Winding Up the Week #114

An end of week recap

WUTW3I hope you are all safe and well and finding ways to adjust to this new way of living and working. What an extraordinary month. Let’s hope our lives will be thoroughly mundane by this time next year and our greatest concern will be the depletion of those disorderly TBR piles.

As ever, this is a weekly post in which I summarise 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.


* Week Four of the Wales Readathon * 

Dewithon 2020 is coming to an end. Thank you so much to everyone who took part this year – I’ve been chuffed to little mint balls by your response – especially during such a bizarre and frightening time in all our lives. I will, as promised, post a list of all the book titles featured in your posts over the last month on the Wales Readathon Library page, and very much hope you will join me again next year.

As we entered the final week of Wales Readathon 2020, we looked at a poem by an award-winning Welsh writer: Lament by Gillian Clarke. >> A Poem by Gillian Clarke >>

Should you be either taking part or following the progress of this year’s official readathon book, One Moonlit Night by Caradog Prichard, I have now posted a summary of chapters 12-15. >> DEWITHON 20 WEEK 4: One Moonlit Night by Caradog Prichard >> 

If you post any content whatsoever relating to Dewithon on your blogs – even if it appears long after 31st March – please be sure to let me know. The whole point of this event is to encourage people to explore the literature of Wales. Dates are of little significance.


* Lie Back and Listen *

adorable blur cat close up

Here I recommend engaging podcasts and other digital recordings I’ve come across during the week. Hopefully you too will enjoy them.

If you are in “desperate need of some great book recommendations”, Women’s Prize for Fiction’s podcast is “the perfect solace for readers right now.” Join them for their #ReadingWomen episodes “in which guests discuss past Women’s Prize winners for the ultimate cosy book club, and also their bookshelfie episodes exploring the shelves of inspirational women including Gemma Cairney and Liv Little.” >> Women’s Prize for Fiction Podcast >>

* Lit Crit Blogflash * 

I’m going to share with you three 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:

BITE OF APPLE“The power of good and truthful writing…” A Bite of the Apple: Behind the Scenes at Virago Press by Lennie Goodings is “an outstanding read for so many reasons”, says Karen Langley at Kaggsy’s Bookish Ramblings. “It’s a marvellous look at a fascinating slice of history and [she] can’t recommend it highly enough”.

British Library Women Writers #1: The Tree of Heaven by May Sinclair –  In this “uncertain and scary world”, Simon Thomas of Stuck in a Book thinks the British Library Women Writers reprints series “is more vital than ever”. He found this particular title “engaging, enjoyable, and moving” – although, it “certainly isn’t a chuckle-fest!” 

Black Car Burning by Helen Mort – Dylan Thomas Prize Longlist Blogtour – “What a harsh beauty this book is”, says Caroline at Beauty is a Sleeping Cat of Helen Mort’s debut novel. Furthermore, it “is masterfully written” and “treats themes like social injustice […] with sensitivity.” 

* Irresistible Items *

a book cup of coffee and flavoured donut on square white ceramic bowl

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:


LATE NIGHT THOUGHTSBrain Pickings: The Wonders of Possibility: Lewis Thomas on Our Human Potential and Our Cosmic Responsibility to the Planet and to Ourselves – Maria Popova highlights ‘Seven Wonders’, an essay from Lewis Thomas’s 1983 essay collection Late Night Thoughts on Listening to Mahler’s Ninth Symphony, which “explores that delicate relationship between humanity and the rest of nature”. 

National Review: At the Margins – Graham Hillard on “writing in, and appreciating, books”.

The Paris Review: Quarantine Reads: ‘The Waves’In this new series “writers present the books they’re finally making time for and consider what it’s like to read them in these strange times.”

Penguin: How your choice of bookmark can tell its own strange story“Train tickets, love notes and… rashers of bacon. What you find hidden between pages can be a source of unexpected delight”, according to Tom Nicholson. 

Reuters: Australian bookstore peddles books to those in isolation“As most shopping comes to a halt under shutdown rules meant to slow the spread of the coronavirus, an Australian bookstore is getting its goods out by bicycle to readers in quarantine”, writes Libby Hogan. 

The Star: ‘Reading is fundamental to the soul,’ says Indigo Books head Heather ReismanHeather Reisman believes Canadian citizens need bookstores for mental and emotional support during the pandemic. 

Slate: The Dystopian Novel for the Social Distancing EraJoshua Keating on “what to read as things keep disappearing.”

Guernica: Ruff ReckoningSharona Lin looks back at Kirsten Bakis’s 1997 novel Lives of the Monster Dogs.

Entertainment Weekly: It’s been impossible for me to read lately. Then I got in the bathtub: Quarantine Book ClubThis new series sees EW staffers discuss the ways in which their reading habits are changing and growing in the Coronavirus era.

Esquire: 32 Of The Funniest Books Ever Written – The Esquire team share their list of “the finest comedy tomes ever put into print”.

The Japan Times: Momoko Ishii: Shaping Japanese children’s literature for the modern era – Dedicated to children’s literature since her youth, Momoko Ishii authored and translated dozens of books, and her tireless advocacy changed the way postwar society valued children’s literature for decades to come. ‘So lovely to see’ — Boost in online sales of books by Irish authors“Booksellers across the country have reported a huge increase in the number of online orders they’ve received over the last few weeks”, says Ronan Smyth.

Literary Hub: If I Have to Die on a Zoom Call, I’d Rather Be Talking About Books – “Suzanne Rivecca on finding community at a book festival—only to close It down”.

Town & Country: Hemingway Was Once Quarantined with his Wife… and Mistress – Lesley M.M. Blume with the “true story of how Ernest Hemingway, his wife Hadley, his mistress Pauline Pfieffer, his son Bumby, and the nanny spent a summer on lockdown.”

Rolling Stone: The 50 Greatest Rock Memoirs of All Time – Rob Sheffield shares his favourite rock & roll reads, “from Keith Richards and Patti Smith to Slash and Nikki Sixx”.

The Conversation: Stella Prize 2020: a readers’ guide to the contenders – “This year’s shortlist brings together some of the best Australian writing in any genre”, finds Clint Witchalls.

DOWNHILLNPR: Sex, Friendship And Aging: ‘It’s Not All Downhill From Here’ – Karen Grigsby Bates says if you’re seeking a book to read while cooped up, look no further than It’s Not All Downhill From Here, the latest novel from Terry McMillan.

Vulture: 9 Great Books With Lonely Protagonists – Hillary Kelly investigates the wild terrain of the isolated mind. 

The New Criterion: T. S. Eliot’s animus – Adam Kirsch on “T. S. Eliot and the role of the poet-critic.”

ANSAmed: Italy marks first Dante Day – “Italy on Wednesday marked the first national Dante Day, celebrating the 700th anniversary of the Divine Comedy poet’s death a year early than when it falls in 2021.”

JSTOR Daily: How “Female Fiends” Challenged Victorian Ideals – “At a time when questions about women’s rights in marriage roiled society, women readers took to the pages of cheap books about husband-murdering wives.”

Publishers Weekly: Judge Allows PEN America Suit Against Trump to Proceed – Andrew Albanese reports: “The suit was first filed in October of 2018, after President Trump made numerous threats against journalists and organizations whose coverage he disliked.”

Quartz: The case for books as “essential” in a time of pandemic – Are bookstores ‘essential’ businesses asks Ephrat Livni. This question is currently being debated around the world.

Get Literary: What’s Silkpunk? 6 Essential Reads from the New Sci-Fi/Fantasy Subgenre – “Silkpunk takes the idea of steampunk […] and incorporates it with facets of East Asian antiquity”, says Sara Roncero-Menendez.

The New Yorker: What Our Contagion Fables Are Really About “In the literature of pestilence, the greatest threat isn’t the loss of human life but the loss of what makes us human”, writes Jill Lepore.

Commonweal: The Cant-Hunter– George Scialabba on what George Orwell “can still teach the Left”. 

The Paris Review: Twinning with Eudora Welty – What happens when you begin to see yourself, and lose yourself, in the life of an author you’ve never met? asks Katy Simpson Smith.

BBC News: Coronavirus: Book sales surge as readers seek escapism and education – “People in the UK were stockpiling novels and home learning books last week as they prepared for a spell in isolation, sales figures suggest.”

Time: 10 Virtual Book Clubs You Can Join Now—And How to Start Your Own – A round up of ten virtual book clubs. 

LOST CHILDRENABC News: Valeria Luiselli’s ‘Lost Children Archive’ wins Folio Prize – “Mexican writer Valeria Luiselli’s novel Lost Children Archive has won the Rathbones Folio Prize for literature”.

Poets & Writers: StayHomeWriMo Rallies Writers – NaNoWriMo has launched StayHomeWriMo to help keep writers from going stir crazy, finds Emma Komlos-Hrobsky.

Euronews: New chapter as Brussels bookstore adapts to coronavirus lockdown – Jack Parrock finds bookstores in Belgium will be allowed to remain open during the lockdown.

Guardian Australia: Maria Tumarkin on winning the 2020 Windham Campbell: ‘It feels like a complicated gift’ – “The Australian writer discovered she was one of eight to win a share of $1.32m on the day the coronavirus crisis became official”.



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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33 replies

  1. Hope you and yours are keeping well during all this 🙂

  2. I’m fighting the slide into becoming a person who wakes up not sure what day it is. Keep well, Paula.

  3. A lovely set of treats as always Paula! Stay safe and well.

    • Thank you, Madame B. We’re doing quite well with this self-isolating lark but D received one of those letters today saying she’s high risk (not a huge surprise after all she’s been through), so she won’t even be able to nip to the local shop. We’re luckier than most, though, because we have plenty of space to potter about and the dogs can go for a run. How are things with you? Are you able to get your daily intake of fresh air? Hope you’re staying healthy and happy. 🤗

      • Glad you’re doing OK Paula. I hope D stays safe and well. It’s great you have space and the dogs are getting exercise! I only have a fire escape with loads of potted plants on it, but there’s also a view of trees and lots of wildlife keeping me sane. I live on a usually busy high street and now it’s so quiet! Listening to the bird song is a treat.

  4. Great links as always Paula, thank you!

  5. Thanks again for a lot of very tempting links, Paula, many of them more than usually relevant to reading and crisis.

    So glad you’ve been highlighting Wales-related writing again this year, though I’ve read and reviewed, rather fewer than last year. I posted about two Diana Wynne Jones books this month which I hope counts towards Dewithon as she was half-Welsh, her father Richard Aneurin originating from Pontarddulais. Though there’s precious little Welsh about either The Homeward Bounders or Eight Days of Luke (which I post about tomorrow) I’ve just completed Jenny Nimmo’s The Snow Spider which is set nearer to your neck of Wales than me.

  6. I’m always interested in the idea of Orwell teaching the left. His writing dealt with the right and the left of his time, and neither his writing nor his complicated life can be taken as being outside a complex history. Leftists, centrists, and rightists can’t simply take something he wrote about x and apply it to y.

    At the moment, we have a range of capitalist countries which typically secure legitimacy via democratic elections. However, several of these states have suspended democracy mentioning just one of the current emergencies. Giorgio Agamben, the celebrated Italian philosopher, has stressed how subjects have acceded to the new governance form without any fuss. In the UK, I do wonder whether or not the stunningly competent Boris Johnson should have been granted such sweeping emergency powers. However, I am also certain that we cannot resuscitate Orwell to tell us the answer. Perhaps it is Orwell’s intentionally plain style that speaks to us, in a world of complexity there is something reassuring in clear prose that describes cups of tea, spring, and toads.

    I am not a gambler, but I think if we survive until 2021 we will be lucky. Take care everyone!

    • The moment I spotted that Orwell piece I wondered if you would find it of interest. He was very much his own man and, leaving aside his private life (the lives of geniuses are seldom straightforward), he talked reason to a largely indifferent world. There was nothing left or right about his ideas and judgements – merely good sense.

      I wonder what our Dear Leader has planned for us next? I too feel distinctly uncomfortable with these emergency powers!

      Stay safe, John. The world needs the sagacious and well informed more than ever.

  7. Thanks for the link Paula – much appreciated. In fact for all the links!

    It is indeed a weird world we’re in and the hardest is keeping some kind of structure to it, especially now I’m working from home. It’s just a case of patience, I guess…

    • It’s a pleasure, Kaggsy. You’re doing brilliantly with your posts. 😃

      I agree, it’s difficult to settle to any one thing at present. I can just hear my old Nan saying, “Come on. Shape yourself!” Usually because I was “dawdling about”. I could do with her structuring my life now, though goodness knows what she would have made of Coronavirus. I expect she would have chased it off with a poker and a few stern words! 🤣

      If only it were so simple.

  8. Thanks for pointing me to the Slate article on The Memory Police. I’m not sure I can read that novel right now, because my biggest fear is that the emergency will lead to rights disappearing, including the right for Americans to vote in November 2020. It’s already led to some of the last remnants of political resistance disappearing.

  9. Another great selection, thanks very much Paula. Have just read Suzanne Rivecca‘s article which I found interesting and thoughtful. Literature may not be an ‘essential’ but it certainly matters.

  10. I always look forward to your weekly wind-up, Paula, and now more so than ever! Another brilliant list of articles to sink my teeth into, and plenty of inspiration for the weeks ahead. I particularly appreciated the podcast recommendation this week – I’ve found myself listening to book news a lot more recently, especially on days when reading itself has seemed a bit challenging. I hope that you and yours are keeping well.

    • Many thanks, Eleanor. I’m delighted my weekly wind-up is of interest to you. I know what you mean – my concentration isn’t what it should be with all that is happening at the moment. We’re keeping well, thank you. I hope all is good with you. 🌼

  11. Always enjoy an interesting story about Hemingway…

  12. Some lovely links, Paula. Such a nice idea.

    I’ve just posted my second Dewithon read, this year, on

  13. Have bookmarked this one, Paula, and I want to get moving on my ‘One Moonlit Night’ thoughts.

    Believe it or not I am tiring of looking at the screen and pounding my keyboard. Never thought it would happen! To be fair, my social groups and book clubs are reinventing themselves via the internet and becoming adept at emailing reviews and using Zoom.

    Wishing you and D good health and happy reading 🙂

  14. Yes, strange times indeed.

  15. Congrats on completing your second Dewithon! No small feat to keep up the hosting while adjusting to so many life changes along the way.

    It’s interesting to see how many more of this week’s links are related to the current health crisis. It’s hitting the headlines even in lit blogs and art pages!

  16. Hello. I clicked on Esquire’s link to funny books. Not surprisingly, Portnoy’s Complaint is on it. That’s the funniest book I’ve ever read. I came close to rolling off the bed, it had me laughing so hard.

    Take care, Paula.

    Neil Scheinin

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