An end of week recap
“Ah, how good it is to be among people who are reading.”
– Rainer Maria Rilke
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.
* New Welsh Writing Awards 2021 *
The shortlisted and highly commended manuscripts for this year’s New Welsh Writing Awards have been revealed. >> NEW WELSH WRITING AWARDS 2021: Shortlist Announced >>
* 20 Books of Summer Returns *
“Do you fancy getting 20 books off your TBR in three months?” asks Cathy Brown of 746 Books in her recent post urging you to take part in 20 Books of Summer. During this popular annual challenge, which kicks off on 1st June and ends on 1st September, you are invited to read your way through a list of pre-selected titles of your choice and share your thoughts about them on your blogs and in social media posts. At present Cathy is “in the throes of working out [her] perfect pile of 20” and she would “love your support”. If this sounds like your cuppa cha, please head over to Announcing 20 Books of Summer ’21! for further details – and please be sure to use the #20booksofsummer21 hashtag if you mention the event on Twitter.
* 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:
To the Lighthouse (on its birthday) – On 5th May 1927, “the Hogarth Press published the book regarded by many as Virginia Woolf’s masterpiece”, writes Marina Sofia from Finding Time to Write. She suspects the reason for the success of To the Lighthouse “might be that it strikes the perfect balance” between conventional narrative and “the lyrical beauty of Woolf’s prose”. While not among Marina’s “absolute top” favourite works by this important modernist 20th-century author, it is one she rates highly. She was also “rather smitten” with its Aino-Maija Metsola-designed cover.
The 2021 International Booker Prize – The Shadow Shortlist – “Just over two weeks [after] the official shortlist for this year’s International Booker Prize appeared”, the Shadow Panel’s shortlist was revealed. Tony Malone at Tony’s Reading List and his fellow judges, representing “Australia, England, India and the US” held their first ever zoom meeting to discuss their alternative choices. There “is some overlap with the official list”, says Tony, and it is “still dominated by European writers”, but happily it has “gender parity”. Indeed, he’s “fairly confident that [the panel have] done all the books justice.” Now, however, “it’s time to breathe and prepare for the job ahead.”
‘Lonely Castle in the Mirror’ by Mizuki Tsujimura – Winner of the Japan Booksellers Award 2018, Lonely Castle in the Mirror “is a magical and moving coming-of-age story”, according to Akylina of The Literary Sisters. “Set in modern day Tokyo, the novel [is about] a 13 year-old girl who, after a […] traumatic event” is “unwilling to go to school”. It “borrows many western fairy tale elements”, explores themes of “friendship, bullying [and] losing people close to you,” and will “certainly tug the heartstrings of many readers.” It also, she says, acts as “an anchor, as a speck of light, as a warm hug” and is both “heart-warming and touching”.
* 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:
Ploughshares: A Family of Strangers in The Arsonists’ City – Behind the straightforward family disagreement that underpins Hala Alyan’s new novel lies all the complications, subtleties and dishonesties upon which families are founded, along with the fears, longings, and displacement more particular to immigrant households.
The Guardian: Sizzle, spice and not very nice: 100 years of the tell-all biography – “Lytton Strachey’s explosive biographies demolished reputations – not even Florence Nightingale escaped his wrath. But what is his impact on life writing?” asks Kathryn Hughes.
Penguin: ‘At his best, Terry was a teacher’: Why we love Terry Pratchett – “To celebrate the 50th anniversary of Pratchett’s debut novel The Carpet People, [Imogen Rayfield] asked a handful of authors, editors, and fans about the enduring impact of his work and the way it touched their lives.”
Literary Review of Canada: The Back of Beyond – “Down a dirt road lives a bookshop”: Sheree Fitch writes fondly of her “little book-filled world in the fishing village of River John, Nova Scotia.”
Pan Macmillan: Five books that opened writer Olivia Laing’s mind and freed her body – Olivia Laing on “the writers and the reading that inspired her to write Everybody, an exploration of bodies, oppression and resistance.”
NBC News: 12 best books on climate change, shared by climate activists – Kala Herh invites you to “learn about greenhouse gas, air pollution and fossil fuels in books recommended by climate activists.”
Prospect: A Romanian master’s fantastical visions – “A nightmare vision of oppression from one of the country’s most eminent novelists has finally reached Britain. It’s been long overdue”, says Miriam Balanescu.
Wales Arts Review: Manon Steffan Ros in Conversation – “Manon Steffan Ros is arguably the most successful novelist writing in Welsh at the moment”, writes Gary Raymond, who “caught up with her in her home in Twyny via Zoom.”
The Hindu: T.S. Shanbhag, owner of legendary Premier Book Shop, passes away – “Tributes started pouring in from book lovers of Bengaluru as news of the passing away of T.S. Shanbhag, the owner of the erstwhile legendary Premier Bookshop in the city, reached them on Wednesday.”
The Irish Times: They’re classics now, but what did we think of books by Yeats, Behan and Binchy at the time? – “What did The Irish Times first say about some works of literature that turned into classics?” Martin Doyle “trawled the archive to find out”.
LA Review of Books: Epidemics in History: Of Vaccines and Saints – In his review of Souls under Siege by Nicole Archambeau, John H. Arnold argues there is much to be learned from listening to 14th century authors when it comes to understanding and responding to COVID-19.
The New Yorker: The Computers Are Getting Better at Writing – “Whatever field you are in, if it uses language, it is about to be transformed”, says Stephen Marche.
The Age: Australia tops US and UK in keeping bookshops alive, says legendary author – David Malouf describes reading as an “experience akin to dreaming”, but says bookshops are still being taken for granted.
TNR: Critical Mass: How a Young Scholar Changed Our Understanding of Homer Forever – “On the short and momentous life of Milman Parry”.
The Bookseller: James Tait Black Prizes shortlists have been announced – “This year’s shortlists for the James Tait Black Prizes, Britain’s longest-running book awards, has been announced.”
ScreenRant: 10 Best Star Wars Books For More Of Your Favorite Characters – Zach Gass discovers the “extended Star Wars universe is home to dozens of books and graphic novels that continue the tales of many fan-favorite characters.”
Melville House: Plymouth’s RESPECT festival will see people become ‘books’ for Human Library – An English arts festival is looking for people to become a “book” in partnership with the Human Library project.
World Economic Forum: This survey shows that people prefer printed books – even in the digital age – Felix Richter examines a chart showing global preference for printed and e-books – the latter being most popular in China.
Harper’s BAZAAR: 40 Years Ago, Poet Lucille Clifton Lost Her House. This Year, Her Children Bought It Back. – “Celebrated poet Lucille Clifton created a vibrant home that served as a base for activists. She lost the house to foreclosure, but now, her children hope to bring it to life again.”
The Paris Review: The Travels of a Master Storyteller – Hanna Diyab, the man responsible for Aladdin, remained obscure until the discovery of his memoir, which now appears in English for the first time.
The Drift: Good Immigrant Novels – Sanjena Sathian on “Jhumpa Lahiri and the aesthetics of respectability”.
Book Marks: May’s Best Sci-Fi and Fantasy Books – “Featuring an Andy Weir space adventure, a tale of feral motherhood, a reissued classic by a groundbreaking Black author, and more”.
Harper’s Bazaar: What Happens When #MeToo Memoirs Meet the Marketplace? – “The rise of #Metoo means more survivors are comfortable telling their stories. But what happens, Nicole Froio asks, when memoirs of sexual assault are marketed to a wider audience?”
The Seattle Times: Spring reading: 2 classics from the Golden Age of crime fiction, plus 2 new titles – “Love the Golden Age of crime fiction — that is, genteel mayhem from the 1920s and ’30s — but want to expand your horizons?” asks Adam Woog.
The Washington Post: Philip Hoare’s examination of Albrecht Dürer takes readers on an entertaining, digressive ride – Albert and the Whale flits between biography, memoir, nature writing and art history.
New Zealand Herald: Treasure trove: Authors Mansfield and Baxter among rare books for sale – “A visit to a South Island home to assess two paintings led to a discovery of a collection of rare books” writes Jane Phare. “Now they’re for sale by auction”.
World Literature Today: Why Does Workers’ Literature Matter? – Ping Zhu finds the “emergence of New Workers’ Literature in contemporary China is significant, because it challenges the middle-class definition of literature and structure of feeling in today’s capitalist empire.”
The Guardian Australia: Kathryn Heyman on writing her ‘white hot’ memoir – and finding refuge on the Timor Sea – “It took hitchhiking to Darwin and a job on a fishing trawler to transform the young novelist-to-be”, finds Jenny Valentish.
Vintage: 14 Vintage books on mental health and well-being – “The last year has made us all more aware of our mental and emotional states. From personal experiences of grief to how to cope with panic attacks, from expert research to witty cartoons”. Carmella Lowkis offers “a list of books to help understand this important topic.”
Nonsite: Responses to Rita Felski’s Hooked: Art and Attachment – The Tank, a forum for comment on provocative new scholarly work, discuss Rita Felski’s book, Hooked, which challenges the ethos of critical aloofness that is a part of modern intellectuals’ self-image.
The Guardian: Lean Fall Stand by Jon McGregor review – slogging it out in the frozen wastes – “In the author’s follow-up to Reservoir 13, a polar adventure becomes a tale of recovery that evokes unstinting grind with too much accuracy”.
Brittle Paper: 8 Writers From 5 Countries Shortlisted for the 2021 Short Story Day Africa Prize – Chukwuebuka Ibeh introduces eight writers from five African countries who have been shortlisted for the 2021 Short Story Day Africa Prize.
Quill & Quire: Bookstores of all sizes will benefit from new bookselling survey, says CIBA’s Doug Minett – As an incentive, Canadian booksellers who complete the survey will have early access to the full report from BookNet when it is published later this year.
Literary Hub: Drunkards, Nazis, and Fascist Masculinity: The Ambivalent Resistance Lit of Hans Fallada – Clayton Wickham rereads The Drinker, first published in 1944 and described here as “a meticulous dissection of a German male psyche at a time when German masculinity was being mobilized in a vast genocidal enterprise.”
Book & Film Globe: Bookstagrammers Demand Publishers Pay Up – Katie Smith asks: “What does the book industry owe its influencers?”
Tor.com: Artist or Wizard? 5 Books About the Magic of Creativity – “Part of why [magic and art, myth and creativity] go so beautifully together in stories is because it’s often hard to tell the difference”, says Maggie Stiefvater.
Public Books: What’s in a Bookstore? – For more than five centuries, equilibrium between profit and passion has remained elusive to book buyers and sellers.
ArabLit: Humphrey Davies on Why ‘The Critical Case of K’ Isn’t ‘Your Woo-woo Cliché of Kafka’ – Translator Humphrey Davies discusses how he came to Aziz Mohammed’s novel The Critical Case of a Man Called K, why this isn’t your woo-woo cliché of Kafka, and how coronavirus came to appear in a novel published in 2017.
The Sydney Morning Herald: A self-described troublemaker, Kate Jennings was one of our finest writers – The poet and novelist, who died last week, is remembered by Elliot Perlman for her searing honesty and incisive writing.
Grazia: This Is The Perfect Book To Kick Off Your Summer Reading List – “Beth O’Leary, bestselling author of The Flatshare and The Switch, is back with her brand-new book The Road Trip, a heady summer romance that’s perfect for garden/park/beach/poolside/road trip reading”, says Darcy Rive.
Engadget: My to-read list exploded thanks to free books through the Libby app – K. Naudus thinks the reading app Libby is “like being a kid in a candy store, if candy were ebooks.”
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