What are you reading?

A weekly look over the shoulders of our scholar-reviewers

October 29, 2009

Geoffrey Alderman, Michael Gross professor of politics and contemporary history, University of Buckingham, is currently rereading Frederick Rudolph's The American College and University: A History (University of Georgia Press, first published in 1962). "This magisterial volume, tracing the history of higher education in the US from the colonial period to the mid-20th century, marries the history of education narrowly defined with social, political and cultural history. It reminds us that you can have a world-class university system that is a true partnership between the public and private sectors."

James Clarke is acting programme manager of the media arts degree courses, Hereford College of Arts. "I am currently being mesmerised by Brian Boyd's eloquent and expansive On the Origin of Stories: Evolution, Cognition and Fiction (Harvard University Press, 2009). It's fuel for the film course I teach. Boyd thrillingly reminds me of why I fell hard, once upon a time, with trying to understand how and why stories matter."

Alison Hramiak is principal lecturer and faculty fellow for assessment and feedback, Sheffield Hallam University. "I'm reading (once again) Patrick Ness' The Knife of Never Letting Go (Walker, 2008). Yes, I know it's not strictly adult fiction, but it's amazing - what a gripping read, and really quite deep in places. I couldn't put it down. Next I'm going to read the sequel, The Ask and The Answer, which I'm waiting for my son to finish; the ending to The Knife ... was the kind that makes you want to carry on reading and never stop."

Laleh Khalili is senior lecturer in Middle East politics, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. "I am reading the Feminist Collective's Bareed Mista3jil (Meem, 2009). The name means 'express letter' in Arabic (although the book is in English). It is a collection of short narratives - really oral histories - of Lebanese 'people of non-conforming sexualities and gender identities'. It upturns all sorts of expectations and stereotypes by, for example, telling the story of self-declared 'veiled lesbians'."

Anand Menon is professor of West European politics and director of the European Research Institute, University of Birmingham. "It's all too easy to forget. As we celebrate 20 years since the end of the Cold War, and as Stalin's heirs contest in court the claims that he killed people, Tom Rob Smith's Child 44 (Simon & Schuster, 2009) serves as a timely reminder of the horrors perpetrated by the Stalinist regime against its own people. OK, the plot stretches credibility at times, but it's a good read, too."

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