David Gadd, senior lecturer in criminology, Keele University, is reading Ian Loader and Richard Sparks' Public Criminology? (Routledge, in press). "What kind of criminologist shall I be? Lonely prophet? Policy adviser? Observer-turned-player? Loader and Sparks supply healthy food for thought to a discipline that owes its success to the politicisation of crime, but that fails more often than not to impact on crime policy, despite the academic consensus on so many fundamental issues."
Mark Hobart is professor of critical media and cultural studies, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. "I have just finished Nigel Barley's Island of Demons (Monsoon, 2010) about the role of the artist Walter Spies in the creation of modern Bali. Claiming, tongue-in-cheek, to be 'fiction', it is a virtuoso performance of playful English, which recreates the extraordinary cultural encounter of Europeans and Balinese so vividly that images linger delectably and indelibly in the mind."
Nigel Rodenhurst, a doctoral candidate and tutor in 20th-century British and American literature at Aberystwyth University, is reading Sigmund Freud's Jokes and Their Relation to the Unconscious (1905), translated and edited by James Strachey. "Classic 'early Freud'. At this point in his career Freud was working on the basis that what motivates human behaviour is the pursuit of pleasure and the avoidance of pain. On one page trenchant and timeless, on the next misguided and dated, this book provides an absorbing insight into the ways in which jokes and 'the comic' work."
Peter J. Smith, reader in Renaissance literature at Nottingham Trent University, has just finished Robertson Davies' Tempest-Tost (Penguin, 1986, first published 1951). "At the end of the 1930s, Davies was an actor at the Old Vic. This superb comic novel, the first volume of his Salterton Trilogy, is about the social embarrassments and petty squabbles that surround the Salterton Little Theatre's amateur production of The Tempest. His delicate yet vicious satire puts Davies in the tradition of Austen and Trollope: 'nothing appeals so strongly to the heart of the amateur actor as a thoroughly depressing estimate of his work, followed by a promise of food.' Withering stuff!"
Kate Woodthorpe is lecturer in sociology, Centre for Death and Society, University of Bath. "I'm re-reading Paulo Coelho's Veronika Decides to Die (HarperCollins, 2000). A novel about a young woman who is institutionalised after a suicide attempt and is told she has days to live, Coehlo's narration of Veronika's final days is gripping and, at times, a little close to the bone. Actually knowing you had precisely 'x' amount of days left would be the ultimate stopwatch."