Winding Up the Week #148

An end of week recap

I heard a bird sing in the dark of December. A magical thing. And sweet to remember. We are nearer to Spring than we were in September. I heard a bird sing in the dark of December.”
Oliver Herford

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.


* Nick’s Chapter-a-Day Read-Along *

In his official sign-up post, Deacon Nick Senger of One Catholic Life has named the books to be included in his fourth annual readalong. Should you choose to participate in 2021, you will be given the option to complete “five classic works of literature” or simply “join in for some of the books”, however, as Nick points out, the “beauty of a chapter-a-day read-along is that if you miss a few days it’s relatively easy to catch up.” The primary goal of this reading challenge is to “encourage people to read classic books they might not otherwise read because of their length or age” and, with this in mind, titles have been selected from “four different countries”. If you would like to get involved, please head over to Announcing the 2021 Chapter-a-Day Read-along, for further details, including the reading schedule.

* 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:

A Five-Star Flashback from 2013 – #DiverseDecember – Over at Annabookbel, Annabel Gaskell has discovered a “rare” contemporary novel about older people in “the Afro-Caribbean community”, which “explodes many misguided cultural clichés.” Bernardine Evaristo’s Mr. Loverman is, she says, “hilariously funny yet compassionate and bittersweet”, making her “laugh out loud” and has “gone straight into [her] shortlist of books of the year.”

A Wild Child – Translated by Anna Summers, The Girl From the Metropol Hotel: Growing Up in Communist Russia, Ludmilla Petrushevskaya’s 2017 prizewinning memoir, is “vivid [and] often humorous”, according JD Cunningham at Gallimaufry Book Studio. Moreover, this story told “in quick sketches”, enables the author to turn the “horror [of a childhood spent in extreme deprivation] into tales of a canny child overcoming the evil strewn in her path.”

The Sea – Sophie Jupillat Posey’s forthcoming speculative fiction novella “is a story with an original premise”, says Angharad from Tinted Edges. Although the protagonist is a “difficult character” with whom it is often difficult to empathise, this is a “thought-provoking book”, which calls attention to “the harm humanity is inflicting on the marine environment.”

* 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: 


CRAFT: Hybrid Interview: Tara Isabel Zambrano – A conversation between Tara Isabel Zambrano, author of the short story collection Death, Desire, and Other Destinations, and CRAFT’S flash fiction section editor Kristin Tenor. 

New Statesman: How Irmgard Keun’s fiction captured a generation of bold young women – “Keun fled Nazi Germany,” finds John Self, “returning after false reports of her suicide to write about the lives of women in the 1930s and 1940s.” 

BBC Scotland: James Hogg: The shepherd who helped to shape Scottish fiction – “A special celebration is being held to mark the 250th anniversary of James Hogg’s birth in the Scottish Borders”, says Giancarlo Rinaldi. 

Aeon: Empire of fantasy – “By conquering young minds, the writing of JRR Tolkien and CS Lewis worked to recapture a world that was swiftly ebbing away”, according to Sam Haselby. 

The New York Times: Times Critics’ Top Books of 2020 – “The Times’s staff critics give their choices of the best fiction and nonfiction works of the year.” 

Literary Hub: Kelly Link: Why You Should Read This Classic Trilogy – Kelly Link considers Robertson Davies’s great Canadian classic, Fifth Business

O, The Oprah Magazine: 32 LGBTQ Books That Will Change the Literary Landscape in 2021 – “The offerings are vast,” says Michelle Hart, “with room for all kinds of stories by and about people from all walks of queer life.” 

The Conversation: In our own voices: 5 Australian books about living with disability – Rather than presenting a disability as an obstacle, life writing can explore the joys, frustrations and creativity of living with disability or Deafness. 

iNews: Maggie O’Farrell’s pandemic novel Hamnet is named Waterstones’ Book of the Year Hamnet is a “timely novel”, says Adam Sherwin, which “tells the story of the death of William Shakespeare’s only son from the plague.” 

Prospect Magazine: How did Virginia Woolf enjoy her pudding? – How writers and chefs have paid homage to the final (and best) dinner course throughout history. Ian Irvine explores “odes to cakes and sweets throughout history”. 

Penguin: Moral outrage and the need for ‘a hit’: the real story of why Dickens wrote A Christmas Carol – “It helped create our idea of a modern Christmas and became his best-known story. But the reasons why Dickens’ wrote A Christmas Carol are complicated – and feel more relevant today than ever.” 

Literary Hub: The 89 Best Book Covers of 2020 – Temple shares a selection of 2020 book covers liked by her favourite book designers. 

Bookforum: All the World’s a Cage – Becca Rothfeld on “Franz Kafka’s fictional entrapments” in The Lost Writings

ABA: Publishers Announce Plans for Dozens of New Imprints in 2020 – The American Booksellers Association with a list of “some of the imprints announced this year” by a variety of publishers. 

The Guardian: Royal Society of Literature reveals historic changes to improve diversity – “Eminent group adds pens of Andrea Levy and Jean Rhys to its collection as it sets out to champion writers of colour”. 

RNZ: Supply-chain chaos has booksellers reading between lines this Xmas – Booksellers in New Zealand are “facing a return to the 1970s way of doing things this Christmas,” says Harry Lock. 

Brittle Paper: The Brittle Paper Notable African Books of 2020 is Out! – Ainehi Edoro presents Brittle Paper’s 50 Notable African Books of 2020. 

The Christian Science Monitor: Before history devolves into mythology: 2020’s best books on World War II – “Historians grapple with the grimmest, toughest questions surrounding the war, about culpability, morality, and demagoguery during a fraught time.” 

The Irish Times: Sammy Weaver wins The Moth Nature Writing Prize for bat detecting diary – “Winner ‘conjures up the otherness of the natural world’, says judge Richard Mabey”. 

Current Affairs: Merit, Access, and Swordsmanship – “Dan Walden examines what makes life worth living, according to sleeper masterpiece The Last Samurai.” 

The Japan Times: A passion project that became a literary journey through Kyoto – Stephen Mansfield looks at Kyoto: A Literary Guide, an anthology of literature on the city. 

Sunday Times ZA: Maaza Mengiste discusses editing ‘Addis Ababa Noir’ with Michael Sears – Maaza Mengiste shares her insights into the stories and writers who have contributed to Addis Ababa Noir, the latest title in a series of anthologies from Akashic Books. 

Alto: The Horse’s Mouth – Jane Smiley’s soon to be published Perestroika in Paris is “a fairy tale for adults”, according to Diana Wagman. 

Washington City Paper: Everyone Is Suddenly a Home Cook. Bold Fork Books Is Here to Help. – Will Warren chats with Clementine Thomas, “owner of Bold Fork Books, a new culinary bookstore in Mount Pleasant.” 

The Paris Review: The Libraries of My Life – Jorge Carrión’s library is a response to the void of his parents’ house – there are traces of all the public libraries he has visited since childhood. 

Book Marks: François Vigneault on Italo Calvino, Ursula K. LeGuin, and the Moomins – This week, BM spoke to the cartoonist and author of TITAN, François Vigneault. 

Time Out: BooksActually’s Kenny Leck on life after going digital – Cheryl Sekkappan catches up on “the BooksActually cats, online business, and what’s in the works for 2021”. 

Electric Literature: Jane Austen’s Whisper Networks – Elyse Martin discusses the ways in which Austen’s books “aren’t just about marriage and romance—they’re about how women talk to each other about men”. 

Smithsonian Magazine: Smithsonian Scholars Pick Their Favorite Books of 2020 – “This wide-ranging list offers much-needed context for the issues at the forefront of the [USA’s] national conversation.” 

The Critic: A warning to the curious – Alexander Larman on why M R James “is still the greatest ghost story writer”. 

DW: Goncourt Prize goes to ‘Anomaly’ of a novel – “After being postponed in solidarity with bookshops closed due to France’s coronavirus lockdown, the coveted literary award has been awarded to author Hervé Le Tellier.” 

Hindustan Times: Delhi’s book lovers, rejoice! Full Circle Book Store and Café Turtle set to make a comeback to their beloved Khan Market – “In June this year, Full Circle Book Store announced the closing down of its Khan Market outlet owing to mounting bills and thinning revenue. But now, along with Café Turtle, the store plans to begin the new year with new tidings”, finds Etti Bali. 

The National: ‘Electric News in Colonial Algeria’ wins prestigious academic book award – “British-Kuwait Friendship Society honours best scholarly work in Middle Eastern studies”, Electric News in Colonial Algeria by Dr Arthur Asseraf. 

Observer: The World Has Finally Caught Up to William Gaddis’ ‘The Recognitions’ – “The Recognitions is a book that is constantly slipping away from the reader, requiring a level of attention and commitment rare for the novel in the present day”, finds Craig Hubert. 

Publishers Weekly: ‘Unscheduled, Delightful Conversations’: Book Biz Shares Memories of BookExpo – Publishing industry professionals share some of their memories of America’s largest and longest-running publishing industry gathering. 

History Extra: The mysterious disappearance of Agatha Christie – On Friday 3rd December 1926, the English crime novelist Agatha Christie vanished from her home in Berkshire, causing a media storm. Giles Milton examines the truth behind her disappearance. 

The Guardian Australia: Rick Morton, Alice Pung, Stan Grant, Anita Heiss and others: the books to look forward to in 2021 – “Every year an abundance of new titles beg for a spot on your crammed bookshelf. Here are some highlights from Australian authors”. 

GCN: New online book store for LGBTQ+ readers opens – Catherine E. Hug reports: “Queer Lit founder Matt Cornford makes LGBTQ+ titles more accessible to readers across the UK and Ireland.” 

Euro Weekly: Seville’s Booksellers Unite to Survive the Pandemic – “Seville’s booksellers have formed a guild of 28 shops to unite and collaborate on helping each other survive the pandemic.” 

Radical Reads: Elena Ferrante’s 40 Favorite Books by Women Authors – The Italian writer Elena Ferrante, best known for her Neapolitan Novels, shares a recommended reading list “highlighting 40 works of literature written by 20th-century female novelists.” 

Glamour: Stacey Abrams Is the Author of Eight Unapologetically Hot Romance Novels – “Abrams has demonstrated, in her writing and her political career, a kind of ruthless unwillingness to be shamed.” 

The London Free Press: King’s University College books $1M donation from former librarian – Elizabeth Russell, a former chief librarian at King’s University College in Ontario, is making a posthumous donation of $1 million to the university to improve its library. 

Jewish Book Council: Home for the Hanukkah-Days – Simona Zaret­sky with “a few books you can send to friends and family — or to yourself — for that cozy, miracle-of-reading feeling!” 

USA Today: 226 love letters from Kurt Vonnegut were found in an attic. Now you can see and read them – In 2010, Edie Vonnegut, daughter of Kurt Vonnegut, discovered a hoard love letters written by Vonnegut to her mother. 



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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12 replies

  1. Goodness! Here I was still checking out all the great links from last week’s post and then this lovely surprise! Thank you!

  2. I don’t know how you do this every week but I am glad that you do!
    Wishing you and your partner a good holiday season even as you cope with the world as it is.

  3. Oh my goodness, that Oliver Herford quote!! Beautiful. I needed to read that today. Thanks for sharing all of this, Paula 🙂

  4. Thanks for all these Paula. I’m so tempted by the chapter a day thing, but I know I would fail to keep up!

  5. Thank you so much for the link. Off to explore some of the others.

  6. 89 best book covers!?! They obviously needed someone more decisive on their panel. 🙂

  7. I like the idea of reading a chapter a day to manage a longer classic, but sometimes I feel like my life is more of a page-a-day project level. Heheh Isn’t it wonderful to see writers and readers still discovering Robertson Davies. And who doesn’t love a list of 40 books by women writers? Agatha Christie’s “disappearance” is endlessly interesting. One of those topics of perpetual curiosity. And I was just reading an interview with Maaza Mengiste (and Nancy Pearl) about her reading and love of books in a most delightful collection called The Writer’s Library. Highly recommended for the bookish, especially if you’re always looking for new recommendations from smart readers.

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