Winding Up the Week #117

An end of week recap

WUTW3This 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.

Literature and History is “a podcast covering Anglophone literature and its roots, from ancient times to the present”. Every “episode covers an influential work of world literature, featuring summaries of the texts, historical analysis of the cultures that produced them, and some original music and goofiness thrown in to keep you entertained.” Past programmes include Who Was Homer?, Ancient Greek Theatre and Horace and Augustan Poetry. >> Welcome to Literature and History! >> 

Sugar Calling is Cheryl Strayed’s weekly podcast in which she calls “some of the most prolific writers of our time” (over the age of 60) and asks the question: “How do we stay calm when everything has been upended?” In this episode she contacts Margaret Atwood to “chat about hard times, pansies and eight decades of getting it done.” >> Roll Up Your Sleeves, Girls >>


* 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:

SYRIAN CROSSFIRESamar Yazbek’s A Woman in the Crossfire: Diaries of the Syrian Revolution (2012) – Yazbek’s diary of personal reflections on the Syrian Revolution make “grim reading”, according to Marcie at Buried In Print. The prose, however, “is clear, even perfunctory”, which is “just what [she] needed”, and the book offered her “a way into the subject, a path towards understanding”. 

The Yield by Tara June Winch – This “big story” is “plump with important themes, lush language, and rich history”, says Kate W from booksaremyfavouriteandbest of this Stella shortlisted novel. She declares it a “rich reading experience.”

17 intriguing novellas you can read in a day (or an afternoon) – “If you are looking for a quick read” while in lockdown, Kim Forrester of Reading Matters has a list of novellas “that will absorb you and take you out of yourself for a few hours”. All can be read “in the space of a day”.

* Irresistible Items *

smartphone on an open 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:


PERFECT WORLDThe Japan Times: The seemingly perfect world of author Clarissa Goenawan – “Singaporean author Clarissa Goenawan only saw snow for the first time when she came to Japan last year to celebrate her and her eldest daughter’s birthday.”

The Guardian: Novelists pick books to inspire, uplift, and offer escape – “From Hilary Mantel to Kazuo Ishiguro and Marlon James to Sebastian Barry, writers share their favourite literary comforts”.

London Evening Standard: Women’s Prize for Fiction launches digital book club – “#ReadingWomen is all about celebrating exceptional work by female writers”, says Laura Hampson. 

Harvard Magazine: A Mind of One’s Own – Nell Porter Brown delves into the world of Emily Dickinson.

The Calvert Journal: ‘How much you are hated is how much you are free’: how Azerbaijan’s underground writers fight for independence – “The state-funded Union of Azerbaijani Writers dominates Baku’s literary scene. But among the city’s cafes and bookshops, a different kind of artistic revolution has already taken place”, finds Nermin Kamal.

The Point: Into Wonderland – In his Reading Room column Merve Emre explains why Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is the ideal book for the present moment.

SSENSE: Roadside Picnic – “Four sci-fi writers on fiction, the future, and imagining alternative realities”.

The New York Times: In Italy, Coronavirus Books Rush to Publication – “Doctors, novelists and other writers are exploring, as quickly as they can, the pandemic’s impact on a country that was among its earliest victims”, finds Anna Momigliano.

Literary Hub: The Wolves of Stanislav: An Improbably True Parable for the Pandemic Age – “Paul Auster travels the borderlands of far eastern Europe”. 

Metropolis: Questioning Normalcy in the Age of the Pandemic – “Convenience Store Woman author Sayaka Murata on breaking norms”.

Literary Hub: The Best Rain in Literature – “Straight and silvery, big as buckshot, a thin knife of cool” and more of the best rain in literature from Emily Temple.

Lapham’s Quarterly: A Letter from Quarantine – On 24th October 1820, John Keats wrote in a letter to the mother of Fanny Brawne: “A person in my state of health should not have such miseries to bear”.

Atlas Obscura: Escape Into These Fantastical, Imaginary Maps – “When the real world feels unbearable, why not chart a course through lands that are literally unreal?” asks Jessica Leigh Hester.

The Bookseller: Italy gives bookshops permission to reopen – Katherine Cowdrey reports that “Italy, the country worst affected so far by the coronavirus pandemic in Europe, is allowing bookshops to reopen.”

It’s Nice That: Pentagram’s Domenic Lippa rebrands Jane Austen’s House – “Encouraged to ditch visual cliches associated with the author, Lippa imbued the new identity with a sense of the writer’s image but in a modern context”, says Jenny Brewer.

The Critic: Who holds the power? – “Literary reputations are made and broken by a self-appointed clique of bien pensant liberal intellectuals”.

The New Yorker: Reading Derek Jarman Is Strangely Consoling – Rebecca Mead discovers it’s “a resonant experience to take in the late filmmaker’s dispatches from the AIDS epidemic during our current crisis.”

Love Your Bookshop: Find your local bookshop – The Australian Booksellers Association has launched the Love Your Bookshop promotion to encourage customers to shop at local stores.

Penguin: How to enjoy nature during lockdown – even if it’s only out of your window – “Even city-dwellers can enjoy the natural world from their windows. You just need to know what you’re looking – and listening – out for. Alice Vincent talks to fellow nature writer and Losing Eden author Lucy Jones about how to start.”

Shondaland: The Rewards of Starting My Own Publishing Company – “Frustrated by mainstream publishing, Olivia Taylor Smith decided to launch a small press that publishes genre-defying books from international and local authors.”

SELECTED DIARIESVogue: 8 female novelists share their ultimate quarantine reading list – Radhika Seth presents you with “the ultimate lockdown reading list, courtesy of eight critically acclaimed women fiction writers”.

Smithsonian Magazine: Local Bookstores Offer ‘Mystery Bags’ of Quarantine Reading – Theresa Machemer reports: “Buyers can ask for a mix of their favorite genre or seek booksellers’ recommendations”.

BBC News: Coronavirus: Chilean writer Luis Sepúlveda dies aged 70 – “Best-selling Chilean writer Luis Sepúlveda has died of Covid-19 in Spain at the age of 70.”

Virago News: Tips from the Original Self-Isolators | Sarah Waters – “Sarah Waters suggests ditching the jim-jams, setting yourself targets and feeing the birds”.

Apollo: Artists on the books keeping them company in isolation – With much of the world in lockdown, Cornelia Parker asks artists to recommend their favourite reads.

The Art Newspaper: How Van Gogh’s handwritten texts were tragically chopped up – “The artist copied poems and hymns into an album that belonged to his London landlady”, finds Martin Bailey. His investigations revealed that, “around 100 years later, an unknown perpetrator cut the pages into pieces in order to make a quick buck”.

ILAB: How COVID-19 is Affecting Antiquarian Booksellers – “Earlier today, the International League of Antiquarian Booksellers hosted a 90-minute webinar to discuss how the COVID-19 health crisis is affecting antiquarian booksellers around the world.”

ABC News: Domestic abuse investigation by journalist Jess Hill wins Stella Prize for writing by Australian women – “Journalist Jess Hill has won the $50,000 Stella Prize for writing by Australian women for See What You Made Me Do (Black Inc), her study of domestic abuse in Australia.”

Wine Enthusiast: Five Perfect, Author-Approved Book and Wine Pairings – “Authors driven by wine share their favorite reads for a night in with a glass in hand.”

Library Journal: 8 Great Libraries for Your Zoom Background – Meredith Schwartz with eight photos of “light, bright, and beautiful libraries to ensure that next time you go on camera, the library’s behind you all the way.”

The Moscow Times: Change a Letter, Transform a Work of Russian Literature – “Change one letter in a title of a Russian work of literature and describe the results.”

Los Angeles Times: 21 new and classic books to keep you in touch with the natural world – “In these 21 nonfiction books, both recent and classic, writers illuminate a natural world that reflects back to us the wonders of this troubled planet”, writes Lorraine Berry.

Penguin: After the corona crisis began, I felt too anxious to read. Until I started doing it out loud – “Tuning out the news to escape into a novel has felt difficult lately. But rediscovering a way of reading most of us have forgotten gave Sam Parker a way back.” 

The Atlantic: The Exquisite Pain of Reading in Quarantine – “Books, precisely because they are so demanding of our attention, might be the best antidote for the psychological toll of a socially distanced life”, writes Connor Goodwin.

Arablit Quarterly: Four Writers on Finding Books in Yemen, Recommending Yemeni Writers – Last year’s Romooz Foundation writing workshop led to the publication of the short-story anthology, Conflict.

Book Trust: The Book That Made Me: Frances Hardinge – “Deeplight author Frances Hardinge was an avid reader when she was growing up – but Susan Cooper’s The Dark is Rising had a huge influence on her. She [explains] why in the latest edition of The Book That Made Me…”

INDELICACYFSG: Clearing Space for Resonances – Patty Yumi CottrellIn talks to Amina Cain, author of Indelicacy.

Get Literary: 6 Novels for Dog Lovers to Complement Your Fur Baby Obsession – Estefania Acquaviva shares the books he would like to read when curled up on the couch with Harry, his in-laws’ Australian labradoodle.

Jewish Book Council: The World of Egyptian Jewish Literature – “The existence of Jews in Egypt — and literature concerning it — stretches far into the past” finds Jean Naggar.

Guardian Australia: Bruce Dawe’s passing is a great loss but his remarkable, socially aware poetry will remain relevant– “For decades when you went into a second-hand bookshop in Australia, if you found only one book of poetry there it would be Bruce Dawe’s Sometimes Gladness”, says John Kinsella.



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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16 replies

  1. Many thanks for this as always Paula! I don’t think I’ve read any Yemeni writers so that will be my first stop 🙂 Stay safe & well.

  2. Thanks for the link to my Yield review… I’m still reflecting on the Stella Prize – while I don’t begrudge Jess Hill the Prize, I somehow feel that if ever there was a year when we needed the ‘escape’ of fiction, this was it…

    LOVE those library Zoom backgrounds (and cross that my work is using a different conferencing background!).

    Also LOVE Cheryl Strayed. Will tune into this podcast.

  3. Oh, the Moscow Times game of changing a letter in the title made me laugh. Thanks!

  4. Wonderful links as always, Paula. I do appreciate all the work it must take to gather all these links. Off to explore! 😀

  5. Love the sound of both those podcasts. Trouble is that because I’m not going to the gym or driving here and there I’m not getting around to listen to the ones I have already.

  6. There are almost too many interesting articles here! I’m particularly pleased to see the link on Yemeni writers, and I loved the Lit Hub article on the best rain in literature – beautiful escapist reading. Thank you, Paula.

  7. Are you sure you are not some kind of secret consortium or top-notch readers and reviewers? I am amazed yet again by your weekly wind-up and it winds me up how very productive you are!

    And, of course – you.

  8. Thank you, kindly, for sharing my post about my “grim” reading. Yazbek’s book *is* hard reading and it was very hard for her to write the book too — it feels like the least we can do is learn from those experiences.

    Also, I love anything from Atlas Obscura. Always such curious places. And I keep hearing Sarah Waters’ advice about her jim jams (not a phrase I’m accustomed to using, but I think it now!). And I love all these bookish recommendations from other spheres (here, artists, for instance) now that more and more people are reading while at home. So many great links, as usual, Paula!

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