What are you reading?

A weekly look over the shoulders of our scholar-reviewers

January 20, 2011

Mike Cole, research professor in education and equality and director of the Centre for Education for Social Justice at Bishop Grosseteste University College Lincoln, is reading Maggie Smith-Bendell's Rabbit Stew and a Penny or Two: A Gypsy Family's Hard and Happy Times on the Road in the 1950s (Abacus, 2010). "The book vividly and passionately portrays the strengths of Gypsy culture, the beauty of the changing seasons in the West Country, and racism at the hands of the authorities and the settled community. The author, who runs an advisory service for Gypsies and Travellers, makes links with present-day prejudices."

Stephen Halliday, lecturer at the Institute of Continuing Education, University of Cambridge, is reading David Macpherson's Defenders of Mai-Dun: A Story of the Roman Assault on Maiden Castle (Roving Press, 2010). "It combines some solid research into the history of that wonderful Iron Age fortification with a fictional account of the lives of its inhabitants. A graphic view of the Roman war machine and of life's hardships as endured by our ancestors, and a riveting read."

Keith Kahn-Harris is honorary research Fellow and sessional lecturer, department of psycho-social studies, Birkbeck, University of London. "I'm currently reading Sara Maitland's sublime A Book of Silence (Granta, 2009). It's an elegant, autobiographical but nonetheless learned reflection on the author's pursuit of silence through retreat into solitary rural living. Maitland has helped me to think again about contemplative religious traditions that, given my own immersion in the noisiness of the contemporary Jewish community, have always seemed alien to me."

June Purvis, professor of women's and gender history, University of Portsmouth, is reading Feminist Media History: Suffrage, Periodicals and the Public Sphere (Palgrave, 2010) by Maria Dicenzo, with Lucy Delap and Leila Ryan. "In its consideration of a selection of periodicals relating to the women's suffrage campaign during the Edwardian age, such as Votes for Women, The Common Cause and The Freewoman, this book offers a wonderful reminder of the range and complexity of ideas circulating in the early feminist press. The chapter on the much-neglected journal The Englishwoman is particularly welcome."

Ruth Richardson is historian and affiliated scholar in the history and philosophy of science, University of Cambridge. "I am reading a new translation of short stories by the Quebecois doctor Jacques Ferron, Tales from the Uncertain Country and Other Stories: Forty-one Jacques Ferron Tales (McClelland & Stewart, 2010). Ferron's quirky subject matter is diverse - his French-Canadian medical experiences and patients are not his only topics - but every one of these short narratives is a small delight. Betty Bednarski's translations are unobtrusively perfect. It feels like finding a new Bulgakov."

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