Alumni Services

August 2019

Books on the economy, utopia and religious architecture are included in this month's alumni-penned selection.



Alison Chandler



Book Walking Backwards (Up an Apostle's Nose)

This beautiful literary memoir framed in six days walking on the Camino de Santiago de Compostela in 2015 is a love letter to Spain and to women’s lives.  It weaves together rich seams of hard reality with profound lyricism, the political with the personal, suffering and fear with love and joy. It moves from the silver of Scotland’s North Sea coast to the terracotta and gold of Iberia, the sterile white of hospital wards to the bountiful blues of the deep Atlantic. It is a story of banker knights, dangling caterpillars, handsome lovers, aching pilgrims and policemen’s bottoms, and it is all true.  Alison Chandler is a one-time student of Hispanic Studies now a newly exhibited Scottish artist in her sixties. The thousand-year-old pilgrimage way winds through her experiences of 1970s Catalunya and Galicia, 1980s Notting Hill and her survival of cancer and return to Camino in 2018.  As she makes her way, we catch glimpses of Europe’s great crossroads, its myths and our mortality as their impressions on all our lives flicker through the wet green woodlands of north-west Spain. A colourful and original mix of profundity and humour, it is redemptive and full of surreal adventures and new beginnings.

Walking Backwards (Up an Apostle's Nose)



Bernard O'Kane

Degree PhD History of Art

Mosques: The 100 Most Iconic Islamic Houses of Worship

While all mosques stem from a common tradition of reverence, differing sects, regions and practices have led to many innovations and novel architectural forms. Mosques is the latest addition to the “Ultimate collection,” and is a journey though centuries and continents that brings readers to the threshold of 100 of the world’s most historically significant buildings that are home to worshippers of the fastest growing, and second largest, religion in the world.

Mosques: The 100 Most Iconic Islamic Houses of Worship



Maxim Shadurski

Degree PhD English Literature

The Nationality of Utopia: H. G. Wells, England, and the World State

Since its generic inception in 1516, utopia has produced visions of alterity which renegotiate, subvert, and transcend existing places. Early in the twentieth century, H. G. Wells linked utopia to the World State, whose post-national, post-Westphalian emergence he predicated on English national discourse. This critical study examines how the discursive representations of England’s geography, continuity, and character become foundational to the Wellsian utopia and elicit competing response from Wells’s contemporaries, particularly Robert Hugh Benson and Aldous Huxley, with further ramifications throughout the twentieth century. Contextualized alongside modern theories of nationalism and utopia, as well as read jointly with contemporary projections of England as place, reactions to Wells demonstrate a shift from disavowal to retrieval of England, on the one hand, and from endorsement to rejection of the World State, on the other. Following Huxley’s attempts to salvage the residual traces of English culture from their abuses in the World State, England’s dissolution in the throes of alterity takes increasing precedence over the visions of a post-national world order and dissents from the Wellsian utopia. This trend continues in the work of George Orwell, Anthony Burgess, J. G. Ballard, and Julian Barnes, whose future scenarios warn against a world without England. The Nationality of Utopia investigates utopia’s capacity to deconstruct and redeploy national discourse in ways that surpass fear and nostalgia.

The Nationality of Utopia: H. G. Wells, England, and the World State


Author Allison Shraeger
Degree Economics

An Economist Walks into a Brothel: And Other Unexpected Places to Understand Risk

Is it worth swimming in shark-infested waters to surf a 50-foot, career-record wave? Is it riskier to make an action movie or a horror movie? Should sex workers forfeit 50 percent of their income for added security or take a chance and keep the extra money? Most people wouldn't expect an economist to have an answer to these questions - or to other questions of daily life, such as who to date or how early to leave for the airport. But those people haven't met Allison Schrager, an economist and award-winning journalist who has spent her career examining how people manage risk in their lives and careers. Whether we realise it or not, we all take risks large and small every day. Even the most cautious among us cannot opt out - the question is always which risks to take, not whether to take them at all. What most of us don't know is how to measure those risks and maximise the chances of getting what we want out of life. In An Economist Walks into a Brothel, Schrager equips readers with five principles for dealing with risk, principles used by some of the world's most interesting risk takers. For instance, she interviews a professional poker player about how to stay rational when the stakes are high, a paparazzo in Manhattan about how to spot different kinds of risk, horse breeders in Kentucky about how to diversify risk and minimise losses, and a war general who led troops in Iraq about how to prepare for what we don't see coming. When you start to look at risky decisions through Schrager's new framework, you can increase the upside to any situation and better mitigate the downsides.

An Economist Walks into a Brothel: And Other Unexpected Places to Understand Risk

Allison will also be the speaker at an upcoming event at the London School of Economics on Monday 14 October - and Edinburgh alumni are invited to join her there. She will be speaking on the topic: 'Managing Risk in a More Uncertain World'.

More information

Your book

If you are a member of the alumni community and have recently published a book, we would be delighted to include it in the Alumni Bookshelf. Email the information, along with your degree details, to Brian Campbell:

Email Brian Campbell

Please note

Books are added to the bookshelf in order of submission. All of the further information links listed are the external websites of the book publisher, the author, or the bookseller. The University of Edinburgh is not responsible for the content and functionality of these sites.