What are you reading?

A weekly look over the shoulders of our scholar-reviewers

July 19, 2012

Martin Cohen, editor of The Philosopher, is reading Paul Parsons' 3-Minute Einstein: Digesting His Life, Theories and Influence in 3-Minute Morsels (Apple Press, 2011). "I've always been interested in Einstein - well, not when I was four, obviously - who is really more of a philosopher than the boring mathematician he is painted as. E=mc2 indeed! Trouble is, most books on Einstein (despite promising to be clear) are too long and complicated, and leave the suspicion that the author didn't really understand the point either. This one promises to be better - at least I know I'll get three minutes further into it."

Sandra Leaton Gray, lecturer in education, University of East Anglia, is reading Antonia Fraser's Marie Antoinette: The Journey (Phoenix, 2001). "My husband always makes a point of inadvertently telling me the end of any movie he has seen, no doubt in case I should want to watch it uninformed. Similarly, I am reading this biography knowing that the main character is ultimately doomed to suffer the most horrific atrocities, along with her family, and that her name will be blackened for all time. As the chapter I am currently reading describes Marie Antoinette's apparently idyllic early life moving in royal circles, this seems all the more poignant."

Victoria Herridge, a postdoctoral researcher in the department of palaeontology, Natural History Museum, is reading Palaeontological Memoirs and Notes of Hugh Falconer (volumes 1 and 2), edited by Charles Murchison (1868, available free at http://www.biodiversitylibrary.org/bibliography/49217). "Hugh Falconer explored the Siwalik mountains, scoped out India for tea growing, made the first-ever description of a species of dwarf elephant and had a fight with Richard Owen over the Columbian mammoth (he won). Stephen J. Gould rated his work on evolutionary stasis. Shame he perished before he published most of the above. This man deserves a biography - for now his meticulous notes will have to do."

Robert Eaglestone is professor of contemporary literature and thought, Royal Holloway, University of London. "When I was little, I loved my parents' Harry Belafonte records. But until I saw him speak in May, and read his book My Song: A Memoir of Art, Race and Defiance (Canongate, 2012), I had no idea that he was a major social activist, a go-between for the Kennedys and Martin Luther King. A moving and rather heroic life."

Sharon Ruston is professor of 19th-century literature and culture, University of Salford. "I'm really enjoying Rob Pope's book Creativity: Theory, History, Practice (Routledge, 2005). It's such fun to read that it must have been great fun writing it too. The book rescues the idea of creativity from elitist notions of the lone, male genius and resituates it within current collaborative and innovative practices."

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