What are you reading?

A weekly look over the shoulders of our scholar-reviewers

June 2, 2011

Gary Day, principal lecturer in English, De Montfort University, is reading Julian Barnes' Flaubert's Parrot (Jonathan Cape, 1984). "A dazzlingly intellectual book full of graceful one-liners, of which my favourite is 'A pier is a disappointed bridge.' The bird of the title is the one the writer had on his desk when he wrote Un Coeur Simple. But it turns out there's nothing simple about the parrot, the heart or, indeed, anything."

Susan Hogan, professor of cultural studies, University of Derby, is reading Ina Zweiniger-Bargielowska's Managing the Body: Beauty, Health, and Fitness in Britain, 1880-1939 (Oxford University Press, 2010). "An audaciously ambitious, carefully researched monograph that begins with a discussion of alarmist responses to the physical 'deterioration' of the working classes, supposedly so enfeebled that they could not be recruited to fight in the Boer War, and ends with scantily dressed middle-class women plunging into the icy waters of mixed lidos."

R.C. Richardson, emeritus professor of history, University of Winchester, is reading Phyllis Bentley's Inheritance (Pan, 1967). "A best-seller on first publication in 1932, this is a fictional account of the Oldroyd family's Yorkshire textile mill and its fortunes over successive generations. Halifax-born Bentley provides a well-informed, passionately committed, socio-economic overview of the woollen industry from the first stages of mechanisation and Luddite resistance down to the late 1920s depression while also exploring how relationships between factory masters and their labour force changed over 130 years."

Nigel Rodenhurst, a doctoral candidate and tutor in 20th-century British and American literature, Aberystwyth University, is reading Peter Novick's The Holocaust in American Life (Houghton Mifflin, 1999). "Novick's basic claim that American administrations have selectively chosen to learn either the 'lesson of the Holocaust' or the 'lesson of Vietnam' when faced with making decisions concerning interventions on foreign soil is compelling and well illustrated. Obviously partisan and, unsurprisingly, not universally popular."

Noel Castree, professor of geography at the University of Manchester, is reading Danny Dorling's So You Think You Know about Britain? (Constable & Robinson, 2011). "By addressing eight big questions about the UK today - such as where the North now begins and why there are more women than men - Dorling not only surprises us, but also rescues geography from the stereotypes that still burden it. This humorous, humane book dispels numerous myths about contemporary Britain. It's a rare example of 'public geography', showing how uneven patterns of human settlement and movement have profound consequences. It deserves to be read widely and could alter many Britons' perception of the land they think they know well."

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