Shelley King is associate professor of English, Queen's University, Canada. "I've just finished reading The Bishop's Man (Random House, 2009) by Linden MacIntyre, winner of last year's Scotiabank Giller Prize. MacIntyre, an investigative journalist, has written a sensitive and poignant story weaving together the lives of priests and parishioners in a village haunted by the spectre of sexual abuse. Each year our department invites the Giller winner to address the graduating class, who through the generosity of an anonymous donor receive free copies of the novel and participate in a round-table discussion with the author."
Ben McConville, principal lecturer in journalism, Northumbria University, is reading William Zinsser's Mitchell & Ruff: An American Profile in Jazz (Paul Dry Books, 2000). "Part reportage, part document and part affectionate homage to one of the most important jazz acts of the past 50 years, journalist and academic William Zinsser explores the beauty and cultural significance of the music and its place in African-American history. Zinsser believes journalists should write clearly, succinctly and with passion. Here he practises what he preaches as he tours with the first American jazz musicians to perform in China."
Michael Pounds, who has just completed a doctorate in chemistry at the University of Edinburgh, is reading E.H. Gombrich's The Story of Art (Phaidon, 1995). "Do we paint what we see or what we know? What links the Giza pyramids with David Hockney? Gombrich paints with broad brushstrokes a story of the visual arts over 15 millennia. Primarily Western and 'canonical' in focus, this book offers a digestible antidote to the visual illiteracy of our text-based culture."
R. C. Richardson, professor of history, University of Winchester, spent a snowed-in Christmas rereading H.V. Morton's In Search of England (19, Da Capo, 2002). "Here is a lost, remote world where London scarcely figures at all, where Cornishmen see 'England' as a separate entity and where Yorkshire is a 'country' not a county. But the author's search in this minor classic for the 'real' England found in the countryside is also more fundamentally a search for reassurance and for spiritual and cultural anchorage."
Michael Shattock, visiting professor, Institute of Education, London, is reading Fred Inglis' History Man (Princeton University Press, 2009). "A biography of R.G. Collingwood, philosopher, historian and archaeologist, the son of W.G. Collingwood, painter and secretary to Ruskin. He was brought up in Coniston in the Lake District and was the original of one of Arthur Ransome's Swallows and Amazons. Inglis brilliantly brings out Collingwood's philosophical and other achievements and his long family attachment to Coniston. He also reminds one that Collingwood's The Idea of History, even in the form it was posthumously published, remains inspirational to historians."