Winding Up the Week #163

An end of week recap

Some are born Welsh. Some achieve Welshness. I am going to thrust myself upon Wales.”
Jasper Rees

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.


* Week Four of Wales Readathon * 

Thank you so much for all your marvellous posts over the last seven days. The event is almost over but not quite – there is still time to read a work or two by a Welsh or Wales-based author – or indeed, to pick up a book set in Wales. There are so many titles from which to choose.

As we reach the fourth and final week of Wales Readathon 2021, I share a few thoughts on My Favourite Stories of Wales, edited by the late Jan Morris, one of the finest writers Wales has produced in the post-war era. >> DEWITHON 21: My Favourite Stories of Wales >>

There is a dedicated page on which to display your Dewithon-related posts. Here you can share your reviews, features, interviews etc. with the book blogging community. >> Wales Readathon 2021 >> 

Have you posted any content relating to Dewithon on your blogs (or elsewhere)? If so, please be sure to let me know.

* 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 fortress against the triviality of the outside world…” – Karen Langley of Kaggsy’s Bookish Ramblings has discovered “the perfect distraction from modern nasty real life” in two books: The Bookseller’s Tale by Martin Latham and Dear Reader by Cathy Rentzenbrin. Both, she says, are “about books and reading”, but “they’re surprisingly different”. One “takes a fairly wide view about the history of our relationship with reading” and the other is more a “personal memoir” – though she finds them equally “fascinating” and notices they act as a “reminder of how books can be a real lifeline when you need them most.”

“Down to the Sea in Ships” by Horatio ClareDown to the Sea in Ships: Of Ageless Oceans and Modern Men is a “beautiful and terrifying portrait of the oceans and their human subjects”, writes the Sea Library’s Anna Iltnere. With cargo ships very much in the news at present, Clare’s book about his “unforgettable journeys” aboard two container vessels seems like the ideal read. Anna certainly found it a “fascinating study of big business afloat”.

‘A forest full of troubles’ [book review] – “Hard-hitting in substance, immersive in its detail” – Eleanor Updegraff from The Monthly Booking wagers “you’ll be hard-pressed to find a more powerful” memoir this year than Wayétu Moore’s The Dragons, the Giant, the Women. “Combining elements of fantasy with all-too-real experiences of war and racism”, it has “many qualities of a novel” but is “grounded firmly in reality” and “demonstrates the power of literature in reaching across divides”.

* 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: 


Wales Arts Review: Seed to Dust: A Gardener’s Story by Marc Hamer – “Jim Morphy reviews Marc Hamer’s year-long account of the garden he tends, Seed to Dust: A Gardener’s Story, which intertwines horticultural knowledge with personal memoirs.” 

JSTOR Daily: How Early Sci-Fi Authors Imagined Climate Change – “A century before the modern “cli-fi” genre, many authors envisioned unsettling worlds shaped by man-made climate chaos”, finds Sierra Garcia. 

Cabinet: Bottled Authors – Matthew Rubery explores the history of the audiobook. 

The Georgia Straight: Author Adam Bunch wrote The Toronto Book Of Love – “A historian reframes the city’s evolution through personal dramas and changing norms in The Toronto Book Of Love”. 

The New York Times Style Magazine: In ‘The Talented Mr. Ripley,’ a Shape-Shifting Protagonist Who’s Up to No Good – “Patricia Highsmith published the first novel in her series of psychological thrillers in 1955, embedding her own repression, snobbery and sense of chaos into the text”, writes Edmund White. 

BBC Scotland: Australian authors dominate Walter Scott book prize shortlist – “Australian authors make up the majority of contenders for the Walter Scott Prize for historical fiction.” 

Global Citizen: Marcus Rashford to Get Books to the Thousands of UK Children Who Have Never Owned One – “From food poverty to education”, James Hitchings-Hales finds Marcus Rashford “is back in activism mode.” 

The Paris Review: The B Side of War: An Interview with Agustín Fernández Mallo – Agustín Fernández Mallo on the aftershocks of war, the wonders of traveling via Google Street View and the restless reinvention at the core of his oeuvre. 

Women’s Prize for Fiction: Cherie Jones’ Five Favourite Caribbean Writers – “From Jamaica Kincaid to Olive Senior, Cherie Jones on the Caribbean writers you should discover now.” 

Baillie Gifford Trust: Prize-Winning Paperback Writer – “The world isn’t short of books about The Beatles but Craig Brown, whose book won the Baillie Gifford Prize for Non-Fiction, tells Malcolm Borthwick why his is different.” 

Independent: 12 best Indian novels that everyone needs to read – “If you can’t travel there, the next best thing is to delve into one of these of works of fiction”, suggests Emma Lee-Potter.

The Guardian: Debut authors dominate on ‘extraordinary’ Dylan Thomas prize shortlist – “Six ‘bold, inventive’ writers including Raven Leilani and Kate Elizabeth Russell are in line for the £20,000 award”.

The National: Egyptian writer and activist Nawal El Saadawi dies, aged 89 – “Feminist author, physician and psychiatrist was transferred to hospital after falling ill”.

The Public Domain Review: English Translation of Finland’s Epic Poem, The Kalevala (1898) – Finland’s national epic poem, first published in the nineteenth century, has its roots in an oral tradition.

CrimeReads: The Actress, the Steward and the Ocean Liner: What Really Happened in Cabin 126? – “In 1947, Gay Gibson boarded the Durban Castle. By the end of the voyage, she would be dead at the hands of a crew member. And soon enough, her life and death would make their way into the pulps.”

Catapult: Writing Myself Back Into My Body and Into the World – “We have the right to imagine what is possible beyond the systems that try to destroy us. Black and queer writers have long imagined worlds beyond this one,” says Shayla Lawz.

SYFY: Hulu doubling down on Margaret Atwood’s dystopian futures, adapting MaddAddam trilogy – Vanessa Armstrong reports that Hulu is hoping to make a TV version of Margaret Atwood’s MaddAddam trilogy.

Publishers Weekly: NBCC Award Winners Announced in Emotional Ceremony – Ed Nawotka reports on the virtual ceremony during which the National Book Critics Circle announced the winners in six categories of its annual awards honouring the best books of the previous publishing year.

Penguin: The Pandemic Year – “Michael Rosen, Afua Hirsch and Jon Sopel join a range of Penguin authors, including doctors, teachers, midwives, scientists and more, to tell the story of Covid-19 and reflect on the tragedies, small victories and unsung heroes from 12 months that transformed the world.”

AP: New ‘Lord of the Rings’ edition to include Tolkien artwork – “An upcoming edition of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy will include paintings, drawings and other illustrations by the British author for the first time since it was published in the mid-1950s.” 100 Speculative Fiction Titles to Add to Your To-Be-Read Pile – James Davis Nicoll with a list “chosen entirely on the basis of merit and significance to the field”.

Publishing Perspectives: Diversity and Identity in Québec’s Literature: A Changing Landscape – “‘We’re now in a multicultural moment,’ says author Alain Farah in Québec. ‘Literature can have something else to say.’”

Nature: The accidental Nobel laureate, what we owe to our voices and the philosophy of touch: Books in Brief – Andrew Robinson reviews five recent science titles.

The Hedgehog Review: The Strange Undeath of Middlebrow – “Everything that was once considered lowbrow is now triumphant”, says Phil Christman.

Literary Hub: Pandemic Diversions: On the Modern Day Myths and Freaky Folktales of The Siberian Times – “Farah Abdessamad in praise of the best damn newspaper east of the Urals”.

World Literature Today: “I’ll lay down my life for you all”: Poetry and Activism on the Streets of Myanmar – Translator and poet James Byrne offers a sober assessment of the brutality unfolding from the recent coup in Myanmar and pays tribute to those who continue to resist its normalization.

Zora: I Went on a Reading Diet. Here’s What I Learned. – “I (mostly) avoided books, texts, mags, and social media for a week. It was hard but worth it”, writes Adrienne Samuels Gibbs.

Vox: The boredom and the fear of grief – Constance Grady examines “what C.S. Lewis’s A Grief Observed can tell us about our year of loss.”

Independent: Acclaimed Polish poet Adam Zagajewski dies at age 75 – “One of Poland’s greatest poets, Adam Zagajewski, who wrote a poem that came to symbolize the world’s sense of shock and loss after the Sept. 11 attacks in the United States, has died in Krakow”.

Bloomberg City Lab: The Future of Libraries Is in the Community – Linda Poon finds that libraries in America “are doubling down on their role in expanding digital access. To reach vulnerable groups even after the pandemic, that means getting outside their own building.”

The Irish Times: The great Irish books you may never have heard of – Martin Doyle finds Ireland’s overlooked gems that deserve to be rediscovered.

The Sydney Morning Herald: No fluke: Rebecca Giggs has a whale of a time on the Stella shortlist – The WA writer’s book about whales, Fathoms: The World in the Whale, has been shortlisted for the Stella Prize.

Ploughshares: Ralph Waldo Emerson’s Grave Encounters – On 29th March 1832, Ralph Waldo Emerson visited the tomb of his wife, Ellen, and opened her coffin. Twenty-five years later, Emerson once again opened the lid of a coffin – this time his son’s.

Metropolis: The Aftershocks of Trauma – Eric Margolis shares his thoughts on The Penguin Book of Japanese Short Stories – “a collection of short stories about Japan’s largest earthquake disasters”.

Evening Standard: The Science of Hate: How Prejudice Becomes Hate And What We Can Do To Stop It by Matthew Williams review – “The author switched careers to become a professor of criminology after being violently assaulted and wanting to understand why. This fascinating study explores our hardwired capacity to hate and what we can do about it, says David Marsland”.

Public Books: The Spy Who Came In from the Carrel – In Nazi Europe, countless books were banned. So, according to Elyse Graham, those who saved books – whether university archivists or Jewish scholars – became smugglers.

The Guardian: Douglas Adams’ note to self reveals author found writing torture – Mark Brown reveals there is to be a crowdfunded book of Douglas Adams’ notes, letters, poems and lists from his archive.

Russia Beyond: Why was reading in the bathroom so widespread in the USSR? – Alexei Belyakov discovers there “were actually several different reasons, ranging from the prosaic to purely utilitarian.”

Los Angeles Review of Books: The Language of Climate Fiction – “Climate fiction is just as much about the tales we spin, the way we talk about our actions”, says Katie Yee.

Atlas Obscura: Inside the World’s Largest Jewish Cookbook Collection – “A librarian with a love for eBay built this trove of culinary history.”

The Marshall Project: A Bestselling Author Became Obsessed With Freeing a Man From Prison. It Nearly Ruined Her Life. – “After the success of her novel Water for Elephants, Sara Gruen spent years trying to prove a man’s innocence”, says Abbott Kahler. “Now she’s ‘absolutely broke’ and ‘seriously ill,’ and her next book is ‘years past deadline’.”

Counter Craft: Genre Jargon: How the SFF and Literary Worlds Speak about Themselves and Each Other – “First entry in a series on the different genre and literary ecosystems”, from Lincoln Michel.

The Bookseller: Evaristo, Whitehead and Vuong shortlisted for €100,000 Dublin Literary Award – “Bernardine Evaristo, Colson Whitehead and Ocean Vuong are among six authors shortlisted for the €100,000 Dublin Literary Award.”

Radical Reads: Philip Pullman’s Favorite Books of Poetry – Pullman shares “six collections of verse that most enriched his life and work.” 



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.

Categories: Winding Up the Week

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

22 replies

  1. Wow, the article on “The Strange Undeath of Middlebrow” really sums up a lot of interesting ideas. Thanks for making me aware of it!

  2. Thank you so much for the mention, Paula! A fascinating list as always – my Sunday reading is now perfectly sorted.

  3. Another cornucopia of links, only a couple of which I’d previously seen, so thanks again, Paula! And though March isn’t yet over I shall be premature and say thank you for hosting this for another year, and though I’ve only managed to review two plus two half-Welsh books (the last being Diana Wynne Jones novels) I’ve enjoyed the related posts from bloggers I follow and will check out your linked list when the month is finally over.

  4. Another great round up and thanks so much for sharing my post! I don’t think there can ever be too many books about books…

  5. I enjoyed Dear Reader very much and am now tempted by The Bookseller’s Tale which sounds like an excellent pairing. Librarians and booksellers have much in common, I think, pairing books and readers. So many great links to explore, thank you as ever, Paula.

    • Thank you, Anne. Yes, there’s a great deal more to being a librarian than many people realise. My library in Barmouth reopened to the public today but you must book a time slot for a visit. I’ve been ordering books via their online system during lockdown, which has been an absolute godsend. It’s a great pity so many have closed in recent years – perhaps, after all that has happened over the last twelve months, people will realise the importance of saving their libraries.

  6. Loving the Jasper Rees quote. It made me laugh.

  7. Sometimes, when your kids are little, reading in the bathroom is the ONLY WAY! 🙂

  8. Thanks for reminding me about the Penguin book of Japanese short stories. I waited for the paperback to come out (foolishly) and was sooooooo disappointed with the cover, that I’m now trying to find a copy of the hardcover (out of print) in second hand stores. The earthquakes stories sound good.

  9. Thank you, Paula, for another cornucopia of reading goodies. I particularly enjoyed The Guardian article on Douglas Adams and his writing notes, journals and jottings and sincerely hope they get sorted and published. I think Adams was the first odd-sci-fi-dry-humour writer I clicked with all those years ago. Wouldn’t he have loved the connectivity of the world today!

    • I can’t believe it has been 20 years since we lost Douglas Adams. I know the Internet was around at the time but things have moved on so much since then. I agree, Gretchen, he would have been like a pig in muck, as my old Nan used to say. I loved his work, too. I wonder what he would have made of all that is happening at the moment? 👍🚀⭐

  10. Perhaps our current world conundrums would have given him ample ideas for interstellar adventures – accessorising the towel with an appropriate facemask 🙂

  11. I am SO far behind with my Welsh reading for #Dewithon. Even the photographs I snapped along the way are just lingering on my desktop with a wave of good intentions lapping at the folder. *snort*

    Of course I’ve got a soft spot for World Literature Today, such an awesome of my faves. There’s also a focus on the anniversary of the Tulsa massacre in the recent issue as well as a feature on Chinese writers who are on the move. Good stuff!

    Glad to hear your hosted event has been such a success (with others whose reading is more on schedule than mine has been)!

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: