What are you reading?

A weekly look over the shoulders of our scholar-reviewers

January 24, 2013

Tim Birkhead, professor of behaviour and ecology, University of Sheffield, is reading Thomas Wright’s Circulation: William Harvey’s Revolutionary Idea (Chatto & Windus, 2012). “Harvey’s discovery in the 1620s that blood circulates around our bodies was a physiological and medical breakthrough. The medical profession found it hard to accept because it undermined the logic of their main treatment, bloodletting. Wright has produced a highly readable, streamlined version of Geoffrey Keynes’ 1966 Life of William Harvey with better context and excellent insight.”

Christoph Bode, chair of modern English literature at Ludwig-Maximilians- Universitat Munchen, is reading Hunter S. Thompson’s The Rum Diary (Simon & Schuster, 2011). “The first novel by the godfather of gonzo journalism. Puerto Rico in the late 1950s: lots of boozing and schmoozing and, alas, too little canoodling, against the backdrop of an inexorable US takeover of the Caribbean paradise. And pitiful male twentysomethings who, torn between idealism and an impending sense of doom, can’t help feeling that the best is already over. Lad lit? Perhaps. But a darn good read.”

Chris Routledge, director of continuing education in English, University of Liverpool, is reading Peter Messent’s The Crime Fiction Handbook (Wiley-Blackwell, 2013). “A clear and well-organised introduction to crime fiction, beginning with a useful overview of the genre and ways of thinking about it, supported with perceptive, up-to-date and detailed readings of 14 key crime fictions, from Edgar Allan Poe to Ian Rankin. A concise and enjoyable explanation of why crime fiction is so popular and yet so fascinating intellectually.”

Julie Scanlon, senior lecturer in English literature, Northumbria University, is reading Leanne Shapton’s Important Artifacts and Personal Property from the Collection of Lenore Doolan and Harold Morris, including Books, Street Fashion and Jewelry (Bloomsbury, 2009). “An engaging and original book that expresses the story of a relationship’s highs and lows through the device of an auction catalogue. Readers browse photographs and descriptions of lots that accumulate over the course of a relationship. Shapton interweaves romantic attachment with attachment to (other) objects and shows the role that ‘things’ play in memories and constructions of identity.”

Jamie Sims, senior lecturer in community sports coaching, University of Chichester, is reading Haruki Murakami’s Kafka on the Shore (Vintage, 2005). “Murakami’s customary requirement for suspension of disbelief comprises conversations with cats, raining fish, secret forest soldiers and incestuous dreams. None of this detracts from a gently compelling journey following the protagonists Kafka and Nakata along parallel storylines, all the while subtly building the tension of an abstract overarching narrative. The mysteries are never tainted by explanation, merely beautifully described, delivering a hypnotic read.”

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