What are you reading?

A weekly look over the shoulders of our scholar-reviewers

November 11, 2010

David Cromwell, formerly researcher at the National Oceanography Centre, is co-editor of Media Lens. He is reading Daniel Hind's The Return of the Public (Verso, 2010). "The state, together with financial and corporate elites, have long ensured that the public is kept away from the mechanisms and institutions of policy and power. Hind proposes a new media system of 'public commissioning', funded by the licence fee, to replace 'the power of owners and superiors with the power of citizens at crucial points of decision'. Truly public knowledge, he argues, will empower the general population to overcome the destructive prerogatives of special interests. A persuasive and vital analysis."

Felipe Fernández-Armesto is William P. Reynolds professor of history, University of Notre Dame in the US. "Marco Aime's Eccessi di Culture (Einaudi, 2004) is a gem of an essay, warning an increasingly illiberal world against substituting insistence on cultural conformism for discarded forms of racism and ethnocentrism. The author is a stunningly well-read, incisive-minded, viscerally interdisciplinary anthropologist, who can bring out the complexity, subtlety and mutability of culture without making the subject unintelligible or esoteric."

Jerome de Groot is undergraduate programme director, English and American studies, University of Manchester. "As term starts to bite, I probably won't get to finish what I am reading until December, but they are compelling novels that are hard to put aside: China Miéville's The City and The City (Macmillan, 2009) is a magnificently creepy and political interrogation of the things we try not to see around us; and the 20th-anniversary edition of Patricia Cornwell's Postmortem (Sphere, 2010), an excellent and prestigious new edition with a thoughtful introduction."

Jon Nixon is honorary professor in the department of education, University of Sheffield. He is reading Ernst Fischer's The Necessity of Art (Verso, 2010). "Published 60 years ago, Fischer's classic work - re-issued with an introduction by John Berger - still reads as a radical manifesto in defence of the necessity of art within the good society. I had remembered the persuasive force of Fischer's argument, but on re-reading was reminded of the easy erudition and deep humanity of this great Austrian journalist, writer and politician."

Peter J. Smith, reader in Renaissance literature, Nottingham Trent University, has just finished reading Kurt Vonnegut's A Man Without A Country (Bloomsbury, 2006). "By turns jaded, outraged and acerbic, Vonnegut's memoir-cum-polemic is determined to denounce the corruptions fostered by the George W. Bush Administration. His trademark gallows humour is never far away: Vietnam 'only made billionaires out of millionaires. Today's war is making trillionaires out of billionaires. Now I call that progress.'"

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