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What are you reading?

A weekly look over the shoulders of our scholar-reviewers

Mary Evans, centennial professor at the Gender Institute, London School of Economics, is reading Javier Cercas' The Anatomy of a Moment (Bloomsbury, 2011). "Cercas describes that day in February 1981 when a group of army officers burst into the Spanish Parliament and threatened Spain's nascent democracy. Why they did not succeed is the subject of this fascinating book; the answers are as many and as varied as the characters of the central participants. This is embodied politics at its very best."

Derek Hodgson, researcher in cognitive archaeology at the University of York, is reading John Matthews' Starting from Scratch: The Origin and Development of Expression, Representation and Symbolism in Human and Non-Human Primates (Psychology Press, 2010). "An intimate, thoughtful, three-year observational study of chimps housed in a natural setting at a Singapore zoo that, if confirmed, will have profound implications for understanding the origins of cognition in humans. Matthews' painstaking study suggests that primate abilities continue to be underestimated, adding further support to the notion we are not that different from our closest living relatives."

Willy Maley, professor of Renaissance studies, University of Glasgow, is reading Francis Bacon's The Advancement of Learning (Oxford University Press, 2000). "Proof of Bacon's famous line about weighty works sinking in Time's river while puffed-up objects float like turds on the surface is to be found in the Browne Review's impoverished understanding of education as compared with Bacon's rich grasp of the arts and sciences as inextricably linked, and equally at risk from short-sighted lust for 'lucre and profession'. A passionate advocate of invention and imagination, in this 1605 work Bacon also offered sound advice on academic pay and conditions."

June Purvis, professor of women's and gender history, University of Portsmouth, is reading Aftermaths of War: Women's Movements and Female Activists, 1918-1923, edited by Ingrid Sharp and Matthew Stibbe (Brill, 2011). "This interdisciplinary collection, with 16 chapters written by a wide range of scholars, explores the importance of women's movements and individual female activists on the shaping of post-war Europe at the private, communal, national and trans-national levels. Christine Bard's essay on why it was not until 1944 that women in Republican France were given the parliamentary vote is particularly fascinating."

Julian McDougall, reader in media and education, Newman University College, is reading David Gauntlett's Making Is Connecting: The Social Meaning of Creativity, from DIY and Knitting to YouTube and Web 2.0 (Polity, 2011). "This is a dialogic tapestry relating DIY media to knitting, gardening and craft - and working through creativity as a social and collaborative process. It is accessible, well constructed, bold and controversial. Because creativity has been so ill-defined and theoretically contested, this work has provoked heated debate, but that is what academic books are for."

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