What are you reading?

A weekly look over the shoulders of our scholar-reviewers

July 5, 2012

Margarita Díaz-Andreu, ICREA research professor, University of Barcelona, is reading Lydia Carr's Tessa Verney Wheeler: Women and Archaeology before World War Two (Oxford University Press, 2012). "Archaeology often fails to acknowledge the contributions of female scholars when histories of the discipline are written, and it is always refreshing to find historical accounts that highlight what women accomplished. Although Verney Wheeler was overshadowed by her husband, Sir Mortimer Wheeler, Carr reveals the debt he owed to her in developing novel techniques of excavation, training students in fieldwork methods and bringing archaeology to the public. A thoughtful analysis and a good read."

Laura Ewers, academic administration officer at the School of Computer Science, University of Birmingham, is reading Simon Sebag Montefiore's Jerusalem: The Biography (Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2011). "Starting more than 3,000 years ago in the time of King David and taking the reader all the way into the 20th century, this is not just the story of Jerusalem, but almost a history of the world, featuring Babylonians, Romans, Crusaders, Ottomans, the British Empire and many others who left their mark on this ancient city."

George McKay, professor of cultural studies, University of Salford, is reading Noel Kingsbury's Hybrid: The History and Science of Plant Breeding (University of Chicago Press, 2009). "From the Enlightenment idea that God's plant kingdom could be improved upon to contemporary debates about genetically modified crops, this book's grand sweep combines horticultural and botanical detail with evocative specialist language: 'landrace', 'shattering heads', 'nature's bastards'. For Kingsbury, globalisation is exemplified not by fast-food outlets or anti-capitalist protests, but rather by the spread of wheat-based bread: the adapted plant at the heart of history." Jane O'Grady, lecturer in philosophy at City University London and the London School of Philosophy, is reading Stewart Goetz and Charles Taliaferro's A Brief History of the Soul (John Wiley & Sons, 2011). "Debates about the nature of the mind are often historically ungrounded. Although they may well have their own agenda, Goetz and Taliaferro not only provide an extremely useful chronological account of how the concept of the soul developed, they also illuminate the questions it was meant to solve, and the way these are not yet satisfactorily laid to rest."

Emily Sanders, office manager at Jisc Advance, is reading Mary Roach's Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers (W.W. Norton, 2003). "There, in big letters on the cover, is a word sure to get your attention. Roach's book leads the reader through the fascinatingly macabre world of the cadaver and the ways it can be used post-mortem. It is certainly not a book for the faint-hearted, and Roach seems to relish the thought that her readers may be at risk of losing their breakfast."

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