What are you reading?

A weekly look over the shoulders of our scholar-reviewers

October 6, 2011

Woody Caan, professor of public health, Anglia Ruskin University, is reading Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett's The Spirit Level: Why Equality Is Better for Everyone (Penguin, 2010). "Liberté, egalité, fraternité. Epidemiologists demonstrate that there is precious little fraternity and liberty unless there is a fair amount of equality, too. Persons who consider themselves inherently superior will be indifferent to this. With widening inequality, literacy deteriorates. Perhaps the government's 'feral underclass cut off from society' cannot read The Spirit Level. If they did, they might begin sewing a tricolore."

Carole Elliott, senior lecturer in organisational behaviour and human resource management, University of Hull, is reading Mary Godwyn and Donna Stoddard's Minority Women Entrepreneurs: How Outsider Status Can Lead to Better Business Practices (Greenleaf, 2011). "Ostensibly a study of minority women entrepreneurs in the US, it challenges mainstream ideas about business and dominant ideas about the instrumentality of human behaviour, in a great antidote to myths perpetuated by shows such as The Apprentice. I enjoyed its alternative presentation of social relationships as well as its optimism and hope."

Richard Hand, professor in theatre and media drama, University of Glamorgan, is reading Walter Benjamin's Early Writings, 1910-1917 (Harvard University Press, 2011). "This delightful collection of writings from Benjamin's teenage years into his twenties demonstrate his precocious genius as a voice of modernity. These short works include poems, essays, short stories, scripts and aphorisms, all engaging and distinguished. The style and the concerns that will characterise and determine his later achievements can be seen here in embryo - a fascinating insight."

Tony Mann is principal lecturer in mathematics and director of resources, School of Computing and Mathematical Sciences, University of Greenwich. "I am enjoying the contrasts in form and content between two books: Alexander Marr's exploration of the facets of mathematical practice in Between Raphael and Galileo: Mutio Oddi and the Mathematical Culture of Late Renaissance Italy (University of Chicago Press, 2011) and Alexander Masters' book about the extraordinary mathematician Simon Norton, The Genius in my Basement: The Biography of a Happy Man (Harper Collins, 2011). I'm struck by how the very different visual matter adds to the reader's experience."

Robert A. Segal, sixth century chair in religious studies, University of Aberdeen, is reading George Stocking's Victorian Anthropology (Free Press, 1987). "Stocking, emeritus professor of anthropology at the University of Chicago, is the first true historian of anthropology, and he does for the discipline what Quentin Skinner and John Dunn do for political theory. Skinner meticulously reconstructs the distinctive issues of the day. British anthropological evolutionism turns out to have been influenced less by Darwinism than by the failure of Prichard's ethnological 'paradigm'."

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