What are you reading?

A weekly look over the shoulders of our scholar-reviewers

March 11, 2010

Gary Day, principal lecturer in English, De Montfort University, is reading Paul Davies' The Goldilocks Enigma (Penguin, 2006). "My science education was badly disrupted when our chemistry teacher blew himself up. Not surprising, since his subject was biology. They didn't replace him, so we didn't get physics either. Davies has saved me from being a complete ignoramus. This is an elegant and delightful guide to the big questions about the Universe, its origins, composition and ultimate end. It should be quite a show. Shame we won't be around to see it."

Alan Gilmore is resident superintendent of the University of Canterbury's Mt John Observatory, Lake Tekapo, New Zealand. He is reading Gerald Hensley's Beyond the Battlefield: New Zealand and its Allies 1939-1945 (Viking, 2009). "Seven per cent of New Zealand's population fought in the Second World War, while the country supplied food to Britain and also to US forces in the Pacific. The international political leverage gained, and the internal politics of balancing guns and butter (and meat), are well told."

Dennis Hayes is professor of education, University of Derby. "I'm reading two excellent books that together give a complete account of the Salman Rushdie affair: my friend Kenan Malik's From Fatwa to Jihad (Atlantic Books, 2009) and my friend and colleague Paul Weller's A Mirror for Our Times (Continuum, 2009). Weller sees the affair as reinforcing the need for religious tolerance within a 'multicultural' society; Malik sees it as a political tragedy, particularly for the failure on all sides to defend free speech as the cornerstone of all progressive human values."

Omar Malik, associate fellow, Nottingham University Business School, is reading Atul Gawande's The Checklist Manifesto (Profile Books, 2010). "The NHS is at least 50 years behind aviation in its safety management. It accidentally kills an estimated 3,500 of its patients - the equivalent of ten jumbo jets full of people - annually, and has 1 million non-fatal incidents. The same accidents recur repeatedly. It needs more than the checklists advocated by the surgeon-author of this excellent book. It needs a totally new safety regime. The NHS must make safety as important to our recalcitrant medical professions as to their patients. Next book, please, Dr Gawande."

Flora Samuel, professor and head of the School of Architecture, University of Sheffield, is reading John McGahern's Memoir (Faber and Faber, 2006). "All McGahern's novels are a play on his real story; this book is his account of growing up in Ireland in the middle of the last century. He slows me down to notice and remember the smell of night air, the glug of whiskey, fresh leaves in the hedgerow, all with underlying strains of decomposition. This is what I love about his work."

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