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Summer reading

Bell Professor of Education

University of Edinburgh

I buy dozens and dozens of books. Inside, I always write my name, the date and the place a book was bought. That way, when I pull it out and open it, I'm immediately reminded of where and when I first read it.

Usually, my books are of three different sorts: novels, memoirs and opinion pieces, and academic books.

I'm currently reading Gunter Grass's Peeling the Onion, and I'm about 10 pages in. It's an autobiography in which he reveals that he joined the Waffen SS. In Germany, it has caused much controversy. What intrigues me is that he writes about himself in the third person. I think he's trying to distance what he is now from what he was then.

My wife is a huge Ian Rankin fan she's read all his Rebus novels and I've got The Naming of the Dead waiting for me. I'm looking forward to seeing Edinburgh through Rebus's eyes.

Everybody my age has been telling me how wonderful Philip Roth's Everyman is. I don't really like Roth I don't like the way he represents men but I've bought this one and it interests me. A man who dies reflects on his life. I think that, because of my age, I've started to think about that kind of stuff I've also got Joan Didion's The Year of Magical Thinking, which is about her reaction to her husband's death.

I've got some academic ones as well. I'm hoping to look closely at Gender, Schooling and Global Social Justice by Elaine Unterhalter. In rich countries the gender issue is all about boys' achievement, but this book looks at the issue globally and it's still girls who lose out. In Pakistan, for instance, only half of girls go to school.

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