Winding Up the Week #147

An end of week recap

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.


* Warwick Prize for Women in Translation *

The Eighth Life is the winner of the Warwick Prize for Women in Translation 2020 – but I am delighted to report that my favourite lockdown read has been named the runner-up. >> Warwick Prize for Women in Translation Winner Announced >>


* 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:

Atlantis, A Journey in Search of Beauty by Carlo & Renzo Piano tr. Will Schutt – An “unexpected pleasure” is the way Claire McAlpine of Word by Word describes this dual, father-son narrated literary travelogue. She found Atlantis, which follows the men as they explore the “world [aboard] an Italian Navy Research ship” over an eight month period, “totally engaging” – indeed, there is “a wonderful synergy and relation between the two”.

Elizabeth and Her German Garden | Elizabeth Von Armin – “At every turn,” says Brona of Brona’s Books, Elizabeth von Arnim’s 1898 novella feels “biographical”. Furthermore, she admits to falling completely for “the charms and wiles” of the author and being “captivated” by her “diary of one woman and her love of nature.”

Stasiland – Anna Funder’s 2003 factual collection of Stories from Behind the Berlin Wall builds “a picture of life under an oppressive regime” by gathering the experiences of “amazing people” who “survived unimaginable horrors”. It is, writes Jan Hicks of What I Think About When I Think About Reading, “powerful in its quietness” and she feels certain these memorable tales will “stay” with her.

* 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 Washington Post: We’ve been looking to philosophers to make sense of life. Maybe we should be looking at cats instead. – John Gray’s Feline Philosophy argues that cats have it all figured out. 

America: The art of book reviewing – “If you think being a writer is nerve-wracking, try being a reviewer”, says Nick Ripatrazone. 

BBC News: Booker winner Douglas Stuart remembers ‘proud’ Glaswegian mother – “Scottish author Douglas Stuart has paid tribute to his “wonderful” Glaswegian mother, who inspired his Booker Prize winning novel.” 

Boston Review: Poet of the Impossible: Paul Celan at 100 – “Among the most innovative poets of European modernism, he forged a new path for poetry after the terrors of the twentieth century. Do we still know how to read him?” wonders Peter E. Gordon. 

Independent: Charles Darwin notebooks stolen from Cambridge library reported missing after 20 years – Rory Sullivan reports that the missing manuscripts are “now on national Art Loss Register as well as Interpol database”. 

Wales Arts Review: The Last Working-Class Novel: Work, Sex and Rugby – “Whatever happened to the Welsh working-class novel? As Parthian Books prepares to publish a new series of reissues of key works of modern Welsh writing, Huw Lawrence writes about the first to come out, Lewis Davies’ nineties classic of disillusioned youth, Work, Sex and Rugby.” 

49th Shelf: 2020 Poetry Delights – “These books turn and explore, question and listen”, says Pearl Pirie of her list of “compelling reads from Canadian poets.” 

Atlas Obscura: How German Librarians Finally Caught an Elusive Book Thief – Dubbed the ‘Büchermarder’, Norbert Schild often used a fake identity to steal antique maps “worth thousands of dollars each.” 

Costa Coffee: Costa First Novel Award shortlist – The category shortlist for the Costa Book Awards, which consists of “the most enjoyable books of the year by writers resident in the UK and Ireland,” has been announced. 

Radio Prague International: The Czech Books You Must Read – “Kafka, Čapek, Kundera and Havel, these are all world renowned names, but what about all the others? How well are Czech authors actually known abroad?” 

NIKKEI Asia: ‘The Mountains Sing,’ by Nguyen Phan Que Mai – “A daughter of Vietnam marks the country’s literary breakout”. 

The Baillie Gifford Prize for Non-Fiction: Craig Brown’s One Two Three Four: The Beatles in Time wins 2020 Baillie Gifford Prize for Non-Fiction – “Bestselling author and veteran journalist Craig Brown wins £50,000 for his kaleidoscopic biography of the Beatles.” 

The New York Review: An Awful and Beautiful Light – Hilton Als on “Joan Didion and the granite of the specific.” 

Fast Company: The psychological benefits of writing by hand – “For those of us who spend most days in front of a computer, writing by hand can have refreshing benefits”, says Aytekin Tank. 

Deep Vellum: Dalkey Archive Press founder John O’Brien passes at age 75; catalog to merge with Deep Vellum – “John O’Brien, founder of the Review of Contemporary Fiction and Dalkey Archive Press, passed away on November 21st at the age of 75.” 

Penguin: Penguin authors on the funny and hopeful books that cheer them up – “When things get tough, the right book can provide just what you need.” Here, Avni Doshi, Frances Cha, Jane Fallon and others reveal the novels that never fail to lift their spirits during dark times… 

The Walrus: Hope Is Good. Disappointment Is Better – Canadian novelist Steven Heighton explores “what the best novels teach us about the virtues of disillusionment”. 

Prospect Magazine: A prizewinning novelist’s surreal tale of millennial burnout – “Kikuko Tsumura’s curious tale [There’s No Such Thing as an Easy Job] follows other cult novels about unambitious women stuck in the thankless carousel of contemporary labour”, says Rebecca Liu, however, she discovers that it offers “a different ending”. 

Literary Hub: Announcing Reading Women’s 2020 Nonfiction Award Shortlist – Including “Carmen Maria Machado, Ruby Hamad, Wayétu Moore, and more”. 

Humanists UK: Humanist MPs and peers discuss Little Book of Humanism with Alice Roberts – “The All-Party Parliamentary Humanist Group (APPHG) met to discuss The Little Book of Humanism, co-authored by its President Professor Alice Roberts and Chief Executive Andrew Copson.” 

Readings: Anti-Christmas reads for Grinches – “Christmas is less than a month away, but it’s not the season to be jolly for everyone. Here are [several] recommendations for those people who’d rather go hide under a rock than crack out the tinsel.” 

The Spinoff: I see you, CK Stead – “Jordan Margetts, who is working on a masters comparing CK Stead and Philip Roth, reviews the second volume of Stead’s memoir.” 

Book Marks: November’s Best Reviewed Science, Technology, and Nature Books – Featuring sacred lands, ancient skeletons, unquiet places and more. 

The Critic: The extraordinary life of Jan Morris – “The end of one writer’s life as a vivid dream”. 

iNews: Kate Summerscale on writing sofas, the genius of Tessa Hadley and finding inspiration in a ‘female Paddington’ – “Catching up on Tessa Hadley’s back catalogue has been a complete, immersive escape during lockdown”, says Kate Summerscale. 

The Irish Times: WB Yeats, the Spanish flu and an experiment in quarantine – “The elixir of love is potent medicine for all locked in by pandemic or the virus of hatred”, observes Joseph M Hassett. 

Russia Beyond: Is classic Russian literature really so depressing? – “Now, that’s a claim that surfaces every now and then among students of Slavic studies. How true is it and what’s actually behind this gloomy assertion?” wonders Valeria Paikova. 

The Yale Review: Lovecraft and Me – How cosmic horror gave Kieran Setiya hope. 

Los Angeles Times: The literary life of Octavia E. Butler – “How local libraries shaped a sci-fi legend”. 

The Paris Review: Notes from the Bathysphere – The strange, poetic texts from William Beebe and Gloria Hollister’s bathysphere dives constitute the first eyewitness account of the deep ocean. 

TLS: Books of the Year 2020 – “Sixty-five writers make their selections from around the world”. 

Publishing Perspectives: Surveying the Coronavirus’ Impact on the International Book Business – “The IPA explores ‘the need for a joined-up, ecosystem recovery roadmap’ to address effects and damage of the pandemic on the world publishing industry.” 

The Sydney Morning Herald: Every picture tells a story of lockdown life in Melbourne – Two neighbours have produced their own record capturing life during a year of pandemic. 

BBC Culture: The best books of the year 2020 – “It’s been a bumper year for books, from dystopian fiction and memoir to powerful stories about race and identity. Lindsay Baker rounds up BBC Culture’s picks.” Exiled and distanced from its home, Tibetan writing has long reflected the spirit of the pandemic – “In many ways, the pandemic has revealed every day aspects of my life that I’d come to see as just my life”, writes Kaushik Barua. 

The Rumpus: What to Read When Your Plate Is Overfull – Elizabeth B. Splaine asks the question: “What do you read when you can’t possibly add one more thing to your plate or you’ll: a) eat all of the chocolate in the pantry, or b) drink all the alcohol in the house, including the cooking sherry?” 

AAWW: Nine Picks from the Editors of the South Asian Avant-Garde – “Read these books by South Asian writers that wrestle with established forms, narratives, and structures.” 

Yale Climate Connections: Books, reports for jump-starting U.S. climate action in 2021 – “The coming change in presidential administrations, notwithstanding clear political challenges, is giving rise to new roadmaps for ways forward.” 

Vice: Penguin Random House Canada Staff Confront Publisher About New Jordan Peterson Book – “During a tense town hall, staff cried and expressed dismay with the publishing giant’s decision to publish Beyond Order: 12 More Rules for Life”, reports Manisha Krishnan. 

TNR Critical Mass: When the Protagonist Is a Literal Man-Eater – Chelsea G. Summers’s A Certain Hunger is, according to Josephine Livingstone, “a toothsome morsel.” 

Rolling Stone: Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library to Be Focus of New Documentary – “The Library That Dolly Built will stream live via Facebook on December 9th”, reports Stephen L. Betts. 

Red Magazine: Gifts for book lovers: Books we’re hoping to unwrap on Xmas day – Arielle Tchiprout thinks these “novels, memoirs and non-fiction reads make the perfect gift for book lovers”. 

Sydney Review of Books: A Dying Art – Rebecca Harkins-Cross on The Ferrante Letters: An Experiment in Collective Criticism by Sarah Chihaya, Merve Emre, Katherine Hill and Jill Richards. 

The Guardian: He Who Must Not Be Named: why is Trump unnamed in so many books? – “‘The dictator’, ‘this man’, ‘the president’ – over the last four years, authors have gone out of their way to avoid Trump’s name. But why?” asks Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett. 



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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10 replies

  1. Thank you for the mention, Paula. And a big OH! to the story about the Darwin notebooks. Every archivist/special collections librarian’s nightmare. Things go astray, slipped inside something else, or unnoticed beneath a bigger volume, but I’d like to think people would take more care around Darwin’s notebooks!

    • I agree, Jan, it really is quite shocking. There was probably less sophisticated security in reference libraries twenty years ago but still… 😱

      • You really don’t need sophisticated security. You need staff to be paying attention. CCTV is attractive as an alternative to decent staffing levels, but a human being there invigilating use is better. There have been enough thefts over the years for the archive and library professions to know that the morals of some researchers can be a bit dubious when it comes to concepts of ownership! (Speaking as an archivist.)

  2. I think the reasons given in the article about He Who Must Not Be Named are plausible. As a blog writer, I add that I didn’t want my blog to be searchable by his name. And as an American, few of the people I know use his name. He’s most often referred to as “45” or “the president.” I can’t explain that. It does feel like superstition.

  3. As always, I just spent a good couple of hours surfing links from here, to some really interesting reads. And love the idea of Feline Philosophy. Maybe that’s just what we need for 2020!

    Meanwhile, why did it take 20 years for anyone to let on Darwin’s notebooks had been stolen? Academia for you, I guess. 😉

  4. I love taking a stroll through your “winding up the week.” So many wonderful reads. Thank you!

  5. The pretentious philosopher John Gray voted Tory because of Brexit. Should we blame his cat?

  6. You can add me to the list of people who uses #45 instead of his name. Knowing how much he loves publicity and casting that against the helplessness I’ve felt, from north of the border between the U.S. and Canada, one of the few quiet acts of resistance readily available is to not offer him even another five letters of publicity. It feels like this collection of URLs has even more “reading project” potential than some of the others, or maybe I’m just thinking more about 2021’s reading than 2020’s right in this moment. LOL Take care and stay well!

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