What are you reading?

A weekly look over the shoulders of our scholar-reviewers

December 3, 2009

Michelle Baddeley, fellow, lecturer and director of studies in economics, Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, is reading Dan Ariely's Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces that Shape Our Decisions (HarperCollins 2008). "Economics is changing as more and more people recognise that behaviour cannot always follow strict logical principles: common sense suggests that few of us can (or should) behave as if we're mathematical machines. Ariely has written a fascinating, accessible exploration of how and why we consistently break the traditional economist's mathematical rules."

Christoph Bode, chair of modern English literature, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universitat, Munich, is reading J.M. Coetzee's Summertime: Scenes from Provincial Life (Harvill Secker, 2009). "Another probing of the question whether you can ever reconstruct someone's past - or your own. Yet Summertime offers more: as the five characters interviewed about the late 'John Coetzee' relate their stories, they inevitably reveal much about themselves - as the object of their memories becomes elusive, we realise we've been given what the subtitle promises; a gripping portrait of (white) South Africa in the early 1970s."

Andreas Hess is senior lecturer in sociology, University College Dublin. "I am currently fascinated by Joseba Zulaika's Terrorism: The Self-Fulfilling Prophecy (University of Chicago Press, 2009). Zulaika differs from so-called terrorism 'experts' in that he has actually done years of 'non-embedded' fieldwork. In his new book, he demonstrates that current anti-terrorist rhetoric confuses means and ends and has indeed gone full circle."

Fred Inglis is emeritus professor of cultural studies, University of Sheffield. "I am rereading A Measured Life: The Times and Places of an Orphaned Intellectual (Transaction, 1994), Richard Hoggart's splendid three-volume autobiography. From the streets of Hunslet in the 1920s via active service in Italy to the colossal success of The Uses of Literacy, his eminence at the University of Birmingham, his championing of Lady Chatterley's Lover, his achievements at Unesco, and his overcoming of snobberies at the University of London and bringing Goldsmiths into full membership; all without compromising his principles of egalitarian and intellectual honour. My word, we need someone like him right now."

Willy Maley is professor of Renaissance studies, University of Glasgow. "Leila Aboulela's The Translator (Polygon, 1999) is a 'Muslim Jane Eyre' that, like Jean Rhys' Wide Sargasso Sea, offers a poetic postcolonial rewriting of a canonical text that makes us reread the original afresh. Set between Scotland and the Sudan, its central dilemma revolves around a lover's conversion to Islam. Aboulela's work challenges stereotypes, suggesting that love itself is a form of fundamentalism".

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