Laurie Taylor Column

December 7, 2001


Academics select the books that have most influenced their thinking during the past 12 months.

Mike Redbreast (short-term contract lecturer in biology at the University of Uttoxeter)

It has been a rich year in the biological sciences with seminal texts on cloning techniques and genome cataloguing. But my final choice must be G. W. B. Duffy's The Secret Life of the Domestic Hedgehog (Accles and Pollock, £45). Until recently, most researchers had assumed that the hedgehog's lengthy period of winter hibernation lacked intrinsic scientific interest. Duffy's use of electrodes to monitor the hedgehog's brain activity (HBA) reveals, however, that the animal is not in fact "asleep" during hibernation but merely deeply bored. Groundbreaking.

Jeremy Glint (senior management consultant, the University of Uttoxeter)

Research on university management has come on by leaps and bounds during the past year. Ken Bulstrode's Quarts into Pint Pots : The Logistics of Student Spatiality (Comfort and Joy, £55) is a timely text for all those well-endowed universities currently anticipating a dramatic increase in student numbers following the government's recent abolition of constraints upon recruitment. There's also food for thought in Doreen Tumbril's comprehensive guide to devising a university mission statement ( A Comprehensive Guide to Devising a University Mission Statement , Chas and Dave, £25). In the end, however, I have opted for Neville Dinkum's invaluable empirical study of the styles of governance currently embraced by leading UK vice-chancellors, Autocracy and Despotism in Higher Education (Luther and Vandross, £65). Not for the faint-hearted!

G. Lapping (professor of cultural and media studies at the University of Poppleton)

I was initially tempted by Dr M. W. Yearby's incisive three-volume study of the science of semiology ( Waving not Drowning : Signs and Symbols in an Age of Signification, Paradigm and Syntagm , £150). But in the end I settled for R. G. Tugwell's The Desire of the Eye (Dickoff and Makepeace, £75). This highly sophisticated overview of post-Lacanian developments in psychoanalysis is not only intellectually persuasive but also enlivened by 124 powerful erotic illustrations. Quite an eye-opener!

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