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Author Topic: Books by academics
Tubby Isaacs
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Does anyone read these for fun? I can only think of Richard Dawkins who I've read and enjoyed. Recently, I've read a book on Roman London (Dominic Perring), one on Westminster Abbey (Richard Jenkyns) and one on the ancient Olympics (Nigel Spivey).

All of them have been very dull. The Jenkyns book admittedly was written for people who knew more architecture, but even so I felt the arguments weren't that exciting or well set out.

I reckon you get much better stuff on here- I know some of you are academics, so I'm excluding you from criticism- wish I could draw a venn diagram to give you your due.

Funnily enough, some of the books I've most enjoyed are by politicians, who academics always like to contrast themselves with. Ian Gilmour's book on the 18th Century is an absolute cracker, and I'm enjoying Roy Hattersley on the Edwardians.

Anyone else feel the same way?

Posts: 18279 | From: Georgica | Registered: Jun 2002  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Mat Pereira
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Yeah, Ian Gilmour is good isn't he? His stuff on Wilkes and the Gordon Riots is out of the - I say this a lot don't I? bloody hell - top drawer.

Obvious people like AGP Taylor's good too, not just the famous 'Causes of World War Two' one, but there's a blinding book I had to buy for my degree on Britian inbetween the wars, that's fantastic stuff too.

Oh, and EP Thompson, get hold of 'The Making of the English Working Class' if you can. And Dorothy Thompson too; her book 'The Chartists' is ace.

Posts: 9018 | From: The Sticks | Registered: May 2002  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
thom
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Dennett's stuff (Darwin's Dangerous Idea, Freedom Evolves and others) is excellent. Pinker's another obvious one who, like Dawkins, is also a great writer. The Language Instinct and The Blank Slate are, to my mind, his best.

Other academics I've enjoyed reading: Susan Blackmore, Betrand Russell, Ian Stewart (though that was years ago; I may have changed my mind) and several in the linguistics I'm studying at the moment. There are more that don't spring to mind right now. And no doubt toro toro will be here at some point with a long list of very readable philosophers (Quine and Kant are two I've had to read a little of lately, and I've enjoyed both).

Admittedly most of these are in related fields and reflect my interests (that might particularly apply to, say, Blackmore) but still, I'm not sure I buy your thesis. Gould was often called a great writer too (though embarrassingly I've never read him). Maynard-Smith. Loads of examples...

[ 02.11.2004, 16:07: Message edited by: thom ]

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Inca
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Speaking for history, and mostly American history, these are people that I've read in grad school and have enjoyed reading it simply in terms of their writing:

Walter Johnson writes about slavery in the 19th century, and he's amzaing. My professor put it best: he's an incredibly seductive writer.

William Cronon, Nature's Metropolis. It's about Chicago and it's relation to the natural world around it, in the late 19th century. His three central chapters are on the evolution of the markets in grain, lumber, and meat, and even though they're very economic and "this is how farmers packed grain to send to Chicago," it's really fascinating stuff. Especially the meat chapter. A lot of ideas about how a consumer market for these things came about, and how radical the shift must've seemed back then.

George Lipsitz, A Rainbow at Midnight: labor, culture, and politics in the 1940s US.

George Chauncey, Gay New York: what it sounds like, in the early 20th C. A lot of interviews with people. Very interesting to see how the gay lifestyle was not at all hidden at this time--though of course, there was no "gay" identity at all. His stuff on sex between men that we wouldn't really recognize as "being gay" is also provokes a lot of thought on the evolution of sexual identities.

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Tubby Isaacs
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I don't know about the American historians here that Incandenza, but a lot of the others seem to be as much media personalities as academics. I don't meant that in derogatory way, more that they write with an eye on a broader public. Richard Dawkins is like this too. They have/had (I expect) tenures that gave them free rein to concentrate on reaching a much wider audience.

I'm thinking more of the people who teach you at university, who take a sabattical to publish a book, and who review things for specialist journals. The 3 people I've mentioned above (Perring, Pivey and Jenkys) are like that and I don't find them very impressive.

Posts: 18279 | From: Georgica | Registered: Jun 2002  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Inca
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My people are much more academic. The only historians that I can think of as also being sort of personalities would never be read in grad school--Stephen Ambrose, others like that. Patricia Limerick writes for a popular audience, but she's still academic in that she does the things that you mention (she's also a good writer, don't know why I left her off my list). Of my people above, only Cronon's stuff has been published by a popular house, all the others are published by university presses.
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Mat Pereira
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Oh, yeah, I had to read a Stephen Ambrose book on the Cold War once, and it was very readable.

Actually, Perry Anderson is very good too.

Posts: 9018 | From: The Sticks | Registered: May 2002  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Croute au fromage et oeuf au plat
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Brilliant book
Posts: 16714 | From: Outskirts of Manchester | Registered: May 2002  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Vernons Pools
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Let me take this opportunity to blow the horn for a few faculty at my place of work. The following few have had recent books published to great critical acclaim.

Jessica Stern her recent book is Terror in the Name of God: Why Religious Militants Kill She also has great class enrollment....

Irish born Samanatha Power her recent published work is A Problem from Hell": America and the Age of Genocide She's a great person to boot.

Bob Putnam has a NY Times besteller with Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community

and finally ex-Dean Joseph Nye who had a NY Times bestseller with The Paradox of American Power: Why the World's Only Superpower Can't Go It Alone published by Ox Univ Press.

And if you check the Faculty listings here at the Kennedy School you will see a surprising number of Faculty who have had some recent publishing success, outside of the academic arena.

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Ginger Yellow
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I read quite a lot of books by academics, although admittedly many of them are known as much for their books as for their more academic work. In the field of science, I've read and enjoyed Dawkins, Pinker, Gould, Chomsky, Jackendoff and Brian Greene, among others.

With the exception of Jackendoff and Chomsky, all of those listed above have really been popular science books. Unfortunately I haven't got the maths to read much in the way of properly academic science books. Being a former English student, however, I read a lot of lit crit by academics - Ricks, Bloom, Fish, Greenberg etc. One of my literary interests is Old English literature, particularly Beowulf, and there isn't much written on that topic other than by academics.

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boris
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Does Desmond Morris count?
Posts: 8617 | From: the safe house | Registered: May 2002  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Wyatt Earp
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May I recommend Experiments In Undergraduate Mathematics by Kent, Ramsden and Wood? Or Proceedings of the Fifth International Mathematica Symposium edited by Mitic, Ramsden and Carne? I couldn't put them down.
Posts: 19927 | From: the Cryptic Cabal | Registered: May 2002  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Andy C
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I can recommend a vet.
Posts: 8328 | From: Hampstead Norreys no more | Registered: May 2002  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Eggchaser
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I love history books. Rise and fall of the House of Medici by Christophe Hibbert, Robert Graves' Claudius fictionary work, all that jazz.

I'm currently reading Dragon Lady which is a re-evaluation of the life of the Dowager Empress of China at the time of the Boxer Rebellion. Basically it says that 90% of the "facts" of her life were made up in lurid sensionalist biographies that would make The Sun blush, mainly written by Westerners who had no idea about the interplay of the Chinese court and attitudes towards things.

Posts: 6505 | From: the passenger seat of Mr Toad's car, driving-by this thread | Registered: May 2004  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
   

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