What are you reading?

A weekly look over the shoulders of our scholar-reviewers

November 3, 2011

Christine Allison, associate professor of Kurdish studies, University of Exeter, is reading Birgul Acikyildiz's The Yezidis: The History of a Community, Culture and Religion (IB Tauris, 2010). "Although it is billed as a general introduction to this heterodox community, it really comes to life in the architecture section. The author spent many eventful months surveying great shrines with fluted spires, tiny whitewashed mausolea and zoomorphic tombstones in volcanic tufa across Iraq, Turkey, Syria and Armenia."

Peter Hill, adjunct professor of fine art at RMIT University, Melbourne, is reading Alan Krell's Burning Issues: Fire in Art and the Social Imagination (Reaktion, 2011). "Extraordinarily well illustrated, with Australian bush fires, the Great Fire of London and the firebombing of Dresden sitting alongside candle-lit scenes of domestic warmth, this book covers all aspects of fire's grand narrative. It is especially strong on visual art, from Aboriginal desert painters through El Greco's An Allegory (Fábula) to Californian conceptualist Ed Ruscha's Los Angeles County Museum on Fire."

Kerstin Hoge, university lecturer in German linguistics, University of Oxford, is reading Marion Aptroot and Roland Gruschka's Jiddisch (C.H. Beck, 2010). "Popular introductions to Yiddish language and culture frequently succumb to the clichéd sentimentality of Fiddler on the Roof or tell the story of Yiddish in a highly partisan and selective manner. This book, written for a German readership, offers a refreshingly academic yet accessible history of the Yiddish language, from its medieval origins to its present-day use in ultra-Orthodox pop music."

A.W. Purdue, visiting professor of history at Northumbria University, is reading Ann Waswo's Damaged Goods (Troubador, 2011). "Campus novels are an established genre and can tell us more about the mores of academia than many a ponderous tome. Few academics are happy in today's universities, where they are harassed by administrators and harried by assessment exercises, but murders are rare. Here, when a fellow of Thaddeus College is found dead, Akiko Sugiyama, a visiting expert in Japanese art, discovers a world of hatred and blackmail that revolves around the demands for 'impact'. This gripping story will fascinate, but disturb, all academics."

Flora Samuel, professor and head of the School of Architecture, University of Sheffield, is reading Kate Clanchy's Antigona and Me (Pan Macmillan, 2009). "Antigona is a Kosovan refugee who becomes housekeeper for Clanchy, an Islington mother and poet. What at first appears to be a piece of chick lit turns out to be a sensitive account of the complexities of working women's lives, in particular their relationship with housework. Humdrum household business is juxtaposed with a history of Kosovo told through Antigona's memories. This is a book that makes you examine all your preconceptions about multicultural Britain and leaves you with a feeling of discomfort."

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