What are you reading?

A weekly look over the shoulders of our scholar-reviewers

May 23, 2013

David Eastwood, vice-chancellor of the University of Birmingham, is reading Simon Thompson’s Unjustifiable Risk? The Story of British Climbing (Cicerone, 2010). “Most histories of climbing and mountaineering indulge the heroic or the romantic. This does neither, instead embodying real research and thoughtful reflection. What Thompson offers is a properly contextualised history, which nicely distinguishes both the motivations of climbers and the social, economic and cultural forces that shaped the development of British mountaineering. An unusually satisfying and well-crafted book.”

Why Life Speeds Up As You Get Older by Douwe Draaisma

Kerstin Hoge, university lecturer in German linguistics, University of Oxford, is reading Douwe Draaisma’s Why Life Speeds Up As You Get Older (Cambridge University Press, 2004). “If you are hoping to find an answer to the title question, brace yourself for disappointment: there is currently no definitive explanation of age-related change in time perception. The best advice comes from 19th-century philosopher Jean-Marie Guyau, who recommended filling a time span with novel events to avoid the sense of monotony. Stuck on life’s speeding train, this phenomenological tour of memory offers wonderful diversion.”

Gender and the English Revolution by Ann Hughes

R.C. Richardson, emeritus professor of history, University of Winchester, is reading Ann Hughes’ Gender and the English Revolution (Routledge, 2011). “Via a skilful combination of synthesis and anecdote, Hughes shows how gender stereotypes shifted in the troubled mid-17th century, with women responding to new political, economic, military and religious challenges and opportunities, even as some men - especially defeated Royalists - were unmanned. More generally, a convincing case is presented here for the inseparability of political history and gender history.”

The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck

Peter J. Smith, reader in Renaissance literature at Nottingham Trent University, has just finished John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath (Viking, 1939). “A tale of dispossessed rural poor in dustbowl America remains furiously pertinent. As the never-surfeited ‘monsters’, the banks, drive the mechanisation of agriculture that leads to widespread unemployment, we follow the exodus of the Joad family to California’s promised land; along Route 66 they encounter prejudice, police brutality, accusations of being ‘Reds’ and incessant dull hunger. A biblical epic dramatising the gulf between the wealthy elect and the starving multitude. I wonder if George Osborne has ever heard of it.”

Sit Down and Cheer by Martin Kelner

Sharon Wheeler, senior lecturer in journalism, University of Portsmouth, is reading Martin Kelner’s Sit Down and Cheer (John Wisden and Co, 2012). “Do you remember Colemanballs? What about Frank Bough and his, ahem, recreational habits? A chatty and good-humoured amble through a history of sport on television, from the early days of the stiff-upper-lipped ex- military chaps via nuggets such as ITV broadcasting the World Target Clown Diving Championships to the Sky invasion and Gary Lineker and his crisps.”

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