Roger Brown, professor of higher education policy at Liverpool Hope University, has been reading John Cassidy's How Markets Fail: The Logic of Economic Calamities (Allen Lane, 2009). "Cassidy gives the clearest possible account of the meaning of markets and why market failure is unavoidable in modern economic conditions. It is the best account yet of the causes of the current economic crisis, and should be required reading for everyone who worries about the market fetishes of the current coalition government."
Stewart Lansley, visiting research fellow at the University of Bristol, is reading Dominic Sandbrook's State of Emergency: The Way We Were, Britain 1970-1974 (Penguin, 2011). "An evocative and highly readable account of the turbulent early 1970s. There's plenty of colour here - from George Best to Marc Bolan and flared trousers to gentrification. And in some striking parallels with today, there's also the story of the first major post-war boom and bust, with an uncontrolled credit surge leading first to an inevitable housing bubble and then the economic brakes."
Michael Mack, reader in the department of English studies, Durham University, is reading Susan Cain's Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can't Stop Talking (Viking, 2012). "A fascinating book that counters our society's obsession with groups. Cain does not take issue with extroverts as such, but with how being extrovert and gregarious has become a normative standard. An oppressive research climate now dictates that academic work must be done collaboratively, but Cain shows how lone researchers are more innovative and beneficial to society."
A.W. Purdue, visiting professor of history at Northumbria University, is reading Noel Streatfeild's Saplings (Persephone, 2000). "First published in 1945, this account of the impact of the Second World War introduces the Wiltshires, an apparently perfect upper-middle-class family enjoying the last summer of peace. The war will be the obvious cause of the family's disintegration and the blighted growth of the four children, the 'saplings', but Streatfeild subtly describes how the father's death in an air raid and the uprooting of the children will compound fractures already visible during that summer of 1939. Persephone is to be congratulated for republishing this sensitive and perceptive work."
Peter J. Smith, reader in Renaissance studies, Nottingham Trent University, has just finished Dag Solstad's Professor Andersen's Night (Harvill Secker, 2011). "Andersen is a distinguished Ibsen scholar who witnesses a murder from the window of his flat. Compelled by his conscience to report the crime, he constantly defers doing so. Solstad offers no single explanation for his moral paralysis; instead, he allows us access to the idiosyncratic procrastinations of a lonely and etiolated intellectual. A penetrating combination of Hitchcock's Rear Window, Camus' existential ennui and Larkin's social embarrassment."