What are you reading?

A weekly look over the shoulders of our scholar-reviewers

April 8, 2010

Christopher Catherwood, key supervisor in history, Junior Year Abroad programme, Homerton College, Cambridge, and tutor in international relations for the Cambridge arts and sciences pre-master's programme, is reading Richard Toye's Churchill's Empire (Macmillan, 2010). "Toye demonstrates that there is still plenty of scope for new books on Churchill, taking the theme of imperialism from the great man's life as a young subaltern in India to a wizened elder statesman. It is a biography that is a pleasure to read and advances our study of its subject."

Saiful Islam, professor in materials chemistry, University of Bath, is re-reading Richard Dawkins' Unweaving the Rainbow (Houghton Mifflin, 1998). "John Keats accused Isaac Newton of ruining the rainbow's poetry by explaining how the colours appear. Dawkins shows that science itself, the proper way to unravel mysteries, is full of beauty and exciting discovery. This is an elegant tour of scientific ideas and their impact, showing that science and art often share a similar spirit of wonder. Not surprisingly, he rebuts the notion that a godless world is empty or joyless. A joy to read."

Peter Messent is head of the School of American and Canadian Studies, University of Nottingham. "With the centenary of the death of Mark Twain approaching, I am reading Shelley Fisher Fishkin's edited collection, The Mark Twain Anthology: Great Writers on His Life and Work (Library of America, 2010). I like its internationalist scope, historical range and diversity. The material on Twain, race and imperialism is especially strong. The book takes us from Rudyard Kipling and Jorge Luis Borges to Kurt Vonnegut and Dick Gregory."

Ken Smith is senior lecturer in criminology, Bucks New University. "I am reading Bryan S. Turner and Habibul Haque Khondker's Globalization, East and West (Sage, 2010), which challenges the idea that globalisation is the same as Westernisation, imperialism or Americanisation. The direction of global processes is always changing, but crucially this is not a one-way street. Far too little attention has been paid to the fact that the influence of Asian culture on the West is at least as great, if not more so, in the first decade of the 21st century as that of the West on the East."

Hester Vaizey, postdoctoral research fellow affiliated with the Center for the History of Emotions, Max Planck Institute for Human Development, Berlin, is reading Kazuo Ishiguro's Nocturnes: Five Stories of Music and Nightfall (Faber and Faber, 2009). "A musical theme infuses these beautifully written stories, and provides a backdrop for exploring difficult personal relationships. My favourite, 'Come Rain or Come Shine', sees businessman Charlie summon an old friend to help him revive his marriage. Merely by being his annoying self, so the logic of the plan goes, the friend will cast Charlie in a good light. The friend's only redeeming feature, it seems, is his knowledge of music. Charlie forbids him from uttering a word on the topic."

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