What are you reading?

A weekly look over the shoulders of our scholar-reviewers

October 14, 2010

Geoffrey Alderman, Michael Gross professor of politics and contemporary history, University of Buckingham, is reading Meir Persoff's Another Way, Another Time: Religious Inclusivism and the Sacks Chief Rabbinate (Academic Studies Press, 2010). "Chief rabbis have generally been off-limits as far as critical analysis is concerned, certainly while they are living. Persoff's study breaks this mould and uses a wealth of archival material to expose the contradictions embedded within an office well past its use-by date, unable to unite a pluralised and polarised Anglo-Jewry."

Ivor Gaber, professor of media and politics, University of Bedfordshire, and professor of political campaigning, City University London, is reading A Journey (Hutchinson, 2010) "by T. Blair. 'You couldn't make it up,' as former Blair enthusiast Richard Littlejohn says. Here's me expecting a detailed analysis of 10 years inside the New Labour government and instead I encounter breathless prose recounting Tony and Cherie's nocturnal activities. 'Too much information' on one level, but on another more profound level, not enough. I guess if the Pulitzer is out of reach, maybe the Bad Sex Prize will do as a consolation."

Paul Lowe is course director, MA photojournalism and documentary photography, London College of Communication. He is reading Clay Shirky's Cognitive Surplus: Creativity and Generosity in a Connected Age (Allen Lane, 2010). "One of the sharpest analysts of how disruptive innovations like the onslaught of digital media have changed how we interact. He argues for a social revolution in how we use time currently squandered on watching TV by working together to achieve common good. Imagine what we could do with the cognitive surplus of the university if we harnessed all that wasted student brainpower and a fraction of the time we spend in meetings!"

Timothy Mowl, professor of the history of architecture and designed landscapes, University of Bristol, is reading Mike Jenner's Bristol's Best 100 Buildings (Redcliffe Press, 2010). "At last! An explanation for modern architecture's defiant banality. An admired Modernist admits, in a dangerously honest book, that decoration bores him. Instead, he values intellectually stimulating structural solutions - cathedral vaults, lido galleries. The result is more Rubik's cube than rewarding streetscape: Mondrian paintings in steel and concrete for architects only, not people."

Joanne Watkiss, lecturer in English literature, School of Cultural Studies, Leeds Metropolitan University, is reading E. M. Forster's A Passage to India (Penguin, 1998). "First published in 1924, Forster's novel is set during the British Raj in India. Focusing on an incident between an Indian man and English woman, it highlights the racial and cultural tensions of colonialism. As both travel narrative and historical fiction, it tells a rich tale that unsettles as it entertains."

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