What are you reading?

A weekly look over the shoulders of our scholar-reviewers

May 27, 2010

Tim Birkhead is professor of behavioural ecology at the University of Sheffield. "Darwin's ingenious concept of sexual selection has dominated animal-behaviour research for the past 35 years. I'm reading Erika L. Milam's Looking for a Few Good Males: Female Choice in Evolutionary Biology (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2010). Work, yes, but it is fun. This is a much-needed history of sexual selection that may also help us see its future direction. Fabulous: I will use it in my teaching."

Robert Eaglestone, professor of contemporary literature and thought, Royal Holloway, University of London, is reading David Shields' Reality Hunger: A Manifesto (Hamish Hamilton, 2010). "As is so often the case, I've been reading the same book as Gary Day. However, while Gary slated Shields' book in his review in these pages, I think the opposite: it is doing a really hard and clever task, trying to capture (in a hole in the sand) the wave of a sea change in contemporary fiction: a manifesto for artists 'breaking larger and larger chunks of reality into their work'."

Nathan Emmerich, a PhD student at Queen's University Belfast, is reading Gabriel Weston's Direct Red: A Surgeon's Story (Vintage, 2010) and Atul Gawande's The Checklist Manifesto (Profile Books, 2010): "Two books by surgeons about surgery - with very different approaches to their subject. Gawande presents his experience researching and implementing checklists to operating theatres as part of a World Health Organisation project on standards for safe surgical care. Weston describes her training and career progression as a top-flight surgeon in the NHS and its personal and professional pressures. Both have very interesting things to say about the culture of medicine, particularly surgery, relevant to the US, the UK and around the world."

Timothy Mowl, professor of the history of architecture and designed landscapes, University of Bristol, is reading Stephen Games' Pevsner - The Early Life: Germany and Art (Continuum, 2010). "Despite its soft-porn cover of a cupid kissing a suppliant naked Venus, this is a sympathetic and meticulously researched account of Nikolaus Pevsner's early life in Germany before he fled the Nazis to settle in England. It explains the complex moulding of Pevsner's aesthetic predilections, which were to have such a disastrous impact upon the redevelopment of postwar Britain."

Stephen Wade lectures in the history of crime at the University of Hull and the department for continuing education, University of Oxford. "I'm reading a very unusual criminological work by former prison governor David Wilson: Serial Killers: Hunting Britons and Their Victims 1960-2006 (Waterside Press, 2007). This provides a very powerful mix of academic analysis and professional insight from someone who met a number of killers in his work. Wilson offers up some punchy journalism, too, and clarifies the major theories suggested in our efforts to understand serial killers."

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