Ideology and Delusion

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Peter Hayes. Photo by Augustas Didzgalvis.

Intellectual autobiography is fertile ground for delusion and distortion. But I think the books that made me the kind of historian I am—contrarian, suspicious of received wisdom, mistrustful of “theory,” secular, rational, humanist, and focused on explaining the horrors to which politics led in the early twentieth century—were the great anti-ideological novels of the 1940s Continue Reading ›


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“Never trust anyone who has not brought a book with them,”

says American children’s author Daniel Handler, writing under his pen name Lemony Snicket.

This idea resonates with me, as I am sure it will with the other book-loving contributors to this blog. As someone who has left shampoo, socks and other essentials at home in order to cram more books into her suitcase,  book carrying comes at a cost. E-books, although a more practical holiday option, are a total turn-off. I agree with the managing director of British book chain Waterstones, James Daunt, who says that  reading a favourite novel on screen is like tasting vintage wine through a straw. 

Bookscombined is taking a break from posting this August – I’m too busy squeezing books into suitcases – but I hope you’ll visit again in September.

Happy summer reading.

The image featured at the beginning of this post is by The Other Dan. 

Books for Explorers: engaging the imaginary

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Wendy Wilson-Fall

The thing that really expresses my relationship to reading is the problem of imagining and creating a world. I mean, a world I would like to live in, a world that I can understand and see connected to other worlds.

Continue Reading ›

History is more than the past

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David H. Mould and Kazakh warrior chief.

I’m one of those academic misfits, a committed generalist. I’m interested in many disciplines, as long as they don’t involve equations and statistics. Continue Reading ›

Bookshop of the month: July

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Druids? Check.

Fairies? Check.

Witches? Check.

Holy guardian angels? Check.

Treadwell’s Books in London, July’s bookshop of the month, is a haven from the workaday world, where technology rules. Eschewing the widespread cynicism of modern life, Treadwell’s celebrates Western mystical traditions and Pagan religions. Its founder, Christina Oakley Harrison, is keen to encourage newcomers and hardcore enthusiasts alike to visit the shop, and loves to talk with them about the esoteric world, be it the latest ideas in Kabbalah studies, the lost folklore of London, or whether Salvador Dali was really a magician.

Find out more in this month’s magical bookshop here. 

Our Books

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Helen Kim and Noah Leavitt

As a wife-husband team, working on JewAsian together over the past six years, we have shared countless moments, from arranging interview trips around the country to deciding how to focus our investigation to reading each other’s chapter drafts while slurping kimchee boosted chicken soup, to celebrating the completion of another round of page proofs to even bickering over options for the cover. Continue Reading ›