What are you reading? – 2 July 2015

A weekly look over the shoulders of our scholar-reviewers

July 2, 2015
Books on bookshelf

Richard Bosworth, senior research fellow at Jesus College, Oxford, is reading Simon Levis Sullam’s I carnefici italiani: Scene dal genocidio degli ebrei, 1943-1945 (Feltrinelli, 2015). “A book to mark and to enjoy, beautifully written and judiciously argued. Levis Sullam unveils a belated and even uneasy Italian version of the Holocaust, yet one with many perpetrators, whether powerful or ‘ordinary’. Few who digest it will be seduced, in future, by those TV documentaries that want to assure us that Italians are always and only ‘nice people’.”

James Stevens Curl, author of Funerary Monuments & Memorials in St Patrick’s Cathedral, Armagh, is reading Keith Haines’ The Persian Interpreter: The Life and Career of Turner Macan (Ballyhay Books, 2015). “Turner Macan (1792-1836), commemorated by a handsome memorial in Armagh Cathedral, edited the Persian literary classic the Shahnameh. One of numerous Irishmen who served in India, his offspring married well, and his great-great-grandson, Sir Alec Douglas-Home, would become prime minister. This beautifully produced, elegant and meticulously researched life is long overdue: in Haines, Macan has a sympathetic, diligent and erudite biographer.”

Mark Gatenby, lecturer in organisation studies, Southampton Business School, University of Southampton, is reading Fareed Zakaria’s In Defense of a Liberal Education (W. W. Norton, 2015). “Zakaria gives a passionate and personal account of the transformative power of an Ivy League education. Always fluid and interesting, sometimes affectionate, often boastful, his book is strong on historical narrative and contemporary relevance but weak on conceptual clarity. Its focus is less the subject matter of the liberal arts and more about defending a cultivated way of life.”

Jeremy Holmes, chief operating officer, Universities UK, is reading Anthony Trollope’s The Way We Live Now (Penguin, 1994). “With 2015 being the bicentenary of his birth, I thought I’d read my first Trollope novel. It’s a stand-alone satire of romantic and financial scheming (often intertwined), in a London of snobbery, dishonesty and corruption. I was swept along by the vivid characterisation, the narrative verve and the cataclysmic nature of looming decisions and disasters. Timeless insights about self-delusion and motivation, with an election thrown in for good measure.”

Amy L. Milton, lecturer in psychology, University of Cambridge and Ferreras-Willetts fellow in neuroscience at Downing College, Cambridge, is reading Hubert Selby Jr’s Last Exit to Brooklyn (Penguin Modern Classics, 2011). “Like Requiem for a Dream, this highly controversial book is a tough read but well worth it. Throughout these stories of drag queens, prostitutes and homosexuals in denial, characters are compelled to act on their most primitive motivations, related in real and visceral terms. A must-read for psychologists; I’ve not read anyone who can write compulsion like this author.”

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