What are you reading?

A weekly look over the shoulders of our scholar-reviewers

February 23, 2012

Nick Bevan, director of learning resources and librarian, Middlesex University, is reading John Kay's Obliquity: Why Our Goals Are Best Achieved Indirectly (Profile, 2010). "Be they personal, political or organisational objectives, John Kay shows how the indirect, pragmatic, adaptive approach succeeds in a world characterised by complexity, incomplete information and our inability to predict the effects of our actions. A consultant, academic and Financial Times columnist, Kay incorporates facts and theories from several disciplines into a readable whole for a general audience, even if some entertaining byways don't always support the weight of his argument."

Kerry Brown, senior fellow in the Asia Programme, Chatham House, is reading Liu Xiaobo's No Enemies, No Hatred (Harvard University Press, 2012). "The first English translation of a wide selection of Nobel prizewinner Liu Xiaobo's writings. Incisive social criticism of China, and the West, a forceful defence of free speech and a disturbing analysis of the nature of power structures in contemporary China. Liu's faith in human dignity comes across as the essays progress. A powerful collection."

Jon Nixon, honorary professor of education, University of Sheffield, is reading Joelle Fanghanel's Being an Academic (Routledge, 2012). "What does it mean to be an academic? That is the question addressed by Fanghanel in her study of the complexities of academic life - a study that is both theoretically grounded and empirically informed. She reminds us that an academic career is necessarily a moral career - and that a moral career necessarily looks outward to new forms of what she calls 'worldly becoming'."

Peter J. Smith, reader in Renaissance literature at Nottingham Trent University, has just finished Don DeLillo's White Noise (Viking Penguin, 1984). "A brilliant comic dystopia starring Jack Gladney, a non-German-speaking professor of Hitler studies, his preternatural family and eccentric colleagues. A philosophical reflection on the fear of death, the novel denounces consumerism, environmental vandalism, inescapable media intrusion and violence. It is also a poignant deliberation on human weakness. A Post-Modern classic and a must in this year of an American election."

Pat Thomson, professor of education and director of the Centre for Research in Schools and Communities, University of Nottingham, is reading Peter May's The Blackhouse (Quercus, 2011). "Standard northern noir - mid-career male detective with mid-life crisis and unappreciative boss stumbling around on dark windy nights in a remote location where feuding inhabitants engage in paganistic rituals (hunting gannets), eating exotic food (stewed gannets) and all manner of domestic and schoolyard violence. It's lifted above the pack by evocative descriptions of the Isle of Lewis."

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