Joanna Bourke is professor of history, Birkbeck, University of London. She is reading Esther Cohen's The Modulated Scream: Pain in Late Medieval Culture (University of Chicago Press, 2010). "Pain research has become chic. This is representative of the best scholarship on the history of suffering; Cohen's focus is on life in the Middle Ages, but her lucid prose, depth of scholarship and delicate unpicking of the meanings given to experiencing as well as meting out pain makes this book relevant for scholars of all disciplines and historical periods. I was entranced from start to finish."
Christopher Belshaw is senior lecturer in philosophy, The Open University. He is reading Lori Gruen's Ethics and Animals: An Introduction (Cambridge University Press, 2011). "It's good that there are philosophers wanting to make a difference and to tick the impact box. But some things are just complicated. Gruen says that animals matter because their lives can go better or worse for them. Similarly for dandelions - but do they matter? We can perhaps 'fall in love' with an animal. But maybe, in so denying its otherness, something is amiss."
Stephen Halliday, lecturer at the Institute of Continuing Education, University of Cambridge, is reading Peter Paterson's Much More of this, Old Boy...? Scenes from a Reporter's Life (Muswell Press, 2011). "Poor editing, with wrong dates and sentences whose grammar occasionally poses challenges to the careful reader, does little to detract from this charming memoir by a reporter whose childhood in a rather grim orphanage did nothing to dim his zest for life or, especially, for journalism, in publications from the New Statesman to the Daily Mail. His memories of pre-Murdoch print unions and the trade union barons of the 1950s and 1960s are especially intriguing. Strongly recommended."
Jeremy MacClancy, professor of anthropology, Oxford Brookes University, is reading Fifty Key Anthropologists (Routledge, 2010), edited by Robert Gordon, Andrew P. Lyons and Harriet D. Lyons. "If disciplines are notoriously bitchy arenas, how can a trio of editors expect to produce a balanced collection of even-handed, judicious and genuinely informative essays about their peers, whether late or living great? Astonishingly, these editors have pulled off that very trick. Exemplary stuff: perfect for students, a delight for their teachers."
Flora Samuel, professor and head of the School of Architecture, University of Sheffield, is reading Dave Eggers' Zeitoun (Hamish Hamilton, 2010). "Eggers records the experiences of Abdulrahman Zeitoun and his wife Kathy, a Palestinian-American couple, during Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. Although we may be becoming immune to news of US human rights violations, this gripping and important book cannot fail to shock."