What are you reading?

A weekly look over the shoulders of our scholar-reviewers

December 2, 2010

Tim Birkhead is professor of behavioural ecology, University of Sheffield. He is reading Chris Mooney and Sheril Kirshenbaum's Unscientific America: How Scientific Illiteracy Threatens our Future (Basic Books, 2009). "Not only America's future, but the UK's, and elsewhere too. This is essential reading for all science undergraduates (and teachers); superb history that puts our current predicament into perspective. This highly readable book tells you why science matters. On communicating science for example: 'Institutional structures ... fail to award successes in communication and thus create little incentive for scientists to engage in it.'"

Alan Gilmore is resident superintendent of the University of Canterbury's Mt John Observatory, Lake Tekapo, New Zealand. He is reading Andrew Roberts' The Storm of War (Penguin, 2009). "In 700 pages, Roberts gives a complete story of the Second World War. Beginning with Hitler's 1934 consolidation of power, he traces the war from the invasion of Poland through all its theatres to Nagasaki. Along the way the big picture is interwoven with the experiences of soldiers and civilians on all sides."

Stephen Halliday, lecturer at the Institute of Continuing Education, University of Cambridge, is reading Robert Skidelsky's Keynes: The Return of the Master (Penguin, 2009). "Skidelsky's resume of the life and work of Keynes leaves the reader wondering what the great man would think of the mess we have made of things in his absence. And it reminds us that Keynes was much more than an economist. He brought to that stern discipline a breadth of knowledge in the fields of literature, art and music that would do credit to a specialist in any of those fields. An absorbing read.

Jon Nixon is honorary professor in the department of education, University of Sheffield. He is reading Tom Bingham's The Rule of Law (Allen Lane, 2010). "One of the last public acts of this great liberal judge was the publication of this book, which explains in plain and uncluttered prose the importance of the rule of law for good governance. Bingham's indictment of those who in the name of good governance and their own moral conviction invaded Iraq is uncompromising. Rulers are not above the rule of law."

Sharon Ruston is chair in 19th-century literature and culture, University of Salford. "I've been reading Peter Carey's Parrot and Olivier in America (Faber and Faber, 2010) and think it should have won the Booker Prize! It's based on Alexis de Tocqueville's Democracy in America; we view the US through the eyes of a French aristocrat forced to acknowledge a new world order, and an English radical brought up on the readings of Paine."

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