What are you reading?

A weekly look over the shoulders of our scholar-reviewers

June 28, 2012

Costica Bradatan, associate professor of philosophy at the Honors College, Texas Tech University, is reading Andrei Codrescu's Whatever Gets You through the Night: A Story of Sheherezade and the Arabian Entertainments (Princeton University Press, 2011). "In this imaginative, subtle book, Codrescu retells The Arabian Nights, but with a Transylvanian twist. His writing is spicy, witty and funny, sometimes savagely so. Here one can never tell truth from fiction, nor words from flesh. The book is living proof, if proof were needed, that the best storytelling takes place in the shadow of death - flesh trembling, words aching and all."

Dennis Hayes, professor of education, University of Derby, is reading Munira Mirza's The Politics of Culture: The Case for Universalism (Palgrave Macmillan, 2012). "I am struck by its clarity of language and argument. Mirza is unapologetic about using the term 'universal' to mean not we are 'all the same' but that we have the imagination to transcend, through art and culture, our particular biological, historical, geographical or ethnic circumstances. She makes a strong case that 'inclusive' approaches by the guardians of cultural institutions obscure the universal and, therefore, what it is to be human."

R.C. Richardson, emeritus professor of history, University of Winchester, is reading Becky E. Conekin's The Autobiography of a Nation: The 1951 Festival of Britain (Manchester University Press, 2003). "This assertion of optimism amid post-Second World War austerity also led to an enormous display of enthusiasm, with 8.5 million visitors coming to the new stridently Modernist buildings of the South Bank (dominated by the Dome of Discovery and the Skylon tower) and to the light relief provided by the associated attractions of the Battersea Pleasure Gardens."

Adrian Smith is professor of history, University of Southampton. "Hooray - the media have finally discovered sports historian Martin Polley, thanks to The British Olympics: Britain's Olympic Heritage 1612-2012 (English Heritage, 2011). English Heritage titles always look brilliant, and this is no exception. Corinthian scholar extraordinaire, Polley is so assiduous in reconstructing Albion's four centuries of Olympian endeavour that he competes at Much Wenlock and walks the 1908 Marathon route."

Gordon Thomas, financial support funds officer, University of Nottingham, is re-reading Yann Martel's Life of Pi (Canongate, 2003). "This wonderful book won the Booker Prize and is one of my all-time favourites. However, I once gave away a key plot point by asking someone who was reading it: 'Have they got to the island yet?' Oh no, I've done it again!"

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