What are you reading?

A weekly look over the shoulders of our scholar-reviewers

May 13, 2010

Kerry Brown, senior Fellow in the Asia programme, Chatham House, is reading Alain Roux's Le Singe et le Tigre (The Monkey and the Tiger) (Larousse, 2009). "Mao Zedong's epic life inspires vast biographies, even today, and this book comes in at over 1,000 pages. Roux admits upfront that Mao had a complex character. He was capable of stunning brutality and murderous ambition. But in keeping with a rich French tradition of sinology, Roux argues that Mao was guided by 'unscrupulous intelligence in the service of wisdom and truth'. Thus the pairing of monkey and tiger: the one wily, the other brutally strong. They made in Mao a devastating combination."

David Cromwell, a researcher at the National Oceanography Centre and co-editor of Media Lens, is reading Harry Shutt's Beyond the Profits System (Zed Books, 2010). "A concise scrutiny of the capitalist system of maximising private profit, exposing the ruthless determination of diehard vested interests in Wall Street, the City of London and elsewhere to resist challenges to their privileged positions. Shutt cogently lays out the possibilities for a post-capitalist era to provide for all."

Kayleigh Garthwaite is a human geography postgraduate researcher at Durham University. "I'm rereading Mark Hudson's Coming Back Brockens: A Year in a Mining Village (Vintage, 1995). Hudson writes about Horden, a former mining village in County Durham where his parents and grandparents lived and dug. He stayed there for a year, and the result is a memoir written with both defensiveness and hostility, yet underlined by a growing warmth and respect for Horden and its residents."

John Gilbey lectures in IT service management at Aberystwyth University. He is reading Aniruddh D. Patel's Music, Language and the Brain (Oxford University Press, 2007). "It takes a detailed look at the relationship between these audio inputs and the manner in which they are processed by humans - often in ways that aren't immediately obvious. Approached by a neuroscientist, but tackling a broad territory, the book is at once academic and involving - and a good advert for interdisciplinary research."

Allan M. Winkler is distinguished professor of history, Miami University, Ohio. "I greatly enjoyed reading Stuart Weisberg's Barney Frank: The Story of America's Only Left-Handed, Gay, Jewish Congressman (University of Massachusetts Press, 2010) and following the story of one of America's most influential politicians today. The book tracks the efforts of a leading light in dealing with the financial crisis, while showing how Frank dealt with the complicated intersection of public and private life. His acknowledgement of his sexuality propelled him into the limelight but was ultimately less important than his policy skills."

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