The Discovery of France

Graham Robb (Picador, 2008)

Recommended by Andrew Hodgson 

Robb offers a magnificent description of France as a massive patchwork of places. The ‘discovery’ is both the author’s uncovering of the intricate jumble of tribes, tongues, and traditions that make up France’s history, and the country’s attempt to forge a unified identity from them. The book is written with an ironic care for the way the spirit of place shapes and finds expression in the everyday existence of its people. One of the most attractive passages involves Robb pausing over the ‘large and luckless’ contingent of ordinary lives strung out among the nation’s gradual incline to modernity, who spent the best part of their years ‘cocooned in idleness’ from the gloom and cold of winter, attempting to make life as uncomplicated as possible.

On the Move: Mobility in the Modern Western World

Tim Cresswell (London: Routledge, 2006)

On the Move by Tim CresswellRecommended by Fariha Shaikh

Cresswell’s On the Move was pivotal in giving me a theoretical foundation for what we mean by ‘place’ within the modern world. As a geographer, Cresswell’s careful examination of ‘place’, as the construction of locality, as opposed to ‘space’, as the product of mobility, has been useful for me in thinking through the ways in which the texts that I work with are always mediating a careful balance between the two. This is a useful starting point for anyone who is looking to gain a theoretical background of the concept of place.