What are you reading?

A weekly look over the shoulders of our scholar-reviewers

December 16, 2010

Costica Bradatan, assistant professor of philosophy, Texas Tech University, is reading Tocqueville on America after 1840: Letters and Other Writings, edited and translated by Aurelian Craiutu and Jeremy Jennings (Cambridge University Press, 2009). "Tocqueville's interest in the US was not exhausted by his Democracy in America. This ample volume does an excellent job of showing precisely that: it documents his interest in - but also his gradual disenchantment with - America after the publication of his masterpiece. Much of the material has never been published before. The book is truly a scholarly feast."

Richard Brunner, research Fellow in the School of Education, University of Strathclyde, is reading Georgie Wemyss' The Invisible Empire: White Discourse, Tolerance and Belonging (Ashgate, 2010). "Like all research of significance, this expertly written book stays in the mind. Wemyss analyses historic discourses on Britain's relationship with East India alongside contemporary discourses on the representation of British Bengalis, and not only reveals how the power of Empire has resulted in silences and stereotypes that live on today, but also explains why engaging with the diversity of British Bengali identities is essential in post-7/7 Britain."

Robert Eaglestone, professor of contemporary literature and thought, Royal Holloway, University of London, is reading Owen Hatherley's A Guide to the New Ruins of Great Britain (Verso, 2010). "Hatherley argues that new buildings of the 'New Labour' period are soulless depoliticised 'pseudomodernism'. In contrast, politicised architectural 'modernism' - the dark, scary and damp Hulme Crescents in Manchester, for example - is praised for creating communities who make great pop music. It's a book of weird revolutionary nostalgia."

Michael King, emeritus professor of law, University of Reading, is reading Niklas Luhmann's Love: A Sketch (Polity, 2010). "I challenge you to find a less sentimental or romantic account of love than this witty and insightful essay by the controversial social systems theorist. It follows the evolution of the concept of love from its Greek roots through to its function as a way of giving meaning to individual experiences and of explaining and justifying the weirdest of behaviours in modern society."

R.C. Richardson, emeritus professor of history, University of Winchester, has been reading Kathryn Stockett's The Help (Penguin, 2010), a keenly observed novel underpinned with autobiography about the still-segregated Mississippi of the early 1960s. Harsh inconsistencies, stark contrasts and dark secrets are uncovered here in the midst of a fracturing white society on the defensive and the black servant maids experiencing the liberating effects of storytelling about their exploited and downtrodden experience."

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