An end of week recap
This final WUTW before Christmas is a bit special because it is one hundred posts old. Launched on 14th January 2018, little did I suspect that two years on, a brief summation of my reading week would morph into this unwieldly linkfest. I would therefore like to thank you, my fellow bloggers, for all your regular input and warm-hearted support – but especially for continuing to read my Brobdingnagian round-up.
Whether you celebrate Hanukkah, Yule, Christmas, Winter/Summer Solstice or intend simply to indulge in some well-earned feet-up time with a good book, I wish you a happy, healthy and peaceful end of year. I will catch up with you before 2019 is out.
Please enjoy this celebratory bumper edition of Winding Up the Week!
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.
Vintage Books Podcast listeners are taken on a winter journey to libraries at Christmas time. With the help of librarians, they ask for festive recommendations from those in the know. >> Inside Libraries at Christmas ᛫ Liverpool & Crawley >>
Listen to the December episode of Virago’s monthly celebration of books, reading and writing in which members of the Virago Press team discuss their literary recommendations and resolutions for the new decade. >> Virago’s 2020 Reading Recommendations >>
* Japanese Literature Challenge 13 *
The Japanese Literature Challenge is set to return in the new year. In a recent post, Dolce Bellezza (host of this popular event) shares a selection of books she hopes to read and reveals that “one of the greatest joys of blogging, for [her], is the opportunity to share Japanese literature with [others].” To take part, you must read “at least one work of literature, originally written in Japanese, and review it on [your blog]” between the months of January and March. She intends to publish an “official welcome post” where you “can leave a link to your reviews” and in which she’ll “specify the hashtags” along with other important details. If this reading jolly appeals to you, please head over to It’s time to begin thinking about the Japanese Literature Challenge 13 and share your thoughts with Dolce and fellow participants.
* Lit Crit Blogflash *
I’m going to share with you eight 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:
Dark deeds, Russian Imperial fortunes and murder – Karen Langley of Kaggsy’s Bookish Ramblings has discovered the “ideal” cosy Christmas novel in Mary Kelly’s recently republished 1958 mystery, The Christmas Egg – the latest “annual treat […] from the British Library in their Crime Classics imprint.” She declares it “a quirky and entertaining seasonal read”, which would be “perfect in your Christmas stocking!”
No cats. Natsume Sōseki, Sanshirō – Although there were “no cats in the novel”, Simon Lavery of Tredynas Days found Sōseki’s 1909 work of fiction “a diverting read” with “some charming scenes” and “Lucky Jim scrapes”.
Seven Bad Literary Christmases – The Editor of Nothing in the Rule Book “found seven Christmases from literature that, whatever your plans this festive season, you’ll be glad aren’t yours…”
Norwegian Proto-Feminist Cora Sandel – Marina Sofia at Finding Time to Write has written a fascinating post on the much-neglected Norwegian writer Cora Sandel (1880-1974). She discusses reading Alberta Alone from the ‘Alberta Trilogy’, which she describes as “the most obviously feminist of the three books.” While “certain moments [are] almost too painful to read”, she says, the “work is filled with […] precise observations”, and the author reminds her “in a way of Danish writer Tove Ditlevsen”.
The Christmas Banquet, Nathaniel Hawthorne (1844) – “This is one of the oddest Christmas stories” Laurie Welch from Relevant Obscurity has “come across.” She describes it as a “very Gothic Christmas story that feels straight out of Edgar Alan Poe”. Happily, “it worked” for her.
‘Yellow Notebook: Diaries Volume 1, 1978–1987’ by Helen Garner – Kim Forrester of Reading Matters finds Garner “sublime and pithy”, not to mention “raw and funny”, in this “masterclass in anecdotal writing.”
Saga Land – Angharad at Tinted Edges found “the perfect time to read” Richard Fidler’s and Kári Gíslason’s “co-authored non-fiction novel about Icelandic cultural identity”: “on location” in Iceland. She considers it “a fantastic book”, from which she “learned so much”.
The Lost Books of Jane Austen by Janine Barchas: A Review – Vic at Jane Austen’s World describes Barchas’s history of rare and forgotten Austen volumes as a “beautiful book” that is “well-researched”. The perfect “gift for the bibliophile in your 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:
Brain Pickings: The Shortest Day: A Lyrical Illustrated Invitation to Presence with the Passage of Time, Our Ancient Relationship with the Sun, and the Cycles of Life – Maria Popova shares her thoughts on a “lovely homage to a universal human impulse radiating across time and space and cultures and civilizations.”
The Guardian: ‘I thought you’d like to read this’: the etiquette of gifting books – “Should you write an inscription, or choose a book to change a loved one’s mind? There’s nothing simple about literary presents”, says Elle Hunt.
Literary Hub: How to Haul a Book Collection Across an Ocean – Connor Harrison is moving from England to Canada – and so are his books.
Wales Arts Review: Welsh Books for Young People – The Best of 2019 – “With the announcement of the very first Children’s Laureate Wales, Eloise Williams, and Literature Wales launching a new category for Children and Young People for Wales Book of the Year, this has been an exciting year for children’s writing in Wales. Many brilliant books didn’t make it to the Top 10, but here’s [WAR’s] list for this year’s best Welsh books for young people.”
Pan Macmillan: Reading challenges to help you break out of your literary comfort zone – “If your New Year’s resolution for 2020 is to read more classics, read more non-fiction or just read more full-stop, these tips [from Jean Menzies] will help you expand your reading horizons.”
SBS News: The Macao bookstore keeping Portuguese history alive – “The Liveraria Portuguesa bookshop has been operating for nearly 35 years and is proudly run by owner Ricardo Pinto.”
ABC News: Indie booksellers persevere despite Amazon, rising costs – According to Joyce M. Rosenberg, independent booksellers “are seeing their industry recover from the devastation that began with the arrival of Amazon”.
The New York Review of Books: The Secret Feminist History of Shakespeare and Company – Caitlin O’Keefe on Sylvia Beach and the famed Shakespeare and Company book shop in Paris.
The Bookseller: The Holt Bookshop to close after 15 years – An indie bookstore in North Norfolk is to close after 15 years “as a result of escalating annual costs and online competition,” reports Katherine Cowdrey.
TLS: Occult information – Bharat Tandon on “reappraising an unloved novel from [Henry] James’s middle phase”.
SFGate: The incredible story behind the quietest room in San Francisco – “The Poetry Room, in City Lights Bookstore, is world renowned for its connection to the Beat Generation as well as having one of the nation’s largest poetry collections”, says Alyssa Pereira.
BBC News: Peter Handke receives Nobel Literature prize – “Austrian author Peter Handke has received his Nobel prize for Literature at a ceremony in Sweden.”
Melville House: Getting in the festive mood with these … unusual … retellings of A Christmas Carol – Nikki Griffiths with a selection of A Christmas Carol retellings. You are warned to “brace yourselves”.
Penguin: Books that shaped 2019 – “From stirring novels to thought-provoking journalism, inspiring memoirs to data-crunching eye-openers, these are the most influential books of the year” from Matt Blake.
Bookish: How to Plan for Your 2020 Reading Challenge – Kelly Gallucci offers tips on tackling those TBR piles and meeting your reading challenge goals.
Publishers Weekly: Pearson Sells Last 25% of PRH to Bertelsmann – Pearson has sold its remaining shares in Penguin Random House to Bertelsmann, making the German company the sole owner of the world’s largest trade publisher, finds Ed Nawotka.
Longreads: Longreads Best of 2019: Food Writing – A selection of writers and editors choose some of their favourite food stories of the year.
The Conversation: The long history of books as Christmas gifts – “A long history of gifting of printed books at Christmas remains strong despite increases in e-book sales”.
Kickstarter: COVEN Bookshop & Café – COVEN launched a Kickstarter to open a “feminist safe haven that will offer English language books, an ethical café and a range of engaged literary events in Paris, France.”
Slate: The Decade in Young Adult Fiction – “As a publishing phenomenon, YA literature entered the decade like a lion. Now it seems to be eating itself alive”, says Laura Miller.
CBC: Customer starts campaign to find new location for ‘unique’ Sydney bookstore – Ed’s Books and More in downtown Sydney “has to move to make way for the new community college campus.” A supporter “has launched a campaign to help find the store a new home”.
Electric Literature: Get Ready for the 20 Most Anticipated Debuts of Early 2020 – “Clear your schedule from January through June for these books by first-time authors”, says Adam Vitcavage.
The Boar: The effect of a no-deal Brexit on independent publishers – Charlotte Anne Creamore considers “the threat posed by a no-deal Brexit to the UK’s independent publishing industry.”
Advocate: Author J.K. Rowling Rushes to the Defense of Transphobe – “After a judge ruled a think tank was within its rights to fire a tax expert tweeting TERF views, the children’s book writer defended the transphobe for ‘stating that sex is real’”, reports Jacob Ogles.
Radical Reads: Oscar Wilde’s Prison Library – Wilde amassed a small library in his prison cell during his two-year incarceration for ‘gross indecency’.
Vulture: Gone Boys – Hillary Kelly considers the ways in which female novelists replaced white male authors in the 2010s.
Words Without Borders: The Best Translated Books You Missed in 2019 – “Margaret Busby, Edwin Frank, Ru Freeman, Gregory Pardlo, and more recommend works that they feel are deserving of greater attention.”
Stack Magazine: Mal Journal’s literary sexuality – “Clever, challenging and fun”. Steve Watson introduces Mal Journal’s literary erotica.
Smithsonian Magazine: The New ‘Little Women’ Brings Louisa May Alcott’s Real Life to the Big Screen – “More so than in previous film adaptations, writer and director Greta Gerwig weaves the American writer’s own experiences into the classic story”, finds Grace Lovelace.
Publishing Perspectives: Sharjah World Book Capital Program Backs Kenyan Library Restoration – “The Sharjah World Book Capital program announces its support for the McMillan Memorial Library’s restoration project in Nairobi.”
The Polish Book Institute: Bedside table #33. Robert Małecki: My world began to spin thanks to Holmes – “The writer Robert Małecki talks about listening to audiobooks, the latest readership delights, tempting covers, his permanent fascination with Conan-Doyle’s books, his conversion to Saint-Exupery, and the book that made him want to become a writer.”
9TO5Toys: LEGO unveils its latest Creator Expert set, a 2,500-piece modular bookshop – Blair Altland finds LEGO’s new multistory bookstore, inspired by houses in Amsterdam, brings “the European aesthetic into brick-built form in a distinct way.”
Book Riot: A New Reading Goal: Measuring Time, Not Books – D.R. Baker measures reading time, rather than the number of books read.
The Guardian: Move over Amazon: celebrating Australia’s diverse independent bookshops this Christmas – “How does a bricks-and-mortar bookshop thrive in the age of the internet? Here’s [Clarissa Sebag-Montefiore’s] guide to stores doing it differently – just in time for those last-minute gifts”.
New York Public Library: Calling All Jellicles: Book Recs for T. S. Eliot’s Cats – Gwen Glazer questions whether she’s actually recommending books to fictional cats. “You bet your sweet Skimbleshanks [she is].”
Nature: Books for our time: seven classics that speak to us now – “Leading thinkers choose past works illuminating crucial issues today.”
Mental Floss: The Christmas Book Flood: Iceland’s Literature-Loving Holiday Tradition – “In Iceland, the most popular Christmas gifts aren’t the latest iProducts or kitchen gadgets. They’re books”, says Shaunacy Ferro.
Vanity Fair: David Benioff and D.B. Weiss’s Lovecraft Movie Has a Massive Problem: H.P. Lovecraft – “The renowned horror writer was also a known racist and anti-Semite. Are the Game of Thrones creators the right people to handle that history?” asks Laura Bradley
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.
Categories: Winding Up the Week