What are you reading?

A weekly look over the shoulders of our scholar-reviewers

May 31, 2012

Christoph Bode is chair of modern English literature, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität, Munich. "The recent publication of a set of 20 conversations with W.G. Sebald (Auf ungeheuer dünnem Eis: Gespräche 1971 bis 2001) sent me back to his novels, particularly Austerlitz (Penguin, 2002) and The Emigrants. My memory hadn't tricked me: one can hardly find the words to describe the clarity and brilliance of his style, or the depth of his sense of the uneasiness and anxieties of the 20th century. Why was it only at such a distance from his fatherland that Sebald could grow into one of the greatest writers of the last century?"

Henry Farrell is associate professor of political science and international affairs at the George Washington University, Washington DC. "I'm reading Charles Lindblom's books The Market System: What It Is, How It Works and What to Make of It (Yale University Press, 2001), The Intelligence of Democracy: Decision Making through Mutual Adjustment and Inquiry and Change: The Troubled Attempt to Understand and Shape Society: neither obscure nor nearly so influential as they should be. They anticipate the cognitive turn in democratic theory and lay out a framework for ideas the Left should be arguing for today."

John Gilbey lectures in IT service management at Aberystwyth University. "I am reading - sparingly and combined with an exercise regime - Clay A. Johnson's The Information Diet: A Case for Conscious Consumption (O'Reilly, 2012). Framing his concerns in parallel terms to the rise in obesity in the West, Johnson provides solid arguments for reducing the volume and increasing the quality of the information we consume. Required reading for smartphone owners developing a gnawing dependency on social media, it is an invitation to think about the things that matter to you as an individual, friend and member of society."

Judith Okely, research associate in the School of Anthropology, University of Oxford, is reading Susanna Hoe's Travels in Tandem (Women's History Press, 2012). "An intriguing, nuanced interpretation of differing written accounts by male and female companions travelling through distant places. Gendered perspectives, conflicts or commonalities between spouses, kin or ambivalent rivals are subtly deconstructed. Unexpectedly, some exclusions resonate with anthropological fieldwork - especially the 'lone' male explorer whose female companion is carefully written out - something I once experienced."

R.C. Richardson, emeritus professor of history, University of Winchester, is reading Kurt W. Jefferson's Celtic Politics: Politics in Scotland, Ireland and Wales (University Press of America, 2011). "A US-aimed textbook carries a different resonance elsewhere. UK readers are unlikely to turn to its potted histories but will prefer to unpack its transatlantic take on home rule movements, party politics, political institutions, and on their positioning in relation to the European Union and the global economy, as well as on figures including William Wallace and Ian Paisley."

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