What are you reading?

A weekly look over the shoulders of our scholar-reviewers

August 19, 2010

Sally Feldman is dean, School of Media, Arts and Design, University of Westminster. "Saddened by the death of Beryl Bainbridge, I've just reread her novel Harriet Said (Penguin, 1972), which centres on the friendship - laced with intensity, resentment, loyalty and betrayals - of two girls on the brink of adulthood. 'We'll never be as good or clever as we have been,' observes Harriet, the leader, the plotter, the darer, with a knowingness beyond her years. Subtle, funny and shocking, it's a remarkable first novel from a wonderful writer."

David Llewellyn, principal of Harper Adams University College, is rereading Robert Dallek's John F. Kennedy: An Unfinished Life (Penguin, 2004). "Focusing on political rather than personal insights into JFK's life, this book contains a detailed account of the Cuban missile crisis, the developing conflict in Vietnam and the administration's often tense relationship with the civil rights movement. Dallek captures the human dimension of a president beset with health problems, as well as the vital roles played by Kennedy's team, to provide a real insight into this extraordinary period in late 20th-century history."

Joe Maiolo, senior lecturer in international history, King's College London, is reading Tim Blanning's The Pursuit of Glory: Europe 1648-1815 (Penguin, 2007). "Blanning's breathtaking synthesis of early modern European history has me completely engrossed. I was so deep into his account of the Industrial Revolution that I went three stations past my Tube stop; his analysis of the governing structures of the Holy Roman Empire had me in stitches. I must stop reading it on trains, but I can't put it down."

June Purvis, professor of women's and gender history, University of Portsmouth, is reading Michael Scammell's Koestler: The Indispensable Intellectual (Faber and Faber, 2010). "The late Jill Craigie once told me how she had been raped by the journalist and novelist, Arthur Koestler. His biographer Scammell refuses to acknowledge this, stating, 'The exercise of male strength to gain sexual satisfaction wasn't exactly uncommon at that time.' This book should carry a feminist health warning. Despite Scammell's attempt to rehabilitate his subject, he also exposes his brutal womanising."

Jon Turney, senior visiting Fellow, department of science and technology studies, University College London, is reading Marek Kohn's Turned Out Nice: How the British Isles will Change as the World Heats Up (Faber and Faber, 2010). "An admirably level-headed look at what global climate change will mean for life in one small country. In a unique blend of travelogue, nature writing and futurology, he eschews apocalyptic warnings for a sobering tour of carefully selected landscapes around these isles, and the mostly less appealing new look they will have later in the century. A model exercise in disciplined imagining."

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