Jerome de Groot is undergraduate programme director of English and American studies, University of Manchester. "I am currently working my way, slowly, through David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest (Little, Brown, 1996). I am pretty sure it is an amazing, epic work of 'bats genius', but it demands a very alert and thorough reader. Foster Wallace is a brilliant stylist, immensely funny and full of insight and grace. I am also reading Beverley Southgate's History Meets Fiction (Pearson Education, 2009), which is similarly demanding and thought provoking."
John McIlroy, professor of employment relations at Middlesex University, is reading Workers across the Americas: The Transnational Turn in Labor History (Oxford University Press, 2011), edited by Leon Fink. "Sensibly conceived, transnational history examines relations between nation states and forces and factors beyond them, without denying the importance of the nation. It acknowledges problems in composing rigorous global stories and the continued need for national narratives. Neither substitute nor saviour, it could reinvigorate labour history. This rich, challenging collection suggests its potential."
Roger Morgan, formerly professor of political science at the European University Institute, Florence, is reading Edmund de Waal's The Hare with Amber Eyes: A Hidden Inheritance (Chatto, 2010). "The book traces the fate of a collection of Japanese china or wooden miniature models (netsuke) in their successive contexts: the palatial residences of the Ephrussi clan (Russian-Jewish bankers, the author's ancestors) in fin de siècle Vienna and Paris; the shattered Palais Ephrussi in the ravaged Vienna of 1945; and a large modern house in post-war Tokyo. An imaginative use of contemporary sources makes this a moving comparative study in cultural and social history."
Sharon Ruston is chair in 19th-century literature and culture, University of Salford. "I have just finished William Godwin's 1805 novel Fleetwood, Or, the New Man of Feeling (Broadview Press, 2000). It is an interesting book, a kind of psychological case study of a paranoid and jealous husband tracing the degeneration of a 'diseased imagination'. The book reveals new Romantic sensibilities emerging from Enlightenment rationalism."
Hester Vaizey, research associate at Clare College, Cambridge, is reading Julia Roos' Weimar through the Lens of Gender: Prostitution Reform, Woman's Emancipation, and German Democracy, 1919-33 (University of Michigan Press, 2010). "Roos examines debates about the legal status of prostitutes in 1920s Germany, arguing that changes both within the discourse and within laws concerning prostitution point to shifts in thinking about women's rights within the new democracy. Central to the book's thrust is the contention that historians have been too quick to dismiss changes to women's position in this era."