An end of week recap
This is the final time I wind up the week in 2019. I hope you’ve had a pleasant break from the hurly-burly of everyday life and been fortunate enough to find a quiet corner in which to relax and read during the festivities. As one decade ends and another begins, please have fun and stay safe. I will see you in 2020.
Wishing everybody a great big, book-booming New Year!
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.
* The 2020 War and Peace Chapter-a-Day Read-along *
Deacon Nick Senger at One Catholic Life is planning another major reading challenge in 2020, namely: the War and Peace Chapter-a-Day Read-along. He says you are “invited to join [him] in spending the first year of the new decade reading one of the truly monumental literary achievements of the world, War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy.” The reading commences on 1st January and you are encouraged to follow the official schedule in order to complete the 361 chapters during 2020. If you fancy taking part, please nip over to Announcing the 2020 War and Peace Chapter-a-Day Read-along and study the details before leaving a comment “telling everyone that you’ll be reading along and why.”
* 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:
We Are the Weather: Saving the Planet Begins at Breakfast by Jonathan Safran Foer – Nirmala of Red Lips and Bibliomaniacs believes “Foer is advocating for something doable” in this debate on climate change and the environment. She declares it “one hell of an inspiring book!”
2019 ANZLitLovers Australian and New Zealand Best Books of the Year – Over at ANZ LitLovers LitBlog, Lisa Hill shares “the books [she] really liked and admired during 2019” but “not necessarily published this year.” All “contenders are ANZ authors only.”
The Wall by John Hersey – “Though it was a long and arduous book, it was so worth the read”, says Julie Merilatt at JulzReads of this 1950 historical novel based on the “archives of Emmanuel Ringelblum”. Hersey “skilfully takes his reader inside the [Warsaw] ghetto walls”, leaving Julie feeling “deeply connected” with all the characters.
Favorite Books of the Decade – Rachel from pace, amore, libri describes creating this post as “nerve-wracking” because she kept “rearranging it and swapping books”. She does, however, eventually “commit” to her favourites of the last decade.
Hilary Mantel in 2020 – Although BrainyJaney at Anticipatience Book Blog feels the book “market is over-saturated with Anglophilic novels”, she acknowledges Mantel’s Wolf Hall trilogy is probably “the most popular historical novel series” and will “likely take center stage [in] March when The Mirror & the Light [is] published.” Indeed, she says, the “political backstabbing between characters is fascinating” and “often underscores the malevolent genius of British politicians.”
Ten Books of the Decade! – Laura Tisdall shares her “ten books of the decade (2010-2019).” She points out “there’s an interesting skew towards the earlier years of the decade”, plus she tends to prefer titles that she’s both loved and have “fed into [her] own development as a writer” – humorously describing her list as “partial and biased”.
* 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 New York Times: Beholding Virginia Woolf Through the Women in Her Life – Claire Jarvis shares her thoughts on the recently published Virginia Woolf: And the Women Who Shaped Her World by Gillian Gill.
The Guardian: From The Big Short to Normal People: the books that defined the decade – “It began with the fallout from the global financial meltdown and ended with two women sharing the Booker. Which titles shaped the last 10 years?” asks Alex Clark.
Vox: The 2010s were supposed to bring the ebook revolution. It never quite came. – Constance Grady finds “publishing spent the 2010s fighting tooth and nail against ebooks”, causing “unintended consequences.”
Brittle Paper: Ellah Wakatama Allfrey is Brittle Paper’s African Literary Person of the Year 2019 – Ellah Wakatama Allfrey, OBE, has been declared Brittle Paper’s African Literary Person of the Year.
Brain Pickings: Dostoyevsky, Just After His Death Sentence Was Repealed, on the Meaning of Life – Maria Popova examines Dostoyevsky’s reflections on his literary future following the reprieve of his death sentence in 1849.
CrimeReads: The Rising Stars of Crime Fiction in the 2010s: International Edition – Paul French announces: “Crime fiction has officially gone global.”
The New Republic: Science Fiction’s Wonderful Mistakes – Scott Bradfield discovers the “great novels of the 1960s remain enjoyable because they got everything wrong.”
BBC News: Books 2020: What you could be reading – “It may be the era of the box-set binge, but many of us are still finding time to enjoy books”, says Rebecca Thomas.
The Bookseller: Tremain, Kay, Shrigley in New Year’s Honours – “Novelist Rose Tremain has been made a Dame in the New Year’s Honours list.”
The Conversation: 5 Australian books that can help young people understand their place in the world – “What we read matters. Reading shapes the way we see the world, increases our understanding of others, and helps us imagine different narratives for ourselves.”
Granta: Best Book of Any Year: A Thousand and One Nights – Mazen Maarouf on why A Thousand and One Nights is the best book of any year.
Harvard Magazine: Eat, Drink, Read – Nell Porter Brown introduces us to Boston Public Library’s “cozy winter hideout”.
Independent: The night Samuel Beckett was nearly stabbed to death by a pimp – “On the 30th anniversary of Samuel Beckett’s death, Martin Chilton revisits the chance encounter in which a pimp’s knife narrowly missed the writer’s heart and ended up transforming his life forever”.
The Millions: Willa Cather’s Lost Lady – “Jaime Fuller takes a closer look at one of Willa Cather‘s lesser-known novels, A Lost Lady, whose film adaptation was a sore spot for the author.”
Open Culture: Illustrations from the Soviet Children’s Book Your Name? Robot, Created by Tarkovsky Art Director Mikhail Romadin (1979) – Colin Marshall discovers that “nobody who grew up Soviet could ever forget the children’s books they grew up reading”.
Time: Here Are the 12 New Books You Should Read in January – “The new year kicks off with a crop of inspiring new books, from nonfiction examinations of some of the biggest questions shaping our culture to page-turning fiction delving into stories of inner strength”, writes Annabel Gutterman.
The Nation: Finding the Other – Jesse McCarthy on Toni Morrison’s revolution.
Literary Tourist: Kingston & collecting Elizabethan histories, & Canadian fine press printing – Nigel Beale, the Literary Tourist, in “Kingston, Ontario and environs”.
The Hindu: Best non-fiction books of the decade – “How the decade stacked up in books on politics, economy, society, sport”.
DW: Nobel Literature Prize winners since 2000 – DW looks back at the laureates since 2000.
Boston Review: Ten Years of Must Reads – Rosie Gillies’ with a selection of BR editors’ favourites from the past decade. Including: Noam Chomsky, Arundhati Roy, Robin Kelley and others.
Quill & Quire: Bookstore holds short-story contest (with a twist) for 40th anniversary – The Book Keeper in Sarnia, Ontario is calling for writers to submit flash-fiction for their Message on a Bottle contest.
The Paris Review: Our Contributors’ Favorite Books of 2019 – TPR’s contributors reveal the books that moved them most in the final year of this decade.
The Washington Post: In the impeachment spin wars, only the English majors can save us – “Throughout the impeachment hearings, historians and political scientists have been hogging the limelight with their sage commentary”, says Ron Charles, “but really this is a crisis designed for literary critics.”
BBC Trending: Take a look behind the ‘small doors to imaginary spaces’ within bookshelves – “How did a ‘book nook’ capture the imagination of people worldwide from Louisiana to Omsk?” wonders Tom Gerken.
The Calvert Journal: Our 10 favourite books of 2019 will change how you see the world – “From a different account of war by Nobel laureate Svetlana Alexievich, to TS Eliot prize-winning poetry, [Hannah Weber shares] a selection of the best books from the New East this year.
The New Criterion: Chasing Nabokov – John Simon on Think, Write, Speak: Uncollected Essays, Reviews, Interviews, and Letters to the Editor by Vladimir Nabokov, edited by Brian Boyd and Anastasia Tolstoy.
Radical Reads: Vincent van Gogh’s Literary Life – “From Dickens and Hugo to Harriet Beecher Stowe, find Vincent van Gogh’s reading list below, compiled by the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam.”
The Atlantic: The Woman Who Made Modern Journalism – “Ida Tarbell championed reportorial methods and investigative goals that are as potent today as ever.”
Paste: The Best Novels of 2019 – Frannie Jackson and the Paste Books staff with the stories they “loved” best in 2019.
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.
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