What are you reading?

A weekly look over the shoulders of our scholar-reviewers

September 23, 2010

Richard Bosworth, professor of history at the universities of Reading and Western Australia, is reading Sheila Fitzpatrick's My Father's Daughter: Memories of an Australian Childhood (Melbourne University Press, 2010). "Scarcely what Barry Humphries mocked as an 'Ozzie Sheila', Fitzpatrick made it from Melbourne to Chicago, surmounting many political and personal obstacles on the way. Her rigour in research made her the best historian of life in Stalin's USSR. Now, with the same scarifying honesty, she depicts her bohemian Melbourne family, who had never heard of footy and had no backyard. I'm enjoying the reminder that not all Australians are sporting and dumb."

Keith Kahn-Harris is honorary research Fellow and sessional lecturer, department of psycho-social studies, Birkbeck, University of London. He is reading Thomas Frank's What's the Matter with Kansas: How Conservatives Won the Heart of America (Henry Holt, 2004). "It's a journalistic but thorough examination of how conservatives pulled off the trick of getting vast numbers of ordinary people to vote against their own economic interests by campaigning on 'social issues' such as abortion. The book's relevance has only grown with the recent rise of the Tea Party and Sarah Palin. It's also convinced me that I need to take another look at theories of 'false consciousness'."

Tim Luckhurst is professor of journalism, University of Kent. "I'm reading Martin Pugh's We Danced All Night: A Social History of Britain between the Wars (Vintage, 2009). This charming account blends immense scholarship with exquisite writing and a reporter's eye for detail. Pugh debunks ideological myth-making without ever descending to insult. This book confirms its author's status as a brilliant historian who can educate and entertain a broad readership without compromising accuracy or surrendering rigour."

Will Slocombe, lecturer in 20th-century literature, Aberystwyth University, is reading David Louis Edelman's Geosynchron (Pyr, 2010). "The final volume of the Jump 225 trilogy finishes the series off on a high. The blurring of economics, information technology and posthumanism was compelling in the first two novels, and Geosynchron reunites these for a finale that sees the anti-hero Natch take control of mankind's technological progress. Definitely moving towards perfection."

Sharon Ruston is chair in 19th-century literature and culture, University of Salford. She is reading Mike Jay's The Atmosphere of Heaven: The Unnatural Experiments of Dr Beddoes and His Sons of Genius (Yale University Press, 2009). "It really brings to life the heady atmosphere at the beginning of the 19th century, when gas research and radical politics blended into one. It's a brilliantly researched book and written in a lively style."

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