What are you reading?

A weekly look over the shoulders of our scholar-reviewers

August 1, 2013

Megan Crawford, reader in the Faculty of Education, University of Cambridge, is reading Neil Gaiman’s The Ocean at the End of the Lane (Headline, 2013). “I like fantasy fiction, but for some reason have never got around to reading Gaiman until now. His latest is a tale woven around the nature of memory, magic and the bonds of friendship, with Gaiman using his child heroine to move from cosy family to terror in the dark. The writing is evocative and informed by fairy tale, with the porridge and honey in the Hempstocks’ kitchen conjuring up childhood desires just as Turkish delight does in Narnia. Impressed, I am plundering his back catalogue for my summer reading.”

The Real North Korea by Andrei Lankov

Clare Debenham, lecturer in politics, University of Manchester, is reading Andrei Lankov’s The Real North Korea (Oxford University Press, 2013). “Before reading this book I saw North Korea in a set of stereotypes: an unstable regime using possession of nuclear weapons as a threat, beset by famine and ruled by an overweight young man with a strange haircut. Lankov offers a nuanced picture of this secretive country, drawing on his own experience and the North Koreans he has interviewed. He argues that the standard of living has rapidly risen in some classes and its leaders’ actions have their own logic. Crucially he addresses the question of why North and South Korea have not reunified.”

Thomas Hardy and Desire by Jane Thomas

David Kennedy, senior lecturer in English and creative writing at the University of Hull, is reading Jane Thomas’ Thomas Hardy and Desire: Conceptions of the Self (Palgrave Macmillan, 2013). “Thomas’ persuasive study ranges across novels, poems and short stories, and is full of surprising insights into Hardy’s understanding of the self as a public performance of its own and others’ desires. She uses Lacan’s ideas to reveal Hardy’s startling contemporary relevance and to counter ‘the commonly held perception of [his] work as the unalloyed expression of unfulfillment’.”

Fifty Shades of Grey by E. L. James

E. Stina Lyon is professor emeritus of educational development in sociology, London South Bank University. “I could no longer avoid E. L. James’ Fifty Shades of Grey (Arrow, 2012), so I bit the pain-silencing halter and got on. What a hilarious, tedious read! Teenage fiction (think of the Sweet Valley High series) meets de Sade-inspired fantasies. Rich boy, ultimately painless sex, condoms every time and expensive high heels. I giggled a lot and paid my belated respects to Anaïs Nin.”

Campaigning for the Vote, edited by Elizabeth Crawford

June Purvis, professor of women’s and gender history, University of Portsmouth, is reading Campaigning for the Vote: Kate Parry Frye’s Suffrage Diary, edited by Elizabeth Crawford (Francis Boutle, 2013). “Many women have been ‘lost’ in history; none more than Kate Parry Frye (1878-1959), a working suffragist in Edwardian Britain. Her diary is a must-read for all suffrage scholars, since she brings to life the work of an itinerant organiser for an organisation about which we know very little, the New Constitutional Society for Women’s Suffrage.”

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