What are you reading?

A weekly look over the shoulders of our scholar-reviewers

January 26, 2012

Tim Hall, lecturer in geography and social sciences, University of Gloucestershire, is reading Placing Autobiography in Geography (Syracuse University Press, 2001), edited by Pamela Moss. "Nine autobiographical reflections on their careers by a range of academic geographers, including a pleasing mixture of established names and early career academics. These tales remind us that the apparently smooth evolution of our disciplines is underlaid by hundreds of more messy, chaotic, serendipitous personal stories, something that is all too often unacknowledged in official histories and public faces."

Stephen Halliday, lecturer at the Institute of Continuing Education, University of Cambridge, is reading Philip Ziegler's Edward Heath: The Authorised Biography (HarperCollins, 2011). "An absorbing account of one of Britain's most underrated, unlucky and unforgiving prime ministers, whose principled but ill-timed decisions are contrasted favourably with the manipulative and devious practices of his great foe Harold Wilson. The 'great sulk' is dealt with more sympathetically than perhaps the subject deserves, and it was a surprise to this reader to learn how suspicious Heath was of the US and all its works."

Victoria Herridge, a postdoctoral researcher in the department of palaeontology, Natural History Museum, is reading George R.R. Martin's A Dance with Dragons (Harper Voyager, 2011). "This sprawling fantasy continues the fight for the Westeros throne begun in Game of Thrones. It's not a great book, but the combination of an ice-age world (mammoths and dire wolves feature) with epic fantasy tropes is addictive, especially trying to separate the two. It also features dwarf elephants - although they don't occur on islands, as palaeobiology would predict (I checked the maps!). A guilty pleasure."

Ruth Richardson, affiliated scholar in the department of history and philosophy of science, University of Cambridge, is reading Michael Allen's "astonishing new book" Charles Dickens and the Blacking Factory (Oxford-Stockley, 2011). "Allen has unearthed completely unknown material from neglected legal archives, yielding fresh insights about Dickens' time as a factory boy, and his surprising relationship with a Jewish 'fence' who looks to be an original for both Fagin and Magwitch. A truly fine new work on Dickens: not a confection of gossip or a rehash of tired theories, but real data, unexpected and important."

Jon Stewart, senior academic lecturer, Brighton Institute of Modern Music, has been reading Chris Rojek's Pop Music, Pop Culture (Polity Press, 2011). "This is an indispensable systematisation of pop music cultural theory incorporating a vast sweep of references. However, the pace of change in the music business has been brutal over the past decade, and tell-tale inclusions (the "Big Four" majors) and omissions (Rara.com) are proof that it is now impossible to publish an entirely up-to-date work on this industry by conventional means."

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