What are you reading?

A weekly look over the shoulders of our scholar-reviewers

April 5, 2012

Daniel Binney, postgraduate administrator in the department of history, Classics and archaeology at Birkbeck, University of London, is reading Alex Rosenberg's The Atheist's Guide to Reality (W.W. Norton, 2012). "Mixing strands of philosophy, neuroscience and fundamental physics, this book is at once deeply disturbing and oddly comforting about issues of consciousness and morality in godless reality. Tightly argued, it always carries a wry recursive humour about its self-confessed self-defeating narrative. It's how I learned to stop worrying and love scientism."

Sarah Chapman, director of Peninsula Arts at Plymouth University, is reading Will Self's Psychogeography (Bloomsbury, 2007). "I was inspired to read this book having seen a painting by Ralph Steadman that was submitted for a forthcoming exhibition at the Peninsula Arts Gallery [September 2012], which features the work of 16 contemporary illustrators. The book is illustrated throughout by Steadman's spiky, acidic drawings, which are a fine complement to Self's acerbic observations of the absurdities of contemporary living as he embarks on a walk from London to New York."

Laura Ewers, academic administration officer at the School of Computer Science, University of Birmingham, is rereading Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons' Watchmen (Titan, 1987). "This book got me into graphic novels. Set in an alternative-reality 1980s where Richard Nixon is still president and the world is heading towards nuclear war, this novel depicts superheroes as regular people confronting their issues. Moore poses the age-old question, 'Who watches the watchmen?', in a novel that is part page-turning murder mystery, part philosophical exploration of the human condition."

Gay Jones, data assistant in the clinical neurology research team at the Peninsula Medical School, is reading Siddhartha Mukherjee's The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer (Harper Collins, 2011). "As a non-scientist I've found it almost completely accessible and quite riveting. It's given me a much clearer idea of the mystery of cancer and the problems posed by it, the gradual progress and blind alleys, the sheer persistence and ingenuity of researchers, as well as some shocking medical arrogance and treatments. I found it very moving that Mukherjee never loses sight of the patients in his story, and gives a glimpse into the future of cancer treatment while fully acknowledging the intransigence of a disease that we all potentially carry in our genes."

Jane O'Grady, visiting lecturer in philosophy of psychology, City University London, and one of the founding members of the London School of Philosophy, is reading Anthony Kenny's A New History of Western Philosophy (Oxford University Press, 2010). "Probably the best history of Western philosophy available - authoritative, scholarly and accessible - it gives a sense of the unique particularity of each philosopher, yet also how each fits into an era and is part of the ongoing philosophical process."

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