15 thoughts on “Summer Reading”

  1. Currently working my way through McManners’ “Death and the Enlightenment”, but I’m not sure that I think you should do the same. Fiction at the moment is Michael Chabon, whom I do recommend (a little mannered, but good fun). Yeats and Mayakovsky are satisfying my need for poetry, and I recommend them too, but think you’re probably ahead of me there.

  2. Tess of the D’Urbervilles blew me away last week (though I expect you’ve already read it.

    Bernard Williams post-humous In the Beginning Was the Deed is outstandingly good.

    Currently reading The Man in the High Castle by Phillip K. Dick is a really good intelligent sci-fi/counterfactual history easy read.

    Michael Frayn’s Towards the End of the Morning had me rolling around laughing out loud when I read it recently.

    And I’d side with Rob Jubb in saying that Sarah Waters’ The Night watch is very good.

    Oh, and I finally got round to reading A Farewell to Arms, which left me feeling numb (in a good way) for about 2 days afterwards.

  3. I’m reading the Road which is very good. The delivery is quite staccato which is different to what i was reading before.

    Dostovevsky’s the Idiot. Incredibly good, but I got a bit bogged down in the middle because there’s just such a lot going on.

    But likewise, I have been doing most of my reading online. Lots of American Economic blogs. Still don’t quite understand monetary policy but I’m getting there. The Money Illusion blog by Scott Sumner’s good.

  4. Novels: Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel which I thought was very good; Pregnant Widow by Marin Amis which I thought was very bad; Infinities by John Banville, again a very good novel, and Peter Carey’s Parrott and Olivier in America — tstt.

    Non-fiction: a determined effort to get to the bottom of this Neanderthal business: ok, they had hyoid bones and the FOXP2 gene: but did they really talk, or just sort of croon? And if they really were so thin on the ground in Europe ca 45K BCE, how did their gene sequences end up in our mitochondrial DNA?

    Also: Surviving Death, by Mark Johnston. I think the answer may well be a bit of a disappointment, but stay tuned.

  5. I read Chris Cleave’s The Other Hand, which I enjoyed. Now reading Wolf Hall, which I worried couldn’t live up to the hype, and doesn’t, but a jolly romp nonetheless.

  6. Hi Chris,

    There are some suggestions on the New Left Project website:


    Stuart White says: “If you read one book this summer, I’d make it Erik Olin Wright’s Envisioning Real Utopias.” I think that’s a strong enough recommendation to make me read it.

    Currently I’m reading Secret Affairs: Britain’s Collusion with Radical Islam by Mark Curtis, which is pretty good so far.

    Recently I’ve read the typically incisive This Time We Went Too Far: Truth and Consequences of the Gaza Invasion by Norman Finkelstein; chunks of the excellent Requiem For a Species: Why We Resist the Truth About Climate Change by Clive Hamilton; Power Without Responsibility by James Curran and Jean Seaton, on the history, sociology and politics of the British media; and I’ve been dipping into No Gods No Masters: An Anthology of Anarchism edited by Daniel Guérin (which in my opinion is wonderful).

  7. Now reading Wolf Hall

    About which one asks – how does Rafe manage to say “J’adoube” when playing chess against Thomas (p.105) given that the term isn’t recorded as being used until about two and half centuries later?

  8. While preparing to teach my courses in US governement, which will bea more onerous chore than usual(long story.), I have tried to relax witha mixture of heavy and light reading. In this post< Iconfine myself to the heavy stuff.
    First, Iam reading a book by an old teacher, and minor hero of mine, Carlos Eire , called A Very Short History of Eternity. Itis a wryly amusing, very learned, romp through one of the more abstract, yet significant ideas wich have influenced western culture.
    Second,I read, and was profoundly moved by, Jonathan Lear's Radical Hope: Ethics in the Face of Cultural Devestation. This is an intellectually profound book about the life of Plenty Coups, the last great chief of the Crow Nation, and about the lessons that life contains for understanding cultural survival under stress.
    Finally, I spent a week in Mississippi and Tennessee recently studying the history of the Civil Rights Movement. I have a number of interesting books to reccomend on that subject, but the best is Professor Charles Marsh's Gods Long Summer, Stories of Faith and Civil Rights. It is a collection of powerful analyses of the lives and ideas of five people,all in Mississippi, whose very different religious outlooks shaped their attitudes on Civil Rights. They range from a moving poratrait of that genuine saint, Fannie Lou Hamer, to a compulsively readable, quite terrifying poratrait of KKK leader and strategist Sam Bowers.

  9. Part Two: I noticed some typos made in haste, but rather than focus on that, I will mention two of the “Lighter books” I have read recently.
    1. Zugzwang, by Rohan Bennett. A fascinating historical mystery thriller, set just before World WAr One in 1914 Saint Petersburg , during the mildly famous Chess tournament that was held to(ostenibly) settle on a challenger to Emmanuel Lasker for the Chess Championship of the World
    2. A book which I picked up in Mississippi, at the excellent Delta Blues Museum in Clarksdale, Feel Like Going Home: Journies and Arrivals of American Musicians, by Peter Guralnick. A delightful collection of essays on American Blues, Country and Rockabilly musicians, some deservedly famous, ( Elvis, Merle Haggard, Bobby “Blue” Bland),some undeservedly almost unknown( James Talley, Charlie Feathers, Stoney Edwards.)

  10. I’ve recently read Tony Judt’s Ill fares the Land, which impressed me a great deal: his account of the rise and fall of the (welfare) state shows what we’re likely to have lost for a long time to come.
    I’ve also read E.R. Dodds’ The Greeks and the Irrational and in its wake Ruth Benedict’s The Chrysanthemum and the Sword (and will re-read Bernard Williams’ Shame and Necessity.

    Sarah says that her need for poetry is satisfied by Mayakovsky and Yeats. I’ve also been reading Yeats, as well as Rilke and Geoffrey Hill. The latter I find hard to follow. A few weeks left till the new term begins and I still have Thomas Karlauf’s biography of Stefan George and novels by Louis Couperus on my to-read table. In term-time I’ll be reading Victor Ehrenberg etc. on Greek political concepts.

    Some of you have made me curious about Hilary Mantel. So I’ll read that.

    Question on a related subject, what do you consider THE book to read on the civil war (the 1640s one in Britain I mean). I came across a volume from Veronica Wedgwood’s history of it, which seems very well-written, but of the huge list on the topic, what (if anything ;-)) do you like best?

  11. Having now read Wolf Hall, and written to the author, I’ll save my opinion until I see if I get a reply. But I will say it’s a pro-cat book.

  12. I now have a copy. Though I have to find out first what you, ejh, base your idea on (i.e. read the book) I am curious to hear what Mantel views on feline matters are.

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