Winding Up the Week #116

An end of week recap

WUTW3Another Coronatome Special to keep your minds occupied during the lockdown!

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.


* 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.

The 92nd Street Y has launched a podcast featuring newly commissioned readings by prominent writers recorded in their homes—commencing with James Shapiro and Ann Patchett. Future episodes feature Billy Collins, Rachel Cusk Jonathan Franzen, Lauren Groff, Colm Tóibín and others. >> Read By Podcast from 92Y >> 

On BBC Sounds, Deborah Levy and Laurence Scott talk to Shahidha Bari about EM Forster’s work. >> What’s so great about EM Forster >>


* Daphne du Maurier Reading Week 2020 *

DDRW20Over at Heavenali, Ali Hope has issued an open invitation to read along with her during Daphne du Maurier reading week, which is scheduled to take place from 11th to 17th May. Whether or not you are a blogger, you are encouraged to “join in the conversation using the hashtag #DDMreadingweek on Twitter and Instagram,” in addition to reading “some Daphne du Maurier books [and sharing] photos of your books”. Please let Ali know what you read and “how you got on” in the comments section of her blog. 

* 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:

RATIONSThe Rations Challenge: Forty Days of Feasting in a Wartime Kitchen by Claud Fullwood – Elizabeth Humphreys at Leaping Life found this book about the challenge of living on World War Two rations for Lent “the perfect read” while self-isolating. “Fullwood’s text [turned] out to be a very positive contribution in these challenging times.” 

Volunteering at The Wordsworth Trust – In 2006, Rachel Carney from Created to Read “began a seven-month stint of volunteering at The Wordsworth Trust”. She shares her memories of this wonderful experience in recognition of the birth of William Wordsworth “two hundred and fifty years ago”.

Short Stories for Short Attention Spans – Marina Sofia of Finding Time to Write finds “short story collections are ideal” for “shrinking” attention spans. She thoroughly recommends “two short story collections by women and about women”, which she describes as “truly magnificent”. 

* Irresistible Items *

eyeglasses on a book

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:


NO MOD LESBIANSThe Times: No Modernism Without Lesbians by Diana Souhami review — swear, kiss, publish and be damned– Laura Freeman enjoys a new book arguing that the 20th century’s pioneering lesbians created the conditions for modern art and manners.

The Paris Review: What’s It Like Out? –In her latest column on forgotten and out-of-print books, Lucy Scholes digs up an eerily prescient pandemic novel … and offers a suggestion on what to read instead.

Brain Pickings: Stillness as a Form of Action: Tocqueville on Cataclysm as an Antidote to Cultural Complacency and a Catalyst for Growth – Another excellent piece from Maria Popova.

Penguin: Reading rituals: what’s your strangest book habit? – “From page-counting to peeking at the last line, [Penguin’s] editors share their private quirks.”

Radical Reads: 12 Books On Activism Recommended By Noam Chomsky – “In his 2012 book Occupy – a short study on the social, economic and political inequalities that led to the Occupy movement – Noam Chomsky noted the importance of active reading.”

Readings: An appreciation of Tove Jansson – “Three […] booksellers reflect on the works of author Tove Jansson, and explain why everyone should be reading them.”

Radio Prague International: Czech Booksellers Report Surge in Oline Book Sales – Ruth Fraňková reports that Czech booksellers are “reporting a significant rise in online sales of books” following the closure of “mortar-and-brick stores due to the coronavirus outbreak.”

Publishers Weekly: Obituary: Jean Little – Canadian children’s author Jean Little died on 6th April at the age of 88, reports Shannon Maughan.

Newsroom: Will we still have bookshops? – “Dan Slevin on the precarious but hopeful state of New Zealand bookshops.”

Time Out New York: The New York Public Library has launched a virtual book club – “The New York Public Library is partnering with public radio station WNYC to give New Yorkers a shared community to connect with one another over thought-provoking books while cooped up inside their homes”, says Collier Sutter. 

TLS: Bernice bobs her hair – Nicholson Baker wonders what people were reading and talking about a hundred years ago?

Tor: Let LeVar Burton Read the Works of Neil Gaiman to You – “LeVar Burton announced this week that he’ll be doing Twitter livestreams of his podcast LeVar Burton Reads every other weekday.”

Bustle: How To Plan A Zoom Book Club From The Comfort Of Your Cozy Couch – Caroline Burke suggests you “start your very own Zoom book club”.

The Sydney Morning Herald: Greek tragedy: Novelist Polly Samson dives into Charmian Clift’s world – “The English author admits to ‘an almighty crush’ on the celebrated Australian writer whose writing, fabled life and mystique have swept her away”, finds Ginny Dougary. 

TLS: Meeting Mr George – Did the 17th-century poet, politician and satirist Andrew Marvell spy for the Dutch?

CrimeReads: The Strange, Sordid World of Elizabethan-Era True Crime – “Elizabethan England had a true crime phenomenon of its own, full of con artists, cannibals, wizards, and tales from prison”, writes Megan Campisi.

Fine Books & Collections: Beyond Silent Spring – Matthew Mills finds that 22nd April 2020 is the fiftieth anniversary of the first Earth Day. The activism which led to this historic 1970 celebration of conservation was “grounded in a rich literary heritage.”

The Hindu: Hop in and shut out: This is the time when you want to read yourself out of the moment – Fortunately for Jaideep Unudurti the shelves in his apartment “are designed for one and only one thing: escape”.

The Irish News: Three of Ireland’s top writers share their lockdown reading and viewing choices – The first of an occasional series in which “the north’s top authors and artists are asked about what they are reading, listening to and watching to help distract themselves during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic…” 

EMPRESS SALTBook Marks: Five Sci-Fi and Fantasy Books to Ease Your April Isolation – Leah Schnelbach with a selection of titles featuring “a deadly virus novel, the end of John Scalzi’s political space opera trilogy [and] a work of dark feminist sci-fi from a brand new publisher”.

The Japan Times: Japanese books to get you through a lockdown – Four of the paper’s critics pick their lockdown reads.

Independent: Kate Elizabeth Russell: ‘We all participate in a culture that allows abuse to happen’ – “Her debut novel My Dark Vanessa has been called controversial but its contemporary update of Lolita, which takes a deeper look at power and consent, makes us confront our own complicity, she tells Annie Lord”.

Guernica: Apparition – “Walt Whitman’s boundless self persists, even 128 years after his death”, says Mark Doty. 

World Economic Forum: These are Margaret Atwood’s reads for while on lockdown – “Novelist Margaret Atwood provided book recommendations for readers on lockdown.”

Literary Hub: In a Quiet London Enclave, Five Iconic Women Writers Forged a Home – Mecklenburgh Square drew Virginia Woolf, Hilda Doolittle and others, finds Francesca Wade.

The New Yorker: A New World Through My Window – Olga Tokarczuk gazes out of her window.

NBC News: Iconic San Francisco bookstore closed by coronavirus may never reopen – “City Lights published the seminal poem “Howl” by Allen Ginsberg and became a gathering place for bohemians, but, like many small businesses, it is struggling.”

The Millions: Best Translated Book Awards Names 2020 Longlists – “In its 13th year of honoring literature in translation, the Best Translated Book Awards named its 2020 longlists for fiction and poetry.”

Library Journal: Organizing the Books in Your Home, Part 1: How to Shelve Like a Librarian – Kiera Parrott with “the first of a multipart weekly series designed to help readers make the most of their home collections.” 

The Bookseller: Four indies launch virtual events programme – “Four independent bookshops [in the UK] have pooled their knowledge and resources to organise a series of virtual events in response to the coronavirus pandemic”, finds Tamsin Hackett.

The Guardian: Filth in a time of handwashing: why lockdown erotica is the hottest trend in publishing – “Who knew extreme cleanliness could be a turn on? Ebook authors are kindling lust by rushing out tales for bored, horny, quarantined readers”.

The New York Times: Penguin Classics and Others Work to Diversify Offerings From the Canon – “Across the industry, publishers are releasing titles by authors who were previously marginalized or entirely lost to history.”

Vox: Ask a Book Critic: What can I read that will make me feel better about being scared? – Constance Grady introduces Ask a Book Critic, in which she recommends “a book to suit your mood.” 

Book Riot: Why Reading Pandemic Lit Gives Me Hope – Cassandra Neace believes hope “doesn’t shine through in other types of writing in quite the same way.”

CBC: 21 books by Canadian women to read right now – From Emily St. John Mandel to Meg Masters – a selection of books by Canadian women “that are worth reading right now”.

LOCKDOWNCNN: A pandemic thriller, once rejected by publishers for being unrealistic, is now getting a wide release – Alaa Elassar on the once-rejected dystopian novel, Lockdown by Scottish author Peter May.

ABC News: How the Oxford English Dictionary was brought to life in a rustic ‘scriptorium’ – “Just to work from “A” to “ant” took the original Oxford English Dictionary team around 10 years”, says Anna Kelsey-Sugg. 

Los Angeles Times: Op-Ed: If marijuana is essential during the coronavirus shutdown, why not books? – “Why should it be easier to buy marijuana than a good book at a store in Los Angeles during the coronavirus shutdown?” asks Wendy Paris.

The Paris Review: How Pandemics Seep into Literature – Elizabeth Outka on the literature that arose from the 1918-19 influenza pandemic and the ways in which it speaks to our current moment in profound ways. 



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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32 replies

  1. I am amazed by your ability to get this out every week. Thanks and I hope that you and your partner are doing well during this crazy time.

  2. Thanks! I found a book I need to read (it sounds necromancy-adjacent) in the article about five new SF and fantasy novels.

  3. Had I not spotted the Peter May title on Twitter at the end of March I would have taken it for an April Fool prank! Thanks, as ever, for the roundup, Paula.

  4. I’m really hoping my library gets a copy of No Modernism Without Lesbians for when they re-open, I find that whole generation perdu so fascinating! And I’d love to have LeVar Burton read Neil Gaiman to me, what a joy! Thanks as always Paula 🙂

  5. Plenty of promising reads, thank you! I will start with the Tove Jansson link directly…

  6. ‘An appreciation of Tove Jansson’… I hadn’t even heard of Tove Jansson! Ooops, I need to rectify that. I like discovering new authors and your blog is always perfect for that.
    How’re you all holding up? I hope you’re keeping safe and as well as possible. It’s not an Easter like we’d ever imagined, but I hope you have have a restful Easter weekend nonetheless  ♥
    Caz xx

  7. I enjoyed the article about strange book habits! As a youngster first starting to read chapter books, I would look at the page number before turning the page and then check the number after it was turned. I suppose to make sure I hadn’t turned two pages at once? I mentioned this to someone, and they pointed out this was probably why I was such a slow reader:) These days, when I have a book to read that seems especially long, challenging or non-appealing, I divide the pages by my target number of days, marking with two book marks for each day, of where to begin and end to reach that number of pages. It really works for me!

  8. Thanks Paula – an impressive list as always. Plenty to keep me distracted right now… 😉

  9. How serendipitous – I am in the middle of reading The House on the Strand!! Thanks for the invite to Daphne du Maurier!

  10. Wonderful to see a list of book tips from Chomsky! A person like that always make you feel ignorant. To be honest, I’ve only read work by two of his authors, and I haven’t read any of the specific texts in question. Of course, he does come from a political tradition which is somewhat distinctive. Nevertheless, his own compelling work makes important concepts accessible.

    If you’re a Chomsky fan Paula, you could make use of the lock-down by watching the old YouTube debate between Chomsky & Foucault (if you haven’t seen the treat in question). For someone who is thinking about the merits of anarchism, I have a peculiar affection for rules at the moment and I am greatly relieved to hear that you’re following Pandemic Best Practice.

  11. I like your Pause for a Pod section! Great idea! Take care, Denise

  12. Again, I really appreciate your podcast recommendations – thank you. I’m not quite sure about reading pandemic literature during times like this, but I do find articles about it (like the Peter May book!) very interesting to read.

  13. I’m hoping to dust off my Daphne duMaurier options too! And like Madame Bibi, I’m intrigued by the idea of Levar Burton and Neil Gaiman: yes, please. Overall, I think I’m spending less time online than ever, but I do still enjoy perusing some of your links. And I’m so happy to hear that you and yours are keeping well.

  14. Speaking of the 92nd Street Y: It’s an amazing organization. All sorts of varied programs. I happened to be in NYC a few days before the virus situation became explosive there. During that visit I walked past the Y. Take care.

    Neil S.

  15. I really like what you are doing. Keep it up! New fan right here.

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