An end of week recap
I hardly need mention there’s been little happening on the book-reviewing front over the past few weeks. I would like to pretend this woeful lack of activity is due to matters of great import taking priority over the blog, but alas, the truth is I’ve been having rather too much fun. D and I have been out for meals, attending concerts and generally making up for our lost year. It was twelve months yesterday since she was first diagnosed with cancer, and 2019 has been quite a journey, but we are now immersing ourselves in the festive spirit and celebrating her gradual return to health. I therefore hope you will forgive me for permitting things to slide (temporarily, I should add) with Book Jotter. All being well, normal service will be resumed in 2020.
As ever, this is a weekly post in which I summarize books read, reviewed and currently on my TBR shelf. In addition to a variety of literary titbits, I look ahead to forthcoming features, see what’s on the nightstand and keep readers abreast of various book-related happenings.
PAUSE FOR A POD >>
* Lie Back and Listen *
Here I recommend engaging podcasts and other digital recordings I’ve come across during the week. Hopefully you too will enjoy them.
* World Book Night goes digital for 2020 *
The UK’s Reading Agency has revealed the titles it intends to feature on the World Book Night 2020 booklist – the annual celebration of reading on 23rd April, aiming to inspire everyone to share books and reading. RA’s mission is to support everyone in reading their way to a better life, using the proven power of reading to promote skills and learning, health and wellbeing and build social connections. This year will see an expansion of World Book Night’s digital offer as the Agency seeks to make reading available to the widest possible audience.
This year’s titles, from publishers including Penguin Random House, Simon & Schuster and Andersen Press, include a diverse selection of books for adults and young people featuring both paperbacks and audiobooks, with North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell, Double Crossed by Brian Wood and Bedtime Stories for Stressed Out Adults edited by Lucy Mangan available for individuals to receive via an exclusive download code. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams (which is celebrating a significant 42nd birthday in 2020) will be donated as both a paperback to organisations and an audiobook to individuals. You can view the full list on the World Book Night website.
Celebratory events will be happening across the UK throughout April and the Reading Agency will be working with public libraries, prisons, colleges, care homes, youth centres, mental health groups, charities and other organisations to spread the joy of reading. Partners including Libraries Connected, the Booksellers Association and library suppliers will ensure as wide an impact as possible across the country. Ideas on how you can celebrate World Book Night yourself can be found at worldbooknight.org where free resources can be downloaded.
* Lit Crit Blogflash *
I’m going to share with you six of my favourite literary posts from around the blogosphere. There are so many talented writers posting high-quality book features and reviews, it’s difficult to limit the list to only these few – all of them published over the last week or two:
A Wolf in Hindelheim – Jenny Mayhew – Mayhew’s 2013 debut novel “isn’t a fast-moving thriller” says Lizzy Siddal of Lizzy’s Literary Life, but “an examination of a society between two wars”. Furthermore, there are “some fine character studies”.
‘House of Day, House of Night’ by Olga Tokarczuk (Review) – Nobel Prize winning Olga Tokarczuk’s 2003 tale of “life in a [southern Polish] village” is a “gender-fluid story” which “makes for an excellent novel,” finds Tony Malone of Tony’s Reading List.
When They Made Us Leave by Annette Oppenlander – Review – Debjani Ghosh of Debjani’s Thoughts describes Oppenlander’s recently published historical novel as a “unique account of WWII”, which “doesn’t shy away from the truth.”
Another Aboriginal Biography – First published in 1987, Wandering Girl by Glenyse Ward is the true story of an Australian girl who was “transported to the Wandering Mission (St Xavier Native Mission), a Catholic missionary and raised by very strict, controlling German nuns.” The host of Travellin’ Penguin “picked [the book] up in a second-hand bookshop” and very kindly offers to “pass it on” to other readers in Australia.
James Lovegrove, Sherlock Holmes and the Christmas Demon (2019) – Over at Re-enchantment Of The World Ola G has discovered “a new Sherlock Holmes novel” just in time for “the fast-approaching Christmas season”. Lovegrove, she reports, “delivers on most fronts” and respects “the spirit of Doyle’s novels” while “offering something fresh”.
Book Review: The Book of Hidden Things – Francesco Dimitri – Electra Nanou of Book Breath finds this 2018 fantasy “bursting with Italian flair and evocative, mind-bending ideas” She says “Dimitri has done a brilliant job bringing his unique story to life.”
* Irresistible Items *
Umpteen fascinating articles appeared on my bookdar last week. I generally make a point of tweeting my favourite finds (or adding them to my Facebook group page), but in case you missed anything, here are a handful of interesting snippets:
The Moscow Times: Judith Heneghan’s Novel ‘Snegurochka’ – “A captivating story about foreigners in Ukraine in the 1990s”, says Emily Couch.
The Paris Review: Curled Thyme – “In this previously unpublished essay, the legendary imagist H.D. [Hilda Doolittle] muses on the Greek bucolic poet Theocritus.”
BBC Culture: How reading has changed in the 2010s – “From ‘difficult’ works to Instapoetry, Erica Wagner picks the most important book trends of the past decade.”
Boston Review: László Krasznahorkai’s Catastrophic Harmonies – “The winner of the National Book Award for Translated Literature serves up an apocalyptic vision of Hungarian society.”
Publishers Weekly: Adult Books for Spring 2020 – Jonathan Segura with 850 forthcoming books worth reading – selected by PW’s editors and due for publication in spring.
The Guardian: Book prize judge alleges co-jurors did not finish reading shortlist – “Lesley McDowell was one of five judges for the Saltire Scottish fiction book of the year, but claims gender bias slanted decision against Lucy Ellmann”, reports Alison Flood.
South China Morning Post: Chinese library sparks outrage over report staff burned ‘banned books’ – Staff at a Chinese public library 65 “illegal publications” in front of the building after a “thorough clean-up”.
Mel: How the Most Gruesome Western Ever Written Became an ‘Unfilmable’ Hollywood Legend – “For 25 years, Cormac McCarthy’s masterpiece Blood Meridian has stumped every director and screenwriter who tried to bring it to the big screen”, finds Todd Gilchrist.
Archinet: Take a look at LocHal Public Library, the 2019 World Building of the Year, and other World Architecture Festival winners – The LocHal Public Library in Tilburg, the Netherlands has been named the 2019 World Building of the Year.
Taipei Times: Eslite eyes expansion into Southeast Asia – According to Crystal Hsu the Taiwan Bookstore Chain, Eslite is planning to expand into Malaysia.
Books + Publishing: Melbourne City of Lit announces Quebec City exchange recipients – “The Melbourne City of Literature has announced the six Victorian-based book-industry professionals who will spend a week in Quebec City, as part of a new exchange program between the two cities of literature.”
The Conversation: Climate change novels allow us to imagine possible futures – read these crucial seven – “These seven cli-fi novels should get you fired up for action.”
Poets & Writers: Q&A: Kelly Link Returns to Bookselling – Joy Baglio talks to Kelly Link, owner of Book Moon in Easthampton, Massachusetts on returning to her bookseller roots.
6sqft: 31 literary icons of Greenwich Village – On the 50th anniversary of Greenwich Village being designated an Historic District, Andrew Berman shares a selection of literary icons associated with the neighbourhood.
Shondaland: How National Book Foundation Director Lisa Lucas is Making More People Fall in Love with Books – “As the youngest, first female, and first woman of color Executive Director of the National Book Foundation, Lucas is leaving her mark in diversifying the literary industry”, finds Carolyn Kellogg.
The Washington Post: I never considered myself an animal person. Books changed that. – Jared El-Osta never considered himself an animal person but books changed all that. On the 25th anniversary of a conservation milestone, he honours the authors who sparked his interest in grey wolves.
CrimeReads: Virginie Despentes on Aging Punks, Failing Economies, and Fetishizing the Dead – Michael Seidlinger has a “wide-ranging conversation with the author and filmmaker.”
Penguin: VINTAGE designers pick their favourite book covers of 2019 – The Vintage “design team reflect on the past year and pick out their favourite book covers.”
The Sydney Morning Herald: Turning Pages: The push for greater diversity in children’s books – Jane Sullivan finds there’s a move afoot to “decolonise” Australia’s bookshops.
The Public Domain Review: The Sound and the Story: Exploring the World of Paradise Lost – “Drawing on sources as varied as Wordsworth, Hitchcock, and Conan Doyle, author Philip Pullman considers the sonic beauty and expert storytelling of Milton’s masterpiece, and the influence it has had on his own work.”
Literary Hub: Baz Luhrmann is adapting The Master and Margarita for the big screen. – Emily Temple reveals Mikhail Bulgakov’s masterpiece is heading for the big screen.
Melville House: Women writers dominate Italian lit market in wake of Ferrante Fever – “One of the decade’s best publishing stories is the breakout success of pseudonymous Italian writer Elena Ferrante”, writes John Francisconi.
Commonweal: 2019 Books in Review – “One of the gifts of being a book critic is having the chance to share your enthusiasms. Here are some of [Anthony Domestico’s favourites] from the past year.”
Book Trust: The best comfort reading: Your top recommendations of stories to help you escape – Catriona Wightman on “some of our favourite recommendations of escapist books.”
The Star: Women writers dominate Toronto library’s most popular books of 2019 –Miriam Lafontaine reports Toronto Public Library has announced that books by women “were among the most popular from the library this year.”
Birmingham Live: World’s biggest Harry Potter book collection collated by Midlands businessman could sell for thousands – “Mark Cavoto […] has spent the last ten years buying and selling around 3,000 of the popular novels since his daughter began collecting them as a youngster”.
Aljazeera: Kosovo to boycott Nobel ceremony over Handke’s literature prize – “Kosovo’s government has said it will boycott next week’s Nobel Prize ceremony in Sweden to protest against the literature award being given to Peter Handke”.
Book Riot: Tips + Tricks: How to Store Books Properly and Safely – Carina Pereira offers some useful suggestions on how best to store your books.
The New York Times: Deborah Levy Would Like to Drink With Virginia Woolf – Deborah Levy talks about her favourite places to read.
Barnes & Noble: The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse Is Barnes & Noble’s 2019 Book of the Year – Joel Cunningham reveals that B&N booksellers have selected Charlie Mackesy’s unique illustrated tale The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse as Book of the Year.
The Jewish News: 10 New Chanukah Books for All Ages – Carla with ten “new Chanukah books to read in between latkes and dreidel games this year.”
New Statesman: The crimes of Jean Genet – “He was a child outlaw who embraced his own ‘evil’ in search of an authentic life. But society turned Genet’s rebellion into bourgeois conformity”, writes John Gray.
The Guardian: Britain has closed almost 800 libraries since 2010, figures show – “Annual survey shows sharp cuts to local authority funding have led to the loss of 17% of branches, alongside sharp staff and funding shortfalls”.
If there is something you would particularly like to see on Winding Up the Week or if you have any suggestions, questions or comments for Book Jotter in general, please drop me a line or comment below. I would be delighted to hear from you.
Thank you for taking the time to read this post. I wish you a week bountiful in books and rich in reading.
NB In this feature, ‘winding up’ refers to the act of concluding something and should not be confused with the British expression: ‘wind-up’ – an age-old pastime of ‘winding-up’ friends and family by teasing or playing pranks on them. If you would like to know more about this expression, there’s an excellent description on Urban Dictionary.