What are you reading?

A weekly look over the shoulders of our scholar-reviewers

December 1, 2011

David Barnes is a part-time tutor in English literature, Somerville College, Oxford. He is reading Shivani Sivagurunathan's Wildlife on Coal Island (UPM Press, 2011). "A lively and engaging debut from this Malaysian author, whose short stories fizz with originality - like Gabriel Garcia Marquez or Jorge Luis Borges transposed to Southeast Asia. She explores a setting that very few of us know much about, brought alive in a series of magical tales of monkeys and tapirs, kingfishers and pythons."

Richard Bosworth, senior research fellow at Jesus College, Oxford, is reading Sarah Foot's Athelstan: The First King of England (Yale University Press, 2011). "My early boyhood was strangely conditioned by T.F. Tout's History of the Kings and Queens of England, once my mother's South Australian school text and later my Harry Potter. So I am a natural for Yale's English Monarchs series: the last to accompany me to bed was the grandson of Alfred of the cakes. What fun it must have been for the author, wrenching evidence from a decidedly fact-less time."

Claire Chambers, senior lecturer in postcolonial literature, Leeds Metropolitan University, is reading John Siddique's Full Blood (Salt, 2011). "Siddique's new poetry collection contains powerful reflections on love, loss, war, peace and alternative modes of living for these days of financial and political turmoil. In one sequence, The Knife, he discusses racism in northern England; in another, Reclaiming the Body, love and sex are described with tender honesty. Technically virtuosic yet direct and sensual, this is a collection I keep returning to."

Andreas Hess, senior lecturer in sociology, University College Dublin, is reading Christian Fleck's A Transatlantic History of the Social Sciences: Robber Barons, the Third Reich and the Invention of Empirical Social Research (Bloomsbury Academic, 2011). "Fleck, an Austrian sociologist, looks at the role that German-speaking exiles in the US played in inventing and establishing empirical social research. This magnificent book is based on years of research in the Rockefeller Archive, the New York Public Library and various university archives and libraries including those of Columbia, Harvard and Chicago. Adorno fans will be surprised."

Jon Turney, honorary fellow of the department of science and technology studies, University College London, is reading Histories of Scientific Observation (University of Chicago Press, 2011), edited by Lorraine Daston and Elizabeth Lunbeck. "It's surprising this hasn't been done before: three impressive overview essays and a series of brilliant case studies. Together, they probe the way that the notion that systematic, disciplined observation is a foundation for knowledge was elaborated as part of the culture of modern science. It bears on any number of debates about who knows what, and how."

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