What are you reading?

A weekly look over the shoulders of our scholar-reviewers

April 1, 2010

Lawrence Black is senior lecturer in history, Durham University. "On a recommendation and with an eye to the history of shopping, I read Muriel Spark's The Driver's Seat (Penguin, 1970), but I couldn't quite buy into it and finished it quickly and not much the wiser (I will need to consult my recommender). So, in a fit of end-of-term boredom with 'history', I read Mohsin Hamid's The Reluctant Fundamentalist (Penguin, 2008). This is a gripping post-9/11 tale of transnational identities, emotional disenchantment and political alienation from the capitalist West, deftly written very much in the mode of Aravind Adiga's The White Tiger (Atlantic Books, 2008).

Christopher Catherwood is key supervisor in history, Junior Year Abroad programme, Homerton College, Cambridge, and tutor in international relations, the Cambridge arts and sciences pre-master's programme. He is reading Evan Mawdsley's World War II: A New History (Cambridge University Press, 2009). "It is a rare textbook that is both cutting edge and new: the book proves that we need to place the start of the Second World War in East Asia in 1937, rather than Europe in 1939 or Russia and Pearl Harbor in 1941. It changes how we write history."

Sarah Ison, assistant information adviser at the Aldrich Library, University of Brighton, is reading Alex Horne's Birdwatchingwatching: One Year, Two Men, Three Rules, Ten Thousand Birds (Virgin Books, 2009). "Horne and his dad ('Duncton') compete to see who can see the most bird species in a year. It's a very witty and well-written account of the year, and made me laugh out loud. It's great seeing how Horne's respect for birdwatching and birdwatchers alike grew throughout the challenge."

Roger Morgan, former professor of political science at the European University Institute, Florence, is reading Shlomo Sand's The Invention of the Jewish People (Verso, 2009). "He applies to his own Israeli nation the 'invention of tradition' concepts developed by Eric Hobsbawm, Hugh Trevor-Roper and others. Sand's interpretation of some issues in Jewish history has been hotly disputed, but he makes a notable contribution to the debate about the origins and nature of contemporary Israel."

Katie Piatt, senior learning technologies developer, Information Services, University of Brighton, is reading Joanne Harris' The Lollipop Shoes (Doubleday, 2007). "I wonder why people who work in technology, which is governed by logic, often seem drawn to books about fantasy and magic? I'm loving the main character in this book, who lives by stealing identities (usually of dead people) and using her own magic 'system' to manipulate those around her."

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