What are you reading?

A weekly look over the shoulders of our scholar-reviewers

October 27, 2011

Guy Fraser-Sampson, senior Fellow, Cass Business School, City University London, is reading Angie Voluti's Clay Ghosts in Sicily (Bank House, 2011). "I would happily recommend this story of a young woman from Palermo who falls in love with a Cypriot airman in the RAF, only to discover that he had flown on a raid that killed her family. A very well-written novel with a dense, well-crafted plot: part war story, part detective story and part love story. Voluti's research is meticulous: RAF bombers are of special interest to me as a writer, and I could not fault her grasp of period detail."

Stephen Halliday, lecturer at the Institute of Continuing Education, University of Cambridge, is reading Stephen Games' Pevsner - The Early Life: Germany and Art (Continuum, 2010). "This, the first of two volumes, covers the celebrated architectural commentator's early life to the point where, despite his Jewish ancestry, he hesitated to return to England after spending Christmas in Germany in 1933. Happily, he did, preserving him to write the Buildings of England series. John Betjeman, whose views on architecture differed markedly, mocked him for his German ancestry - an irony, as Betjeman (of Dutch descent) was similarly mocked in childhood. Not his finest hour."

Dennis Hayes, professor of education at the University of Derby, is reading Tom Burkard's Inside the Secret Garden: The Progressive Decay of Liberal Education (University of Buckingham Press, 2007). "Burkard argues that reading is simple but theorists and teacher trainers have made it so complicated that they have produced generations in which too many young people are illiterate. If you can't read, you can't access a liberal education. The answer is to teach pupils to read quickly and easily with synthetic phonics. Burkard demolishes the contemporary educational thinking that dismisses too many children as uneducable."

Peter J. Smith, reader in Renaissance literature at Nottingham Trent University, has just finished William Golding's The Spire (Faber and Faber, 1964). "Set in the medieval world of visionary Christendom, this is an allegory about the obduracy of religious faith. Jocelin, the dean of the cathedral, is determined to erect a 400ft steeple in spite of the principles of architecture (there are no foundations), the advice of his stonemason and the humility of his calling. His obsession destroys his humanity, his empathy and his life. Jocelin's terrible piety is both ruinous and pitiable."

James Delbourgo, associate professor of history at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey and currently a member of the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, is reading Ian Thomson's The Dead Yard: Tales of Modern Jamaica (Faber and Faber, 2009). "Page-turning account of Jamaica from slavery to Bob Marley, bristling with insight on everything in between. Among the post-imperial pathologies brilliantly excavated, this gem: Drax, the villain in Ian Fleming's Moonraker, was the name of a real Jamaican slave-owner. Somehow that wasn't immediately apparent, watching Roger Moore on TV at Christmas."

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