Laurence Coupe, senior lecturer in English, Manchester Metropolitan University, is reading Jarvis Cocker's Mother, Brother, Lover: Selected Lyrics (Faber, 2011). "The author tells us in his introduction that he doesn't want his work to be treated as poetry. But whatever we call it, he does it very well. I'm struck by the way the bleak subject matter is treated with such articulate energy. These lyrics vividly express what it is like to live through the making of the waste land of contemporary England. We may think we know our desolate urban landscape, but Cocker makes us see it anew - and so offers his own distinct kind of resistance to it."
Jessica Davey, HE quality assurance administrator, Somerset College, is reading Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray (free Kindle e-book). "It is not only a compelling story about a beautiful, innocent youth who is slowly 'corrupted' by an external influence but it also contains an explanation of the author's philosophies on art and beauty. This book has made me think about the context and meaning of art in an entirely new way, and I am really looking forward to finishing it."
Francesca Ivaldi, careers adviser, Plymouth University, is reading John Irving's Last Night in Twisted River (Black Swan, 2010). "Having devoured every offering from Irving's pen, I am currently re-reading this novel. For me, it does not quite hit the dizzy heights of his masterpiece, A Prayer for Owen Meany, but it comes pretty close. We are presented with a tapestry of complex human relationships and beautifully crafted characters, enveloped within Irving's delicious brand of quirky humour. A masterful storyteller."
Roger Morgan, formerly lecturer in history, University of Sussex, is reading John Lewis Gaddis' George F. Kennan: An American Life (Penguin, 2011). "A monumental study by the leading American historian of the Cold War that does full and illuminating justice to one of the outstanding policymakers of those years. This sensitive and exhaustively documented biography provides a fascinating picture of a creative, self-critical and highly complex individual who excelled as a strategist, historian and teacher."
Peter J. Smith, reader in Renaissance literature, Nottingham Trent University, has just finished reading Conor McPherson's The Weir (Nick Hern, 1997). "McPherson's play is a meeting of Celtic Twilight and Gothic horror. Four buddies gather in a one-room pub in a remote part of Ireland and share reminiscences and ghost stories. Into their midst comes Valerie, down from Dublin, whose pastoral seclusion turns out to be a therapeutic retreat following a personal tragedy. The play moves between back-slapping barroom banter and plaintive monologues on loss and grief as the urban, female character undermines the complacent security of their rural, masculine companionship."