What are you reading?

A weekly look over the shoulders of our scholar-reviewers

October 13, 2011

Jeremy Black, professor of history, University of Exeter, is reading The Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes: The Stalwart Companions (1978) by H. Paul Jeffers. "You were probably not aware that a young Teddy Roosevelt joined Sherlock Holmes in thwarting a plot to assassinate Rutherford Hayes in order to make Chester Arthur the US president. But preparing a lecture on Holmes for BBC Radio 4's Great Lives series entails covering his later reputation. This book is interesting for its politics - but have you read the one where Holmes joins his cousin Dracula?"

James Stevens Curl, a member of The Royal Irish Academy, is reading Clonbern Graveyard: Its Monuments & People (The Follies Trust, 2011), edited by Evelyn Mullally. "The Follies Trust (founded 2006) encourages appreciation of Irish exemplars. This, the trust's third illustrated publication, describes the historic burial ground at Clonbern, County Galway, providing a scholarly insight into local social history. It celebrates the unique Classical cast-iron Dennis mausoleum, a drum-like structure crowned with an urn, now beautifully restored under the aegis of the trust after years of neglect."

Jonathan Fenby is a research associate, School of Oriental and African Studies. "China is about to hold its only form of political election, at village level. Kerry Brown's Ballot Box China (Zed Books, 2011) provides an excellent analysis of what this means and what it does not mean as the authorities exert control, votes are rigged and cronyism determines outcomes. It also contains a broader political picture of China that reinforces the core question - can economic and social change on the scale experienced in the People's Republic be contained in a one-party system that shrinks from necessary reform?"

Paul Greatrix, University of Nottingham registrar, is reading Peter Carey's Theft: A Love Story (Faber & Faber, 2007). "The tale is told through the alternating narratives of the prematurely unfashionable artist Butcher and his challenging brother Hugh. Both become involved, following the arrival of the mysterious Marlene, in what seems to be an elaborate, lucrative art scam that takes them to Tokyo and New York. Both characters are terrifically portrayed and Carey's writing is excellent as we explore the real and the fake in art and in life."

R. C. Richardson, emeritus professor of history, University of Winchester, is reading Godly Reading: Print, Manuscript and Puritanism in England, 1580-1720 (Cambridge University Press, 2011), by Andrew Cambers. "A stunningly original study of the intersections between the reading and using of books and religious practice among Puritans. Clichés about the primacy of preaching, the dominant practice of silent reading, and about Puritanism as a route to modernity are all convincingly dispatched. Cambers examines the different spaces - the home, churches, libraries, prisons - in which reading occurred. A striking work that deepens our understanding of early modern England's religious culture."

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