Books that made me: Dr. Marguerite Schinkel, Lecturer at the Scottish Centre for Crime and Justice Research (SCCJR)

Published: 17 January 2020

Dr. Schinkel reflects on reading and books generally

The book that I am currently reading

I usually have a few on the go at the same time. I am really enjoying Leonard and Hungry Paul by Rónán Hession, which I have just started. It has two men who would usually be seen as less than interesting (they are both single, still live in their parental homes even though they are over 30 and don’t aspire to much) as its heroes. I am also rereading Small Gods by Terry Pratchett, which is as funny the second time around, partly because I read novels too fast to remember much, so all the jokes are new to me.


My earliest reading memory

There was a children’s book in my local library about a little lion whose mother and father go away to hunt. He gets up to all kinds of adventures while they are away, and the book had the best drawings, but neither my mum (who read it to me) nor me can remember its name and we’ve never seen it since. It also disappeared from that library, so maybe we just made it up?


The book that changed my life

Not just a book, but being taught by Professor Anthony Duff at Stirling and reading his Punishment, Communication and Community prompted my curiosity about how sentences are perceived, because I wondered if anyone judged by the courts ever saw their punishment as a message. After a lag of a few years, this led to me starting my PhD on this topic.


The book that influenced my writing

If I could write like all of the authors I admire, I’d do so, but I’m not sure to what extent reading a book has actually influenced my writing. In terms of academic writing I really admire Alex Stevens at the University of Kent, especially his article ‘When two dark figures collide’. A complex and controversial argument made really well, namely that the link between drugs and crime is at best overstated and often absent.


The book I am ashamed not to have read

Almost all the Russian greats, but particularly Crime and Punishment by Dostoyevski, given the focus of my work. Even more embarrassing is that I have never read Foucault’s Discipline and Punish. Maybe this will shame me into reading it at last.


The book that makes me cry

Too many of them, I’m a sucker for a tearjerker. The first book I remember crying over was Charlotte’s Web. It left my oldest son cold when I read it to him recently, but he cries over song lyrics instead.  


The book that makes me laugh

Small Gods is making me laugh at the moment. I love the idea of gods whose power comes from the number of people who believe in them and are reduced to a tortoise, for example, when only one person does. I also really enjoyed The Body by Bill Bryson recently. He gives one great example of someone wanting to study the effect of exercise just after WWII with no budget and hitting on the brilliant but simple idea of comparing the health of bus drivers, who sit all day, and conductors, who walk around all day. That made me laugh in admiration.


The book that gives me hope

A bit literal, but Bill McKibben’s Hope, Human and Wild, which I read years ago was inspiring in its message that people and nature can be very resilient and inventive when necessary. One of the case studies described in the book is Curitiba in Brazil. One mayor and his staff managed to come up with the best bus transportation system in the world, deterred a car-driver protest through a newly pedestrianised area by holding a drawing competition for children there and gave people moving out of the favelas an appointment with an architect, so that all the houses in the new neighbourhood would be individual and people would have a sense of ownership and belonging.  




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Marguerite joined SCCJR in October 2013 as an ESRC Future Leader Research Fellow and became a lecturer in June 2017. Her research focuses on the meaning of criminal justice sentences in the context of wider lives, the construction of narratives and the impact of this and criminal justice processes on journeys of desistance.

First published: 17 January 2020