An end of week recap
A humongous and heartfelt Happy New Year to everyone! It’s the start of a fresh decade and, one hopes, the beginning of slightly less ‘interesting times’ – though the year has begun with rather more of a bang than most of us sober, readerly folk would have wished.
I would like to say to my much-appreciated Australian readers, we in other parts of the world are watching events unfold on the news and feel deeply concerned for your wellbeing and about the tragic destruction of parts of your beautiful country. Please know, we are thinking of you and would like to express our sincere sympathies at the devastating loss of life through these horrific wildfires. We hope and pray along with you for rain to fall on Australia.
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.
* Recent Posts *
I shared a snap of the bookish gifts left under my tree in Christmas Book Bonanza 2019, and a brief (but not in the least scientific) overview of my reading year in 2019 Reading Year in Review.
* 2020 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge *
Amy Bruno at Passages to the Past is once again hosting the Historical Fiction Reading Challenge and invites everyone to participate. “Each month, a new post dedicated to the HF Challenge will be created”, she says, from which you can choose one of several different levels, depending on the number of books you would like to read. To sign-up and study the details, please go to 2020 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge – Sign Ups Open! “The challenge runs from 1st January to 31st December 2020.”
* Russian Literature Challenge 2020 *
Following the success of Keely’s Russian Literature Challenge in 2017, she has decided to revive the event at her blog, A Common Reader, in 2020. There are few rules, simply an invitation to “read as much (or as little) Russian literature […] as you want to and share your thoughts if you so desire”. How you “define Russian literature is up to you”. To study the recommended reading list, peruse the plan and announce to the world you are taking part, please head over to Russian Literature Challenge 2020.
* Lit Crit Blogflash *
I’m going to share with you five 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:
Don’t look at Me Like That by Diana Athill: A welcome reissue – Susan Osborne of A life in books finds Diana Athill’s fiction “elegant and witty”, and “her characterisation sharp” in this republished novel from 1967.
Last Witnesses – Svetlana Alexievich – These “harrowing” true stories focusing on the “history of Soviet children’s experiences of the Second World War” left Claire of The Captive Reader with a “deeper understanding of the post-war USSR/Russia”.
Books of the decade: 2010-2019 – Over at Elle Thinks, blogger Eleanor Franzen discovered the “task of choosing ten books of the decade” felt not merely like “a commentary on [her] reading” but also on the way in which “reading has shaped and reflected [her] life.”
‘The Black Lizard and Beast in the Shadows’ by Edogawa Rampo – “As an avid fan of […] crime fiction,” Akylina of The Literary Sisters found this 1928 Japanese detective novel (republished in 2006) well worth reading. She warns readers who are “expecting an Agatha Christie type of story”, they are likely to be “wildly surprised”.
The Comforters by Muriel Spark – Although confused “from time to time” by Sparks’ 1957 multi-character novel, the “supernatural aspect [of the book] worked” for Deb Baker at Bookconscious, and she declares it a “wacky” but “delightful read”.
* 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:
Los Angeles Times: Review: ‘Creatures’ evokes a family’s fragile bond as deep as the sea – Mark Athitakis reads Crissy Van Meter’s “lush and complex debut novel,” Creatures.
Vintage: VINTAGE letters and diaries to inspire you – The editors at Vintage have “compiled a list of outstanding diarists and correspondents to inspire you to pick up a pen this year.”
The Guardian: Fiction to look out for in 2020 – Alex Preston looks at “new titles from the likes of Hilary Mantel, Ali Smith and Sebastian Barry,” which he says, “bode well for lovers of the novel”.
The New Yorker: The Asian-American Canon Breakers – “Proudly embracing their role as outsiders, a group of writer-activists set out to create a cultural identity—and a literature—of their own”, finds Hua Hsu.
ABC News: Best books of the decade 2010-2019 from the ABC Radio National book experts – Kate Evans from The Bookshelf and Sarah L’Estrange from The Book Show with their favourite reads of the decade.
Hyperallergic: Happy Public Domain Day! Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” is Copyright Free – On 1st January a slew of books entered the public domain. Hakim Bishara reports on the best of them.
BBC News: TS Eliot letter sheds light on early relationship – “A newly published letter, written by TS Eliot in 1960, has shed fresh light on the writer’s relationship with a woman he corresponded with for 26 years.”
The Washington Post: The accidental book review that made Jack Kerouac famous – Ronald K.L. Collins on the review that made Jack Kerouac famous.
Abebooks: Most Expensive Sales of 2019 – Abebooks shares its most expensive books of last year.
Book Riot: Why You Should Go to a Book Festival and How to Choose One – Sarah Nicolas firmly believes “all book lovers should attend festivals and cons if they’re able.”
The New York Times: An Afterlife So Perilous, You Needed a Guidebook – “Archaeologists unearthed the remains of a 4,000-year-old Book of Two Ways — a guide to the Egyptian underworld, and the earliest copy of the first illustrated book.”
The Sydney Morning Herald: Stories to get you through the summer – Jason Steger highlights “10 novels or story collections published last year – some local, some from overseas – that should help you through the summer days and nights.”
Open Culture: Why You Should Read Dune: An Animated Introduction to Frank Herbert’s Ecological, Psychological Sci-Fi Epic – Herbert’s “highly successful saga of interstellar adventure and intrigue highlights not just the ways in which its intricately developed world is unfamiliar to us, but the ways in which it is familiar”, says Colin Marshall.
TLS: Tales of reconstruction – “Some nominations for out-of-print books that deserve to be rediscovered and republished”.
DW: A Cheer for Humboldt! – “German historian [and biographer] Andrea Wulf is THE expert on Alexander von Humboldt.” Her conversation with DW “was like a homage to the great adventurer and polymath!”
The Japan Times: Japanese Classics series: Vintage Classics gives timeless Japanese literature a look for the new decade – Renae Lucas-Hall sings the praises of the new Vintage Classics Japanese Classics Series.
Brittle Paper: Ghanaian Novelist Kwei Quartey on the Effect of the Supernatural in African Crime Fiction – In a new essay, Kwei Quartey “argues for the vitality of the spiritual in crime fiction from the continent, on the basis that ‘the importance of curses, the ancestors, and the gods in African daily life cannot be overstated.’”
World Literature Today: Breaking the Circle: Women Writing in Endangered Languages – “In Basque and other minority-language traditions in Europe […], women writers are engaging with the modern world and showing that these languages cannot simply be consigned to the past”, finds Alison Wellford.
Times of India: We now needed some stories about incredible and inspiring men – After writing “two female-centric books”, author Aparna Jain now wants to tell “some stories about incredible and inspiring men”.
Elle: Little Women Is a Big, Important American Masterpiece. Let’s Treat It Like One. – “On the occasion of its eighth film adaptation, it’s time for the 1868 novel to join the literary canon”, says A. N. Devers.
International Prize for Arabic Fiction: Longlist, judges and dates announced for 2020 International Prize for Arabic Fiction – The IPAF has revealed the longlist of 16 novels in contention for the 2020 prize and $50,000 award.
BBC News: Hamish Macbeth and Agatha Raisin creator MC Beaton dies aged 83 – “The creator of two of the world’s best-loved fictional detectives has died at the age of 83.”
The New Republic: Rupi Kaur Is the Writer of the Decade – “The young Canadian poet understands better than most of her contemporaries how future generations will read”, finds Rumaan Alam.
The Atlantic: A Book That Honors a Complicated Figure – James Parker discovers a “recent work by the late critic Clive James about his literary idol, Philip Larkin,” which “artfully examines the complex poet’s canon.”
Bitch Media: BitchReads: 17 Memoirs Feminists Should Read in 2020 – “Among the many memoirs slated for release in 2020, these 17 represent the very best of the genre”, says Evette Dionne.
Vox: How a Twitter war in 2010 helped change the way we talk about women’s writing – Constance Grady looks back at the “surprisingly long ripple effect of the Jennifer Weiner-Jonathan Franzen feud.”
Publishers Weekly: Clare Pooley Makes a New Beginning In Her Debut Novel – “With a debut novel, The Authenticity Project, publishing in February, Clare Pooley reflects on sobriety and second chances”.
The Paris Review: In Memoriam – Eating Oatmeal with Alasdair Gray – Valerie Stivers recalls interviewing the late Alasdair Gray in Glasgow three years ago.
The Millions: Why I’ll Never Read a Book a Week Ever Again – Slow reader, Hurley Winkler intends to savour every book from now on.
The Guardian: Thank you to … the librarian who saved my life before I knew it needed saving – “In this series writers celebrate a person who changed their lives. Kerry Hudson remembers the librarian who was always a kind, constant, gentle presence”.
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
As always there’s enough here to keep me going for a year! And a Happy New Year to you and yours, Paula.
Thank you, as always, for your lovely comments. All the very best to you in 2020. Here’s hoping you win many more literary prizes. 😃
LOL. I reckon I could take part in the Russian Lit challenge without even thinking about it… ;D
Easy-peasy лимон squeezy! 😉
PS I had to look that word up!
It’s the end of a week??? There’s something about the so-called holidays which blurs the days together. This is superficially the worst start to a New Year I can remember, so I hope yours has been much (and deservedly) better. I’m seeking consolation in the New Year philosophy of Antonio Gramsci (1916):
“the date becomes an obstacle, a parapet that stops us from seeing that history continues to unfold along the same fundamental unchanging line, without abrupt stops, like when at the cinema the film rips and there is an interval of dazzling light.”
A Happy New Year to you, John, and thank you for the Gramsci quote. I hope 2020 improves for everyone, though it hasn’t got off to the best of starts. Such foolishness from those who should know better!
A very happy New Year to you, Paula. May it be filled with health, happinesss and excellent reading! Thanks, also, for the link. Such a pleasure to read Athill’s beautifully crafted writing.
A very happy New Year to you too, Susan. I hope it’s a goodun! 😊
I didn’t know about the Athill novel, so many thanks for the excellent review. It has been added to my TBR list!
The items listed from your bookdar are really interesting. I will look at them in more depth when Ollie and I return from puppy school today. Thank you so much for thinking of Australia. It has really been out of the box for fires this year. It will take a long time to heal these communities. I feel so much for the people and all the animals lost. I look forward to sharing quiet times with blogger friends this year.
Many thanks, Travellin’ Penguin. I hope you find something of interest amongst the links. 😊
Wishing you a peaceful and worry-free 2020. 📚
A very happy new year to you Paula! As you say, here’s to less interesting times 🙂
A very Happy New Year to you, Madame B. If we must live in this deranged old world then, at the very least, let’s hope for books to help us make sense of it all and books to help us forget! 📚😊
Your weekly wind ups are a treat, thank you Paula. There’s lots for me to explore here. Happy new year to you and I hope the coming year is a good one for you. I love that in this little online corner of the world everyone is so considerate, it’s very reassuring.
Thank you so much, Anne. A very happy New Year to you. 🥳📚🥂
I know one shouldn’t stereotype but I do feel that readers and lovers of literature in general tend to be empathetic animals. When I went to Hay Fest in 2018 I was bowled over by how pleasant, polite and helpful people were to each other. Perhaps I was fortunate, but I didn’t come across a single rude or badly-behaved individual among the vast crowds during the entire week. I wonder what other’s thoughts are on this topic? Actually, it would make for a fascinating post. Anyhow, I’m so pleased you feel reassured. There’s so much unnecessary nastiness on the internet these days!
Happy New Year, Paula! Thanks for all the lists! Cheers, Denise
A very Happy New Year to you too, Denise! 😊
Happy New Year to you too, Paula!
Thank you, Ola. Happy New Year! 🥳📚🥂
Vintage letters and diaries, that sounds like an interesting one. Quite a few here I’m curious about so thanks for sharing some excellent finds as always.
You’re right about the news. Very sobering to say the least. I reached out to my family in Australia a few days ago and again first thing this morning. Although they’re in Victoria and ‘far enough’ away technically, they’ve said it’s still incredibly smokey there. Absolutely awful to think so many fires are set intentionally. So, so much destruction…
Wishing you and your family all the very, very best for a happier, healthier & brighter 2020, Paula! ♥
Yes, it’s difficult to comprehend what drives a people to start fires in such tinder-dry weather conditions when they must surely be aware of the likely outcome. I’m glad your family are living in a relatively safe area but the smoke must be asphyxiating. 😢
All the very best to you and yours, Caz. I hope 2020 is all you want it to be. 🤗
Thank you, Paula, for your sincere and heartfelt words of concern and sympathy during our current bushfire crisis in Australia. Your thoughtfulness is much appreciated ♥
While I am relatively safe in the city, the smoke travels far and wide, even across the Tasman to New Zealand. A number of my family members in country Victoria have been evacuated and are safe. I can no longer watch news reports, the vast extent of the devastation and loss is almost too overwhelming to comprehend.
I can well understand why you no longer watch the news reports, Gretchen. Even from this distance, I avert my eyes from the most distressing scenes. However, it’s heartening to see clips of Australian children knitting pouches for baby bats and young people collecting koala bears in their cars. Catastrophes of such magnitude can barely be borne when viewed face-on, but when one glances about, there are armies of people working selflessly to help others. It makes one realise there are still a great many decent folk in the world. You Aussies are a formidable bunch and it’s good to see you pulling together. You’ll come through this dreadful time, I feel sure. A big Welsh hug is heading your way. 🤗
And a big Aussie hug of thanks heading your way 🙂
Your wise words have cheered me up, Paula, there are a lot of good people in the world.
Thanks so much Paula for your call out to Aussies. It truly has been (and still is) an horrendous summer. Like many Australians I have people close to me badly affected – and my city has for several days had the worst air quality in the world. It is truly worrying – and we just hope our leaders and world leaders (given the fires all around the world over the last year or so) start to take serious notice. Particularly our feet-in-the-mud leaders.
Again some good links here. I was particularly interested in the article about TS Eliot’s letter re Emily Hale, because my husband and I have just started listening to the Australian novel by Steven Carrol about this relationship. I haven’t got to the end, yet, but it will be interesting to see how he ends his story!
I also plan to check out the Vintage Japan classics article, and Jason Steger’s books for summer. And more.
Meanwhile, wishing you and yours a wonderful, healthy, and inspiring 2020 xxx
So true, Sue. The whole world needs to wake up to what is happening.
I do hope you’ll post something on your blog about the Steven Carol novel. It sounds fascinating.
Many thanks for your comments. I wish you all things good in 2020. 🤗
Thanks Paula. I plan to. I’m listening to it though rather than reading it, which I find harder for reviewing.
and a wonderful 2020 to you as well – no better way to start than with books 🙂
Thank you so much. I wish you lots of success with your new novel (and your writing in general) during 2020! 🐱📚😊
Happy belated new year to you too, Paula! I hope it’s off to a grand start.
I’m always meaning to investigate the Arabic fiction prize more seriously. I’ve started occasionally visiting a different coffee shop in the city where it’s common to hear Arabic spoken, which has widened my world in a tangible way. (The coffee and treats are delish, too.) And I’m curious about all those diaries/letters – most of which were new to me. As usual, a nice assortment of topics here!
Many thanks, Marcie. I’m glad you found various topics of interest.
Toronto seems like a wonderfully multicultural place. One of these days I really hope to make it over there. I think I’ve mentioned before that I have family living in the city and there’s an open-invitation for D and I to visit any time. It would be a shame not to. 🍁
I seem to recall from long-ago visits to various Middle Eastern and North African countries that there were always lots of delicious (and extremely sweet) pastries and other yummy delicacies available. Naughty but incredibly nice! 😋