What are you reading?

A weekly look over the shoulders of our scholar-reviewers

August 4, 2011

Roger Brown is professor of higher education policy and co-director of the Centre for Research and Development in Higher Education, Liverpool Hope University. "I'm currently reading Gary W. Gallagher's The Union War (Harvard University Press, 2011). He argues, convincingly, that what Federal soldiers, especially, were fighting (and dying) for in the Civil War was to preserve the Union on the basis that it was a republic of free men rather than oligarchic slave-owners; emancipation, although important, was secondary as well as a means to that end."

Biancamaria Fontana, professor of the history of political ideas, University of Lausanne, Switzerland, is reading Adrienne Mayor's The Poison King: The Life and Legend of Mithradates (Princeton University Press, 2009). "This beautifully illustrated biography presents a fascinating portrait of Mithradates IV Eupator, King of Ponthus. A formidable enemy of the Roman republic, he appears in Western historiography, literature and art as the archetype of the corrupt Oriental despot. Yet in the Eastern tradition he is remembered as the defender and liberator of Asia threatened by Roman domination."

E. Stina Lyon, professor emeritus of sociology, London South Bank University, is reading Ann Oakley's A Critical Woman: Barbara Wootton, Social Science and Public Policy in the Twentieth Century (Bloomsbury Academic, 2011). "This immensely readable biography combines the personal story of an outstanding public person with the intellectual story of social research in the past century. It rescues from oblivion a woman social scientist who, like so many of her generation, unstintingly devoted her life to improving social knowledge, only to be forgotten by new waves of political and intellectual fashions. Unputdownable!"

Martin McQuillan, dean of arts and social sciences at Kingston University, is reading David Willetts' The Pinch: How the Baby Boomers Took Their Children's Future - And Why They Should Give It Back (Atlantic Books, 2010). "Written while Willetts was shadow spokesman for education, work and pensions, this book has surprisingly little, indeed almost nothing, to say about universities. It's almost as if he was not thinking about universities at all during his long years in opposition. It prefers anecdote to evidence and economic game theory to reading the literature on inequality. Third-class, must do better."

Ann Pulsford is executive editor of Marine Biodiversity, the journal of the Marine Biological Association. She is reading Myfanwy Cook's Historical Fiction Writing: A Practical Guide and Tool-kit (ActiveSprite, 2011). "An excellent guide for aspiring writers of historical novels. It is full of practical activities and techniques to facilitate authentic, satisfying historical fiction writing. There are tips from leading academics and professionals, including Bernard Cornwell, Harry Sidebottom and Bernard Knight, as well as non-fiction writers such as Elizabeth Maslen."

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