What are you reading?

A weekly look over the shoulders of our scholar-reviewers

July 7, 2011

R.C. Richardson, professor emeritus of history, University of Winchester, has been reading Naomi Tadmor's The Social Universe of the English Bible: Scripture, Society, and Culture in Early Modern England (Cambridge University Press, 2010). "This is a probing and deeply learned book by a historian whose Jewish background enables her to compare English translations of the Bible with the Hebrew original. She emphasises not only that such translations (especially the King James version of 1611) helped to develop Protestant identity but also that they 'anglicised' the Bible in respect of such elements as monogamous marriage, service and a prince-centred polity."

Woody Caan, professor of public health, Anglia Ruskin University, is reading Forest School for All (SAGE, 2011), edited by Sara Knight. "Do you believe in magic? Nineteen contributors to this textbook do. They lead a mystery tour of learning in nature and nature in learning. I particularly delighted in the account of the practicalities of urban comprehensive pupils weaving together saplings along a trail as part of their 'Social and Emotional Aspects of Learning'. This book turns a dry Faculty of Public Health report green."

Willy Maley, professor of Renaissance studies, University of Glasgow, is reading Caroline Elkins' Britain's Gulag: The Brutal End of Empire in Kenya (Pimlico, 2005). "Niall Ferguson remembers an idyllic childhood among mangoes and maids, but this paints a different picture of Kenya, a bloody portrait of white terror and a struggle for independence against a vicious British colonial regime that resorted to mass detention, torture and execution. Together with the fiction of Ngugi wa Thiong'o, this is a stark reminder of the violence of Empire and the value of a critical history that serves truth rather than power."

Tom Palaima, professor of Classics, University of Texas at Austin, is reading The Captain's Tower: Seventy Poets Celebrate Bob Dylan at Seventy (Seren, 2011), edited by Phil Bowen, Damian Furniss and David Woolley. "There are lots of things to do with this collection. Wonder which poems Bob would like and why. Wonder why so many fall short of his song poems or Allen Ginsberg's Blue Gossip, which is included here. Wonder how Bob would transform Tony Hoagland's wonderful Hard Rain into a song. Wonder, together with Lawrence Ferlinghetti, 'Who are we now, who are we ever?'."

Mike Sutton, reader in criminology, Nottingham Trent University, is reading David Deutsch's The Beginning of Infinity: Explanations that Transform the World (Allen Lane, 2011). "Deutsch argues that good explanations with infinite 'reach' are hard to vary and refutable. Yet varying his weird 'Infinity Hotel' analogy by moving Deutsch's own book, rather than his example of a puppy, along an infinite hotel corridor, the book and its ideas are annihilated into a singularity. Here, then, is one ironic refutation of the book's main theme."

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