What are you reading?

A weekly look over the shoulders of our scholar-reviewers

April 19, 2012

Roger Morgan, formerly professor of political science at the European University Institute in Florence, is reading Mental Maps in the Early Cold War Era, 1945-68, edited by Steven Casey and Jonathan Wright (Palgrave Macmillan, 2011). "An impressive international team analyses the personal worldviews of political leaders during this turbulent period. Without endorsing the 'great men' theory of history, the authors justify their placing of Truman or Stalin, Mao or Nehru at the centre of policymaking, especially as these leaders were capable, to varying degrees, of adjusting their 'maps' to external changes."

R. C. Richardson, professor emeritus of history at the University of Winchester, is reading Flora Annie Steel and Grace Gardiner's The Complete Indian Housekeeper and Cook (Cambridge University Press, 2010). "This best-selling 1888 'domestic bible' offered practical but opinionated guidance on every conceivable aspect of household management to the newly married memsahibs who joined Civil Service or Army husbands in imperial India. Disdainful of local customs and challenged by the country's climate, its longest chapter dealt with all those lazy, disorganised, untrustworthy, unhygienic servants whose duty was now to help the British ruling class keep up appearances."

Claire Summers-Evans, administrative assistant in the student accommodation office at Plymouth University, is reading Lauren Oliver's Pandemonium (Hodder & Stoughton, 2012). "This is the second in a trilogy that started with Delirium, evoking a society where love is seen as a disease and where, once the 'procedure' has been completed, you will never love or show affection again. But in the Wilds, there are those who fight this way of life and learn to survive and rebel. The heroine Lena has finally learned how to love, but is now living with heartbreak."

Anil Seth, co-director of the Sackler Centre for Consciousness Science, University of Sussex, is reading Christof Koch's Consciousness: Confessions of a Romantic Reductionist (MIT Press, 2012). "Among the plethora of books on consciousness, this engaging blend of science, autobiography and honest self-reflection stands out. It combines a lucid description of the leading edge of consciousness science with a surprisingly personal and philosophical reflection of the author's life as one of its foremost authorities, shedding light on how scientists really think. Science writing at its best."

Peter J. Smith, reader in Renaissance studies at Nottingham Trent University, is reading Ken Kesey's One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (Methuen, 1962). "The harsh regime of 'Big Nurse' Ratched is challenged by Randle Patrick McMurphy, an Irish-American gambler whose appetite for booze and prostitutes turns a mental institution upside down. Later overshadowed by a 1975 film, this novel about the state's struggle to control the individual anticipates the US' stifling of dissent and violent subjection of Vietnam protesters, and its ending is both celebratory and poignant."

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