An end of week recap
Happy New Year!
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.
* Join BanksRead in 2021 *
Following last year’s Paul Auster Reading Week, Annabel Gaskell of Annabookbel has issued an invitation to fellow devotees of the late Scottish author, Iain (M) Banks, to participate in BanksRead from 10th to 18th April 2021. She intends to host the event during the “Easter school hols” and hopes others will join her as she reads and shares her thoughts on Banks’ work. She had originally planned to do this in 2013 but, when it was announced the writer “had terminal cancer”, she “shelved” the idea – until now. Annabel has “revamped [the official] project page […] where you can find a list of his books” and “nearer the time” she will share a sign-up post on her blog. Please check out 2021 Reading Plans for further details.
* 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 Box of Books for 2020 – At the start of each year, Jane of Beyond Eden Rock has the delightful tradition of assembling a figmental box of books, consisting of a “cross-section” of titles that have made the greatest impression on her over the preceding twelve months. She does this so that in the future when she examines the box, she will be reminded of “where [she] was in [her] life as a reader” at the time. In this post she shares with us her tantalizing selection for 2020.
Lives and Fates – Over at Gallimaufry Book Studio, JD Cunningham’s year began “auspiciously” with the reading of Jacob’s Ladder by Lyudmila Ulitskaya, a family saga translated by Polly Gannon, which spans a century of Russian history. JD fears her review “hardly [scratches] the surface” of this 560-page novel, but she was impressed and found the time she spent in the “company” of its characters both “painful and comforting.”
Pravda Ha Ha – Rory MacLean – “In a year full of comfort reads,” Pravda Ha Ha by travel writer Rory MacLean “made quite a change”, says Claire from The Captive Reader. It is, she declares, “urgent”, “important” and “about as far from comforting as you can get” – indeed, there were times when she could barely “keep up with all of the threats posed by Russia” – the country “at the heart” of this Putin exposé.
* 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:
BBC News: Books 2021: A pick and mix of what’s coming up – Rebecca Thomas looks at some of the books we might enjoy in 2021.
The Guardian: Feed your soul: the 31-day literary diet for January – “Looking for a more positive new year resolution?” asks Claire Armitstead. “From a Shirley Jackson short story to Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s 30-minute Ted talk, nourish your mind with [her] one-a-day selection of literary treats”.
The Conversation: Daring reads by the first generation of Canadian Jewish women writers – “Prairie writers Miriam Waddington, Adele Wiseman and Fredelle Bruser Maynard and Torontonians Helen Weinzweig and Shirley Faessler were among the pioneering figures who produced daring work out of their own experiences as women.”
TNR Critical Mass: When Historical Fiction Is a Crime – “Why”, asks Kaya Genç “is one of Turkey’s foremost novelists in jail?”
Electric Literature: It’s Okay If You Didn’t Read This Year – “After a torrent of ‘best books of the year’ lists,” Jess Zimmerman invites you to join her “by the empty shelf”.
Granta: Best Book of 1480: MS Egerton 1821 – “‘The original owners of many devotional books kissed, licked, rubbed, scratched at, and cried upon their pages.’ Elvia Wilk on the best book of 1480.”
Medievalists.net: Which translation of Beowulf should I read? – There are dozens of Modern English translations of Beowulf. Thelma Trujillo says these three suggestions “are a good place to start”.
The Sydney Morning Herald: The most anticipated books of 2021 – From Michelle de Kretser and Kazuo Ishiguro to Sarah Krasnostein and Stan Grant, these are the fiction and non-fiction books Melanie Kembrey will be reading in 2021.
Russia Beyond: Was ‘I, Robot’ creator Isaac Asimov really Russian? – Born in the Soviet Union, Isaac Asimov became one of America’s greatest sci-fi writers “with a restless, fairly Russian soul”, says Valeria Paikova.
BBC News: ‘She is beautiful but she is Indian’: The student who became a Welsh bard at 19 – “An Indian student won acclaim in Wales as a bard and became the first woman to get a law degree from University College London. And although racial prejudice brought a heartbreaking end to a three-year relationship she never went home, writes Andrew Whitehead.”
Wasafiri: From This Place on the Border by Margarita García Robayo – Margarita García Robayo, author of Holiday Heart, reflects on racism, borders and Covid-19.
Evening Standard: Three new high-minded guides to happiness – “First it was hygge, then came the trend for books by mindful monks. Now it’s the philosophers turn to tell us how to live well. Katie Law investigates”.
Inside Hook: Decades Later, a John Steinbeck Classic is Still Inspiring Travelers (and Their Dogs) – “Could Travels With Charley inspire your next road trip?” wonders Tobias Carroll.
Nautilus: Reading, That Strange and Uniquely Human Thing – In this piece, Lydia Wilson suggests: “How we evolved to read is a story of one creative species.”
Vulture: The Villainous White Mother Was All Over the Domestic Novel This Year – Kelly Coyne found these stories came in a year that thrust white liberal parents into a harsh light.
The Atlantic: What Drives Writers to Drink? – James Parker is “seeking in the eloquent benders of Dylan Thomas and Herman Mankiewicz an answer to an ancient riddle”.
The New Criterion: Fyodor Dostoevsky: philosopher of freedom – Gary Saul Morson on “the political and moral lessons of Fyodor Dostoevsky.”
FP: How Press Freedom Came Under Attack in 2020 – “Citizens hungry for information turned to the media during the pandemic, but governments around the world used the crisis to restrict journalists”, says Meera Selva.
GCN: The incredible story of a forgotten Irish queer pirate’s romance has been turned into an audiobook – “Irish woman Anne Bonny and Mary Read are two female pirates that navigated the treacherous Caribbean seas while also navigating a true queer pirate romance”, writes Edward Redmond.
The Irish News: Victoria Hislop: Happiness is really important – it makes you stronger – “Author Victoria Hislop tells Ella Walker and Gabrielle Fagan about the recent death of her mother, her thoughts on ageing, and the importance of happiness”.
Metropolis: 5 (Translated) Japanese Novels to Read in 2021 – Jessica Esa says “2021 is set to be a very exciting year for Japanese literature”. Here she shares a selection of books that “represent the very best of what’s coming to English-language readers”.
CBC: The top 10 bestselling Canadian books of 2020 – CBC Books counts down the top 10 bestselling Canadian titles of 2020.
Los Angeles Review of Books: Ray Bradbury at 100: A Conversation Between Sam Weller and Dana Gioia – Bradbury’s biographer and the former California poet laureate and one-time chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts got together to commemorate an important centennial.
The Calvert Journal: Meeting Mikita Franco: the trans author behind one of 2020’s best Russian literary debuts – Anastasiia Fedorova speaks to Mikita Franco about his remarkable coming-of-age novel, The Days Of Our Lives.
The Washington Post Magazine: My Dinners with le Carré – What a reporter at the Miami Herald “learned about writing, fame and grace when [he] spent two weeks showing the master spy novelist around Miami”.
Prospect: What Gabriel García Márquez knew about plagues – “In his writing, Márquez uses disease as a device to illuminate and intensify his recurring themes of love, power and solitude. He then finds hardiness, heart and humour”, says Daniel Rey.
Vox: One Good Thing: The future is uncertain. This graphic novel gave me hope anyway. – Alissa Wilkinson discovers The Hard Tomorrow “is about seeing dark times ahead and choosing to live.”
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 is an excellent description on Urban Dictionary.
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