critique of 19th-century literature but providing explicit links to the present, Young charts shifts in how Englishness has been idealised over time, connected as much to patterns of emigration as to immigration. A crucial intervention given the recent re-emergence of an essentialised view of English ethnicity."

Ian Stewart is professor of mathematics, University of Warwick. "I am reading The Enigmas of Easter Island (Oxford University Press, 2003) by John R. Flenley and Paul G. Bahn. My wife, Avril, and I went there a few years ago. It really is the most extraordinary place - stone heads, rock carvings and a volcanic landscape with crater lakes. We wanted to learn more, and this book is refreshingly sensible and informative."

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