What are you reading?

A weekly look over the shoulders of our scholar-reviewers

December 31, 2009

Daniel Binney, an administrator in the department of history, Classics and archaeology, Birkbeck, University of London, is reading 50 Voices of Disbelief: Why We Are Atheists (Wiley, 2009), edited by Russell Blackford and Udo Schuklenk. "A wonderful collection of amazingly diverse accounts of being and becoming atheists, ranging from the purely philosophical to the touchingly personal. By turns witty, serious, engaging and informative, it is always human and deeply honest, and immensely rewarding to read."

David Cromwell, a researcher at the National Oceanography Centre, Southampton, and co-editor of media-watch project Media Lens, is reading Harry Shutt's The Trouble with Capitalism (Zed Books, 2009). "First published in 1998 and reprinted with a new foreword, the economist's analysis of the fundamental flaws of capitalism remains compelling. He exposes 'the monolithic commitment of the political mainstream' to the state's propping-up of profit-maximising interests. Shutt rightly calls for a radical change to the allocation of global resources if we are to have a humane future."

Alex Danchev is professor of international relations, University of Nottingham, and warden's visiting fellow, St Antony's College, Oxford. "I'm reading one of the great works of our time: Vincent Van Gogh - The Complete Letters (Thames and Hudson, 2009), a feat of scholarship by a team of curators at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam - six volumes in large format, plus CD, every letter beautifully annotated, every painting sumptuously illustrated. It's almost unbelievable, but Van Gogh was also a terrific writer; and the writer and the painter march hand-in-hand together. This is a heartbreakingly good book."

Edward Quipp is a visiting research fellow at the Institute of English Studies and an administrator at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. "I'm reading John Darwin's The Empire Project: The Rise and Fall of the British World-System, 1830-1970 (Cambridge University Press, 2009), a hugely insightful book that questions lazy notions of 'hegemonic' power. It's a brilliant marriage of the scholarly to the readerly."

Helen Westwood is information adviser, Queenwood Library, University of Brighton. "I am reading Judith A. Seiss' The Visible Librarian: Asserting Your Value with Marketing and Advocacy (American Library Association, 2003). "This is essential reading for academic librarians. We are often a forgotten asset in universities, and we need to promote the value of our skills to academia in an age of freely available information. I will use the ideas in this book to connect with users and improve our service."

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