What are you reading?

A weekly look over the shoulders of our scholar-reviewers

July 28, 2011

Kate Fullagar, lecturer in modern history at Macquarie University, Sydney, is reading Damon Ieremia Salesa's Racial Crossings: Race, Intermarriage, and the Victorian British Empire (Oxford University Press, 2011). "A bold and learned intervention into the often-painful history of Victorian racial discourse, this book turns inside out our familiar notions of 'rigid' versus 'soft' racial relations. Taking New Zealand as his case in point, Salesa convinces that those places with reputations for exercising 'better' forms of colonisation - often in the shape of interracial marriage - were rather sites of the most virulent invasions."

Paul Greatrix, registrar, University of Nottingham, is reading Louise Welsh's Naming the Bones (Canongate, 2011). "Welsh is one of the sharpest and most entertaining current Scottish writers, and her style, intelligence and wit, combined with a rather gothic texture, make her books extremely readable. This novel centres on an academic, Murray Watson, who is researching the strange life and thoroughly bizarre death of a mysterious poet, Archie Lunan. A really good yarn, even if the representation of university life is a tad off-beam."

Kerstin Hoge, lecturer in German linguistics, University of Oxford, has been reading Padgett Powell's The Interrogative Mood: A Novel? (Profile, 2010). "To face an onslaught of questions is not usually an experience pursued for recreational purposes. Relentless questioning, whether by the police or small children, defies conversational norms and is perceived as challenging and/or annoying. Powell's 'novel', composed entirely of questions, similarly defies expectation, but this wonderful book is far from annoying, engaging the reader in an exploration of memories and imagined futures."

Don MacRaild, professor of history, Northumbria University, is reading Illustrating Empire: A Visual History of British Imperialism (Bodleian Library, 2011), edited by Ashley Jackson and David Tomkins. "A sumptuous survey of empire through the visual culture of the John Johnson Collection. I am also reading Anne Spry Rush's Bonds of Empire: West Indians and Britishness from Victoria to Decolonisation (Oxford University Press, 2011), a deeply researched account of how Britishness was slowly refashioned by middle-class West Indians into an identity that more reflected their own conditions and experience and helped negotiate imperial decline and decolonisation."

Stephen Wade lectures in the history of crime at the University of Hull and the department for continuing education, University of Oxford. "I'm reading Wilbert Rideau's memoir of life as a condemned man in the American prison system, In the Place of Justice (Profile, 2011). He was sentenced to die after committing a murder when he was 19. The fact that he is now an articulate, philosophical and skilled storyteller must say something about the possibility of rehabilitation. I doubt that a more informative book exists about life in a modern penitentiary."

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