What are you reading?

A weekly look over the shoulders of our scholar-reviewers

March 24, 2011

Alison Adam, professor of science, technology and society at the University of Salford, is reading Steven Shapin's Never Pure: Historical Studies of Science as if It Was Produced by People with Bodies, Situated in Time, Space, Culture, and Society, and Struggling for Credibility and Authority (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2010). "Does just what it says on the cover. Reading and re-reading this collection of published articles offers a reminder of Shapin's contribution to the interdisciplinary development of the history of science. By 'lowering the tone', he looks to the achievements of imperfect human beings making scientific knowledge. Our understanding of science is all the richer for it."

Gary Day, principal lecturer in English, De Montfort University, is reading John Lanchester's Whoops!: Why Everyone Owes Everyone and No One Can Pay (Penguin, 2010). "Will I ever finish Whoops!, hailed as the clearest explanation of the financial crisis yet? Probably not. After several attempts, the fog surrounding derivatives, futures and hedge funds remains as dense as ever. Apparently, the Black-Scholes equation is truth; truth is the Black-Scholes equation, and that is all ye need to know. No wonder we're in a mess."

David Gewanter is professor of English, Georgetown University. "I am reading Jane Brox's aptly named Brilliant: The Evolution of Artificial Light (Souvenir Press, 2011), a lyrical and beautifully crafted history of man-made light, from grease-lit prehistoric caverns to methane-laced mines lit safely with iridescent fish. Our zeal to enlarge our days has brought lighthouses, gas explosions, mercury vapour, Edison's electrocutions, and more. This impressively researched book shows a novelist's eye for character and the mounting pressure that 'light everywhere' has put on the imagination."

Patrick Tissington, associate dean of business partnerships at Aston Business School, is reading Matt Croucher's Bullet Proof (Century, 2009). "The true story of a young Royal Marine who tripped a booby trap and smothered the explosion to protect his friends - and survived to be awarded the George Cross. The language is rough and ready but reads with an authenticity unusual in accounts of war. It does not attempt to be politically correct, so sometimes I wince at the language. I met Matt as part of a project I was working on at the Imperial War Museum. He is a truly fascinating character - quiet, unassuming, modest."

Simon Underdown is senior lecturer in biological anthropology, department of anthropology and geography, Oxford Brookes University. He is reading Warwick Anderson's The Collectors of Lost Souls: Turning Kuru Scientists into Whitemen (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008). "The troubling story of the scientific genius (and paedophile) D. Carleton Gajdusek, the man whose Nobel-prizewinning research laid the foundations for understanding transmissible spongiform encephalopathies."

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