What are you reading?

A weekly look over the shoulders of our scholar-reviewers

March 8, 2012

James Stevens Curl, a member of The Royal Irish Academy, is reading Anthony Symondson's Stephen Dykes Bower (RIBA Publishing, 2011). "Bower believed passionately in the continuity of historical memory, in the use of natural materials and in fine craftsmanship. In this comprehensively illustrated monograph, Symondson has given us a rounded portrait of this great but disgracefully neglected man and his numerous beautiful works, including St Edmundsbury Cathedral, Suffolk, and his brilliant restoration work at Westminster Abbey, including the colouring of the monuments."

Sandra Leaton Gray, lecturer in education, University of East Anglia, is reading Sue Townsend's Adrian Mole: The Prostrate Years (Michael Joseph, 2009) "in hardback, no less. This was purloined from the local station where we have an informal book and magazine swap facility, thanks to the ministrations of our wonderful station mistress Angela, who provides coffee, books, sweets and TLC for all of us in the village. She seems to be away from the station at the moment, and while her replacement is lovely as well, we are all missing Angela's special something (EN-) she is a kind of village 'mum'."

Paul Greatrix is registrar, University of Nottingham. He is reading Philip Roth's Nemesis (Vintage, 2011). "Athletic but unfit for war, Bucky Cantor is in charge of a playground in an oppressive New Jersey wartime summer when a polio outbreak begins to strike down the kids in his charge. His reluctant decision to leave the playground has disastrous consequences. It's a thoroughly compelling and claustrophobic narrative that captures the horror and sadness caused by an invisible enemy and the dilemmas faced by one man trying to confront it."

Fred Scott, senior lecturer in architecture at the University of Brighton and visiting professor at the Rhode Island School of Design, is reading Teresa Stoppani's Paradigm Islands: Manhattan and Venice: Discourses on Architecture and the City (Routledge, 2011). "This is a mesmerising and widespread exploration of how these two cities are sisters under the skin. The spell is maintained with such an elegance of reasoning and of writing that one has to shake oneself awake at the end to recall the initial extravagant ambition: to compare these two places that for many must at first thought appear to be opposites."

Jonathan Spencer, professor of the anthropology of South Asia, University of Edinburgh, is reading Ronit Ricci's Islam Translated: Literature, Conversion, and the Arabic Cosmopolis of South and Southeast Asia (University of Chicago Press, 2011). "The book meticulously tracks the route of a tale of the Prophet and a Jewish interlocutor, across the centuries, from Arabic to Javanese, Tamil and Malay, opening up for the reader a new world of travel and translation that Ricci calls the Arabic cosmopolis of the Indian Ocean. The result is an inspiring combination of breathtaking scholarship and humane vision."

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