As has become a tradition on the LSE teaching blog, our last post of the academic year features holiday reading suggestions from academics at the School. This year managing editor Jane Hindle asked some of those of who have been guest speakers at the recently launched LSE teaching cafés to tell us about the books they would recommend as summer reads.
I am a big fan of Nordic Noir, which I think is unique as it often combines gripping plots with socially relevant themes. My latest favourite is Anne Holt’s 1222. It’s a murder mystery set in a remote Norwegian mountain hotel during a snowstorm and its main character is paraplegic police detective Hanne Wilhelmsen, who is a bit grumpy and has a dry sense of humour.
My second recommendation is a memoir, My Grandmother by a Turkish author Fethiye Çetin. As a young student, Fethiye discovered that her grandmother was an Armenian, something that her family never spoke about. She was one of tens of thousands “hidden Armenians” who survived the 1915 genocide and subsequently had to conceal their true identity for fear of discrimination and stigma. It’s an incredibly touching and powerful story about the implications of violence and exclusion for the lives and identities of ordinary Armenians and Turks.
Get in touch if you would like more recommendations on Nordic Noir or Armenia!
I’m a devoted Kazuo Ishiguro fan and so was prepared to grab The Buried Giant in hardback, hoping it wouldn’t disappoint like his last book, Nocturnes. Ishiguro is the consummate genre author, trying his hand at a new style each time, but always focused on the interlocked fortunes of place and time. Who could forget the brilliant pacing of The Remains of the Day, which appeared to be about a manservant and what he discovers about his employers in wartime, but is as much about the ‘Englishness’ of an afternoon drive through the countryside towards lost love? Or the uncanny, irritating familiarity of the pianist’s replayed dream sequences as he never quite makes it to the station, in The Unconsoled? Or, again, the extraordinary day trip of Never Let Me Go, where we are all reminded of what it means to feel like a ‘double’ in search of an ‘original’ self? Here too in The Buried Giant we are asked to follow the book’s protagonists on a journey, this time through ‘Ancient Britain’ in search of a lost son and elusive memories. At one level, the book is bewildering in its narrative simplicity: we encounter Sir Gawain and his trusty steed; a boy and a warrior become unlikely companions on their way to kill a dragon; an ageing couple trudge on through the countryside in search of what they can’t remember but know they have forgotten. But on their way through the unforgiving landscape, the two elderly walkers (and the reader) begin to glimpse the building blocks of a brutal past that is as contested as it is obscured, and in his inimitable way Ishiguro reminds us that memory, nation and our relationships to one another are intricately bound up in unexpected ways. I thought it was ‘thinner’ than other Ishiguros when I was reading it, but since finishing it – and perhaps appropriately – I can’t quite put it out of my mind. When Ishiguro proposes we hitch our fortunes to a wagon (or any mode of transport) we know it will be a melancholic confrontation with self as much as with nation and (both ordinary and extraordinary) violence, and ultimately the question of historical responsibility. Should you take it on holiday? Absolutely: but in paperback or on a kindle.
What will I be reading this summer … a very good question! We have only recently purchased a house after eight years of housesitting up in London so all of our books, which have been packed away in various places, have suddenly come back into our lives. I am therefore a bit spoilt for choice. I suspect that on our holiday in July I will take with me Cinque Romanzi Brevi by Natalia Ginzburg. She is one of my favourite writers. I love the way that she deals with relationships, family and ways of life. She also has the added benefit of being pretty straightforward to read in Italian, which is about all that I can manage!
Glass-fronted boxes full of surprising encounters among commonplace objects: a broken wine glass, old clay pipes, fading scraps of newspaper, a cork or wooden ball, bubble-like glass spheres, a doll, the image of a hotel façade, a tiny cabinet of drawers, coloured sand, cut-out reproductions of birds – birds of all kinds: a horned owl, downy woodpeckers, an eclectus parrot, an umbrella cockatoo, winter wrens, a scarlet macaw. Enclosed in these boxes are not merely odd combinations of ephemera, but miniature worlds offering ceaseless new discoveries.
In preparation for my particular explorations of Joseph Cornell’s creations in Wanderlust, the upcoming exhibition of his work at the Royal Academy of Arts, I’m packing Lindsay Blair’s study of Cornell’s own journey to establish his artistic and personal identity, Joseph Cornell’s Vision of Spiritual Order. And, I’ll be charting my own course with the aid of the captivating reproductions of his work in Joseph Cornell: Shadowplay Eterniday (essays by Lynda Roscoe Hartigan, Richard Vine, and Robert Lehrman).