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What are you reading?

A weekly look over the shoulders of our scholar-reviewers

Alison Adam, professor of science, technology and society at the University of Salford, 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). "I love sewing, the whole business from sourcing materials, finishing the product to talking about it on online forums. Thanks to Gauntlett I now know why. In a beautifully crafted book, he explains how making things connects us to our world and to each other. Quite simply, it makes us happy. Perhaps more academics should be 'craftivists'."

Richard Bosworth, professor of history at the University of Reading and the University of Western Australia, is reading Autopsia di un falso (Bollati Boringhieri, 2011) by Mimmo Franzinelli. "A brave and brilliant destruction of the alleged Mussolini diaries, published last year to Berlusconian applause in Italy but, in fact, forged by two nostalgic women from Vercelli in the early 1950s. Franzinelli gives devastating evidence of the delusion and corruption of rightist culture in contemporary Italy, and of the academic vanity (quite a bit of it Anglo-Saxon) that has assisted the fraud's survival."

Dennis Hayes, professor of education, University of Derby, is reading Richard Reeves' John Stuart Mill: Victorian Firebrand (Atlantic, 2007). "Any biographer of Mill writes in the shadow of his magnificent autobiography. Reeves sets out to counter its aloof self-portrait of a life of 'monotonous joylessness' to offer a fuller picture of the activist, politician and lover. Discussing On Liberty, he wonders if Victorian Britain was as intellectually oppressive as Mill implies, but this misunderstands the universal nature of his essay. Even if we see it as a 'social forecast', all ages need Mill's rational defence of free speech more than any fashionable celebration of his passion and activism."

Deborah D. Rogers, professor of English at the University of Maine, is reading Olive Kitteridge (Random House, 2008) by Elizabeth Strout. "Strout's Pulitzer Prize-winning work is a love letter to rural Maine. Although US literature has been criticised for insularity, this collection of 13 linked short stories is chock-full of insights about loneliness, depression, isolation, love, desperation, ageing, desire and connection. Strout speaks to the resilience of the human spirit, regardless of nationality."

Sasha Roseneil is professor of sociology and social theory and director of the Birkbeck Institute for Social Research, Birkbeck, University of London. She is reading Patti Smith's Just Kids (Bloomsbury, 2011). "This is Smith's memoir of her relationship with Robert Mapplethorpe, from their first meeting in 1967 to his death from Aids in 1989. A moving account of queer intimacy avant la lettre, of a dynamic, creative attachment that exceeded conventional categories, the book explores the entanglements of love and creative work, art and life in 1970s New York."

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