What are you reading?

A weekly look over the shoulders of our scholar-reviewers

June 10, 2010

Andrew Blake is associate dean, School of Humanities and Social Sciences, University of East London. He is reading David Stubbs' Fear of Music: Why People Get Rothko but Don't Get Stockhausen (Zero Books, 2009). "Modernist art sells for millions, but no music that breaks the rules of tonality has achieved popularity. Why? Stubbs gives an enthused account of modernist and avant-garde music, although this avoids a key issue - other sounds were available: maybe we don't get Stockhausen because we do get Sibelius? But it is a question more of us should be asking."

Christoph Bode, chair of modern English literature, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universitat, Munich, is reading Pawel Huelle's The Last Supper (Serpent's Tail, 2008). "A fascinating novel about truth and lies, art and politics. Wise and refreshingly irreverent, the narrator steers his course through kaleidoscopic vistas of stories, visions and reflections. Set in post-communist Poland, its basic theme is communion and betrayal. Ambitious and entertaining at the same time."

Sally Feldman is dean of School of Media, Arts and Design, University of Westminster. "European crime fiction, which has recently had the edge on radical ideas, has a worthy rival in Sophie Hannah's highly contemporary thriller, A Room Swept White (Hodder and Stoughton, 2010). Making a documentary about women wrongfully accused of killing their children, TV producer Fliss Benson finds her investigations inhibited by bullying bosses, obstructive police, obfuscating witnesses and, most challenging of all, increasing doubts about innocence, guilt, justice and love."

Tony Mann, head of department, mathematical sciences, at the University of Greenwich, is enjoying Christian Constanda's Dude, Can You Count? Stories, Challenges and Adventures in Mathematics (Springer, 2010). "The narrator exchanges mathematical jokes and puzzles with an extraterrestrial visitor while they both rant outrageously about the perceived wrongs of the modern world. This is the most extraordinary maths book I have ever read! More seriously, I'm reading the illuminating and inspiring essays in The Oxford Handbook of the History of Mathematics (Oxford University Press, 2008), edited by Eleanor Robson and Jacqueline Stedall. It is wonderful food for thought for any practitioner."

Jane O'Grady teaches philosophy of psychology at City University London, and is a sessional lecturer in philosophy at Birkbeck, University of London. "I am reading Raja Halwani's Philosophy of Love, Sex and Marriage: An Introduction (Routledge, 2010). It skilfully combines meticulous philosophical analysis of contemporary romantic and sexual mores with vivid earthy examples of the problems and permutations of actually living them. There is lucid exposition of the ethical theories of Kant and Aristotle, and dispassionate debate on the pros and cons of gay marriage."

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