Winding Up the Week #138

An end of week recap

With various parts of Wales and the UK returning to full lockdown, to say nothing of the prospect of further restrictions in the offing for the rest of the country, I have determined to reclaim my writing mojo and attempt to resuscitate old book blogging habits. I don’t expect to go full gallop at the task – rather, I will start with the occasional post, possibly producing a couple of critical pieces or general features each month – with the aim of eventually upping the articles to one or more a week.

In order to devote my complete attention to Project Pen Poised for Action (in reality, my keyboard stands ready to commence tapping, but the sentence simply refused to flow), I am unlikely to take part in any further book reading challenges or annual literary jollies in what remains of 2020 – and for this I apologise – however, I will, as always, support and publicise these fabulous events. I shall also continue Winding Up the Week every Saturday.

Winter may be tedious in the extreme, and Christmas ‘cancelled’ (as the British media is so fond of announcing), but having been thoroughly remiss in my writing habits this year, I will resume routine to beat pandemic pessimism.

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.


* Margaret Atwood Reading Month 2020 * 

One of my favourite annual book happenings is due to commence on 1st November – though, sadly, I won’t be taking part this time. If you haven’t already guessed, it is Margaret Atwood Reading Month, hosted by two of our community’s most popular Canadian book bloggers: Marcie at Buried in Print and Naomi of Consumed by Ink. “From Sunday, November 1st to Monday, November 30th we’ll be reading Margaret Atwood,” says Marcie, as she invites everyone to take part. It is also Atwood’s 81st birthday on the 18th, which, of course, means even more “celebrating with books, quotes, and cake!” As ever, there will be much from which to choose, including (but not limited to) “fiction, essays, poems, biographies, graphic novels, children’s books, film and TV.” You’ll find all the details plus plenty of suggestions for taking part on the official pages. >> Announcing Margaret Atwood Reading Month, November 2020 #MARM >> 

* Lit Crit Blogflash * 

I am 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 is difficult to limit the list to only these few – all of them published over the last week or two:

Getting Away – In Laura Tisdall’s delightful post about a weekend away with her mother at Plas Cadnant, a “wild swimming and yoga retreat” on the idyllic island of Anglesey, she shares with us her pleasure in sitting “in the gardens [and curling] up by the fire in the evening to read “Tana French’s newest crime novel, The Searcher, and Nicola Griffith’s sixth-century historical novel Hild.

The Little War Cat by Hiba Noor Khan illustrated by Laura ChamberlainLibrary Lady, Anne Thompson, describes this “story of a small, grey cat who lives happily in the city of Aleppo” as “full of compassion” and offering “hope in the midst of conflict”. Its “sensitive illustrations” and “gentle text” also “provide detail for children to discuss with parents or teachers.”

Dear Reader by Cathy Rentzenbrink: joyful exuberant bookishness – This exploration of how books can change a person’s life is “gloriously exuberant” and “emanates” joy from its pages, says Karen from BookerTalk. She found herself “smiling and nodding in recognition” – not to mention longing to “chat with [her] best bookish mate” – indeed, she “absolutely” recommends Dear Reader to those of us who are inclined to become “so deeply engrossed in a book, nothing […] else matters.”

* 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 Economist: The sudden success of Sigrid Nunez – “What Are You Going Through is a companion piece to her bestselling The Friend”.

The Guardian: Talegate? Appledore beats Covid to keep book festival alive – “Event organisers think outside the box to hold drive-in literary event in North Devon field”, finds Steven Morris.

Wired: Loose Ends: A Literary Supercut of Sci-Fi Last Sentences – “Loose Ends is a literary supercut composed entirely of last lines from 137 science fiction and fantasy books”, says Tom Comitta. Apparently, it “doubles as narrative and archive, short story and data analysis.” 

The Paris Review: Editing Justice Ginsburg – “An editor recalls the experience of working with Justice Ginsburg to bring an unpublished memoir to print.”

AAWW: 100 Essential Books by Iranian Writers: An Introduction & Nonfiction – Niloufar Talebi “embarked on this list with an assumption of scarcity. Discovering “an embarrassment of riches.”

The Irish Times: The vanishing art of the book launch – “43 years after his first published story, Dermot Bolger used lockdown to finish his first collection”, finds Dermot Bolger.

Lapham’s Quarterly: Book of Revelation – David Rundle on “the power and privilege of the written word in the Middle Ages.”

NPR: Battle Of The Books – Shereen Marisol Meraji asks: “What kind of books are best to read during this pandemic? Books that connect you to our current reality? Or ones that help you escape it?”

Slate: Why So Many Readers Are Turning to Octavia Butler’s Apocalypse Fiction Right Now – Rebecca Onion asks why, 27 years after it was first published, Parable of the Sower has made it on to The New York Times’ bestseller lists?

Book Marks: Five Books About Sisters and Secrets – Nessa Rapoport, the author of Evening, shares five books in her life.

Culture Trip: The Top Travel Destinations Made Popular by Famous Books – “From Romania’s Bran Castle (think Dracula) to New York’s Great Neck (think The Great Gatsby),” Cassam Looch suggests “some top locations around the world that have become more popular thanks to their links to famous works of literature.”

BBC Scotland: Edition of Shakespeare’s last play found in Scots college in Spain – Reevel Alderson reports: “A rare edition of Shakespeare’s last play has been found in a Scottish Catholic college in Spain.”

Penguin: Love at first write: why we can’t get enough of debut novels – This year’s Booker Prize has been dominated by first novels. Alice Vincent is intrigued to know why readers – and the industry in general – are so obsessed with new writing.

Ploughshares at Emerson College: The Power of Reading About Your Home – Christopher Louis Romaguera on the emotional impact of finding yourself reflected in literature.

Intellectual Freedom Blog: Banned Books Week 2020: A Schedule of Virtual Events – Ellie Diaz with “some virtual events” happening during Banned Books Week 2020.

CrimeReads: Five Psychological Thrillers You Should Read This September – Lisa Levy on “private clubs, family secrets, and a new Ruth Ware novel.”

Book Riot: Middle Fantasy: A Sub-Genre for All Fantasy Lovers – Hannah VanVels examines ‘middle fantasy’ as a sub-genre.

HAARETZ: This Bedouin Poet Began Writing at 46. Her Feminist Work Is Now Celebrated Globally – “Sheikha Helawy hasn’t lived the traditional life of a feted writer, overcoming childhood hardships to become an award-winning poet who confronts the oppression of women in Bedouin society”.

Prospect: Xiaolu Guo’s half-familiar fictions – “The British-Chinese novelist and filmmaker talks [to Rebecca Liu] about writing about love in a time of division, why we need more balanced curriculums, and paying homage to an early European hero in her new novel, A Lover’s Discourse”.

Lapham’s Quarterly: What Preparations Are Due? – Travis Chi Wing Lau discovers Daniel Defoe “attempted to teach a nation how to live in a world where the next crisis is always closer than it appears.” Fantasy and The Sword of Truth Author Terry Goodkind Has Died – “Fantasy author Terry Goodkind, known for his long-running The Sword of Truth series, has died at the age of 72.” 

Publishing Perspectives: DW Books: A News Network’s YouTube Resource for Readers, Publishers – “Produced in English and adding videos at a rapid clip, Deutsche Welle’s DW Books YouTube channel is widely internationalized and themed to current affairs and contemporary literature.”

Wanted in Rome: Rome launches major new literary festival – Rome is to merge three literary events to create Insieme – a brand new festival of literature.

National Geographic: How libraries are writing a new chapter during the pandemic – “Read about book bikes, bibliophile hotels, outdoor story times, and other ways libraries are reacting to COVID-19” with Melanie D.G. Kaplan.

Penguin: Why all true book lovers know autumn is the greatest season – “You can keep your sticky beach reads – autumn is the time for true bookworms to shine. Alice Vincent on why the ‘jumper months’ can’t come soon enough.”

The Guardian: Milan Kundera ‘joyfully’ accepts Czech Republic’s Franz Kafka prize – “Prestigious award follows the restoration of his citizenship last year after decades of exile in Paris”.

The Rumpus: What to Read When You Like Your Memoirs in Essays – Sarah Kasbeer shares a reading list to celebrate A Woman, a Plan, an Outline of a Man. 

NPR: ‘Here We Are’ Conjures Magic From Ordinary Lives – “Don’t be fooled by the deceptive simplicity of Graham Swift’s latest short novel”, says Heller McAlpin. Here We Are “turns out to be about nothing less than life’s frequently baffling illusions and transformations.”

Guardian Australia: Guardian Australia’s Book Club: why does medicine care so little about women’s bodies? – “For many women, the healthcare system entails long searches for diagnosis and few answers. Join authors Gabrielle Jackson, Kylie Maslen and Katerina Bryant as they discuss their books that take on the male-centric world of medicine”.

Architectural Digest: The Books Designers Are Reading Right Now – “Need an escape (and who doesn’t these days)? Read on for what the books designers are devouring”, suggests Katherine Burns Olson.

New York Times: Can a Book Capture the Magic of Birding? – Sophie Lucido Johnson on “delving into the many tomes that try to distil the fascination that makes so many want to stare up through their binoculars.”

ABC7 News: ABC7 For the Better Speaker Series: Inside the Black Literary Collective – “The Black Literary Collective is a group of award-winning Black authors who provide socially and culturally relevant content about the Black experience in classrooms throughout [San Francisco’s] Bay Area and beyond.” 

Interview Magazine: Martin Amis and Salman Rushdie on Cancel Culture and The Hitch – “Amis and Rushdie spoke this past July about cancel culture, the proper length of novels, and why authors might belong to a generation but never to a movement.”

The Paris Review: Re-Covered: An Unconventional South African Novel – This month, Lucy Scholes examines a South African writer whose unconventional work has often been left out of the canon.

South China Morning Post: Hong Kong bookseller says he asked visiting US officials to help activists in Taiwan – “A Hong Kong bookseller who fled to Taiwan says he has called on the US to allow activists from the city to relocate to the United States”, says Lawrence Chung.

Bitch Media: Queer Pressure – Rachel Charlene Lewis discusses “#OwnVoices and what we demand of Queer authors”.



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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25 replies

  1. Looking forward to your Project Pen Poised for Action. And, as always, thank you. Your wind-up winds me up (in a good way) every week.

  2. So good to hear your pen is poised, Paula! I look forward to more of your posts as and when you are able. Meanwhile, thanks, as ever for this bag of goodies 😊

  3. I wrote a paper for a conference that never happened (scheduled for March 2020) about climate change predictions in Octavia Butler’s Parable novels, and I got to see the opera performed on March 7, 2020 at UCLA (the last trip we took). I think Rebecca Onion is wrong about the hope that the notion of space flight provides in the novels–it is important that the characters have a dream, and that their dream is to build something that requires scientific thinking. That’s exactly the kind of hope we need right now.

    • I agree, Jeanne. As with the characters in novels, our hopes and dreams are all that sustain us during these dark days. Science holds the answers to a great many of our problems if only we were willing to listen.

  4. Thanks for the round up Paula, and keep safe where you are and hunker down with books! At least that’s something we’re all good at!

    • Many thanks, Kaggsy. I’m sorry I won’t be joining the 1956 Club but I’ll be supporting you all the way.

      Hunkering down with books sounds like the perfect plan for the winter months. I’m always filled with admiration at the humungous number of books you read and review every month. You’re awe-inspiring! 🤩

  5. Good luck with the poised pen project Paula. I look forward to seeing what you produce (but don’t let yourself feel pressured). I agree that book reading challenges really get in the way of your own focus. The only challenge I take part in is the one that’s not a challenge, that is, reading Australian women!

    Anyhow, I’m glad you are going to continue with your WUTW posts, as they are a great service.

  6. Another great list, Paula, and long may Muse and Mojo collaborate over your keyboard.

  7. Thank you very much for including my review in your wind up, Paula, I do appreciate it. I sympathise with you regarding the writing as I too am almost forcing myself to do so. It helps a little I think to have some sort of routine amid all the chaos. However I’m still reading less which is a shame as it would be an escape but my concentration wavers. Good luck with it all. I do welcome your lovely wind ups each weekend but hope you don’t feel under pressure to complete them.

    • Thank YOU, Anne. It’s always an immense pleasure to spotlight your posts. I was particularly taken with this small grey cat from Aleppo and have to confess I would love to read the book myself. 😸

      Oh yes, a lack of concentration is definitely responsible for my paucity of posts. I seem to drift rather too easily these days. I very much appreciate your kind and encouraging comments. You have soldiered on magnificently over recent months. I find your features cheering during these troubled times. 😊

  8. I’m also trying to recapture blogging routines – we’ll get there Paula! Good luck with your Project 🙂

  9. You’re one of my favourite book bloggers, so I’m relieved you’re continuing the weekly summary – I really enjoy these. Hang in there! Warm sunny greetings from Cape Town.

    • Thank you so much, Alison. I really appreciate your kind and encouraging words. I’m delighted you enjoy my weekly wind up. Many damp and overcast (but heartfelt) greetings are winging their way to you from a distinctly autumnal West Wales.

  10. Thanks for the fabulous shout-out, Paula! Obviously, I’m sad to hear you won’t be taking part this year, but I’m also excited about your Project Pen Poised for Action! Sometimes (most of the time!) we just can’t do everything.
    Every year at the end of November I let out of giant sigh of relief after taking part in the Shadow Giller, MARM and Novellas in November – all three are events I’m just not willing to let go of quite yet and they all happen at once! Every year I tell myself I can’t do it all again next year, I have to let something go. But then I do it again! Oh well.. it’s nice to have these problems to focus on to get our minds off the ones out there in the real world. 🙂

    • It’s a pleasure, Naomi. I’m so sorry I won’t be joining you this year but I will be following #MARM20 with enormous interest. Good luck with your annual event marathon – I always think of it as ‘nonstop November’! 😂

  11. Yes, Paula, thanks so much for sharing the news about MARM. I echo everything Naomi’s said above and completely understand the need to prioritize and make room for your own creativity. Maybe you just need to choose a very small goal to start, so that you will be freshly invigorated by your success when you’ve managed to complete it. I’ve found that choosing the goal is the hardest part and sometimes I select an almost ridiculously easy requirement just to get the ball rolling on a new or resumed haibt (like a single push-up, or one minute of yoga, or one page of a difficult book, that kind of thing LOL). And be kind to yourself when it doesn’t work out as planned. 🙂

    • You’re most welcome, Marcie. I hope MARM 20 is a huge success.

      I think you are right about small goals – at any rate, that is very much what I intend to do. “Ridiculously easy” sounds like just the thing! 😂


  1. Winding Up the Week #149 – Book Jotter

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