Juliana Adelman I was up in Belfast recently and with some time to kill I rediscovered the joy of second-hand bookshops full of dusty, mildewy intrigue for £1.50. I picked up the classic Rats, Lice and History by Hans Zinsser. It’s a history of typhus by a bacteriologist and, although outdated, full of great tidbits like: ‘In the last analysis, man may be defined as a parasite on a vegetable.’ The fantastic Reaktion animal history series is publishing Pig this month and I’ll be first in the que. Last spring I took my first horse and carriage ride and I’ll be taking my small companion again ASAP. It’s not cheap, but it gives you a very different perspective and you can get all kinds of interesting chat off the driver. Obvious places are Dublin and Killarney, but I’ve also found ones in Howth, Cobh and Sligo. Returning to dusty, mildewy things, a friend passed on this link to a facebook page devoted to bad taxidermy that makes for strangely addictive viewing (thanks, G).
Lisa Marie Griffith First on my list is Robert Darnton’s piece in the Chronicle Review dispelling commonly held beliefs on information and publishing today including ‘The Future is digital’, ‘the book is dead’ and ‘all information is available online’. While researching material for new courses last year I came across The Early Modern Europe blog which has a wide range of subjects including the four humours, seventeenth-century alchemy and exploration. Like Tina I am thinking about my reading list for the summer especially because I am packing my bag for my holidays. Included in my suitcase are the following: Graham Greene, Our Man in Havana (I am going to Cuba and have just finished the John Le Carre ‘Smiley Trilogy’ so need a spy novel to keep me going), John McGahern, Amongst Women and Leo Tolstoy, War and Peace (this has been on my list for a very long time so I have finally committed and purchased a copy). With these, a history of Cuba and two guide books in my bag it might be surprising that I am still resisting a Kindle.
Christina Morin May has been a hectic month and, if I’m honest, all I really feel like doing in June is crawling under my duvet and hibernating. Since that’s not really an option, I’m hoping that we’ll be blessed with a bit of seasonal sun so that I can loll about in the park with a stack of books. Summer is generally my time to catch up on the reading I meant to do, but just never got around to, during the rest of the year (or, indeed, in previous summers/years). A few of the titles on this summer’s list (in no particular order): Kathryn Stockett’s The Help, Amanda Vickery’s Behind Closed Doors: At Home in Georgian England (previously recommended by Lisa), Orla Ryan’s Chocolate Nations: Living and Dying for Cocoa in West Africa, and Robert Penn’s It’s all about the Bike: The Pursuit of Happiness on Two Wheels. That last one is in honour of the Wicklow 200 cycling ‘race’ that I’ve committed to doing on the 12th of June, though I’ll only be doing the 100 km option, as I did last year. It’s great fun, mainly because it’s not too competitive, and you can get chatting to quite a variety of people. It’s a bit more exertion than I’d care to contemplate right now, but I’ll recover with a bit more reading and, if/when rain sends me indoors, I’ll head over to IMMA for the Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera exhibition, which I hear is well worth a look in.
Kevin O’Sullivan It’s been hard to keep tabs on the ongoing debates around the future of the university sector, but 9th Level Ireland – as ever – has been doing a great job of it. This month it pointed me in the direction of a brilliant piece on the etiquette of how students address their lecturers – a more pressing issue than you might think – and a discussion about academic work-life balance over at A University Blog. I came across another timely piece in The New Yorker via a different source (one of my favourite blogs, And Another Thing) – an exploration of the purpose of university education in the twenty-first century. But that’s enough about work-related media; there are a few other great things I’ve read and heard this month that I just have to share. I know it’s got very little to do with history, but anyone who’s interested in the politics of the African continent and has even a passing interest in sport, should read Steve Bloomfield’s Africa United: How Football Explains Africa. A book that attempts to tell the story of a continent through football might sound like an accident waiting to happen, but Bloomfield manages it brilliantly. Dublin Type deals with an issue a little closer to home – a fascinating photo diary of the city’s typography. Finally, if you’re interested in the life and times of Bob Dylan – who turned 70 last month – then try and catch The Word’s recent ‘bobcast’, featuring Dylan biographer Andy Gill. Who knew Bob is a keen welder in his spare time?