An end of week recap
“Reading is an act of civilization; it’s one of the greatest acts of civilization because it takes the free raw material of the mind and builds castles of possibilities.”
– Ben Okri
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.
* Australian Reading Month 2021 *
Prepare to head south this November because AusReading Month is back. Returning for the ninth year, this reading challenge gives participants the opportunity “to celebrate all the things we love about Australian literature”, says event creator, Brona (aka Bronwyn) of This Reading Life. What’s more, you can start immediately should you wish by taking part in one or more of three suggested tasks, namely: Celebration, Anticipation and Promotion. There will also be a fun bingo event in addition to the regular book blogging month – combined this year with Australian Novellas and Australian Essays. There are plenty of reading suggestions and many useful tips at AusReading Month is coming soon…. Brona invites you to “share your #AusReadingMonth2021 love on Twitter or Instagram.”
* Line Up Those Novellas for November *
“For the second year in a row,” Cathy Brown of 746 Books and Rebecca Foster of Bookish Beck are “co-hosting Novellas in November as a month-long challenge with four weekly prompts.” Cathy reveals that “buddy reads” are a new feature for 2021, and there are numerous suggested reading tasks to keep you busy from start to finish. If you would like to take part, please head over to Get ready for Novellas in November 2021! and be sure to use the hashtag #NovNov when posting on Twitter.
* Lit Crit Blogflash *
I am going to share with you a couple 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 two – both published over the last week or so:
Resilience – Bogdan Hrib (Review and mini translation Q&A) – Well worth checking out is Lizzy Siddal’s piece on Resilience by the Romanian crime writer Bogdan Hrib, which combines the review with an interview with its translator, Marina Sofia of Corylus Books – someone with whom many of us are familiar from her engaging book blog, Finding Time to Write. This recently published police procedural, set in Romania and England is, says Lizzy, an intriguing, politically relevant read, with “a satisfactory bodycount for crime aficionados” and “a shoal of red herrings”. Her advice is to “pay close attention” to all that happens as this is a thriller with a large cast of characters and a considerable “back history”. Ultimately, though, it a “thoroughly enjoyable read”.
The living dead man: The Last Days of Mandelstam by Vénus Khoury-Ghata – “This slender volume”, says roughghosts’ Joseph Schreiber, sets out to “bear poetic witness” to the final days of the Russian poet Osip Mandelstam as he lies dying in a transit camp near Vladivostok. The Last Days of Mandelstam is a “haunting novella” from the French-Lebanese writer Vénus Khoury-Ghata, which “offers a clear, unsentimental portrait of a man who knows his end is near” yet punctuates the text with “strong images” as the “narrative moves between [his] thoughts and delusions.” For all the “difficult material”, however, it is “a finely rendered work.” A “sad, but beautiful book” that makes you want to return to the poetry.
* 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 selection of interesting snippets:
The Guardian: Legends of the fall: the 50 biggest books of autumn 2021 – “From new novels by Sally Rooney and Colson Whitehead to Michel Barnier’s take on Brexit, Bernardine Evaristo’s manifesto and diaries from David Sedaris – all the releases to look out for”, according to Justine Jordan and Katy Guest.
BBC Arts: Sally Rooney: Reviews hail quiet brilliance of Beautiful World, Where Are You – “Sally Rooney’s highly anticipated third book [Beautiful World, Where Are You] has been described by critics as her ‘best novel’ and her ‘strongest writing thus far’ – but also ‘a puzzle of a novel – brilliant and flawed’.”
Topline News: Feria: Rural memoirs stir longing for Spain’s past – “When Ana Iris Simón’s autobiographical book [Feria] reflecting on life in rural Spain came out in the autumn of 2020, her ambitions were modest.”
Bookforum: He Liked Having Enemies – “Has there ever been a writer more reviled or more admired than D. H. Lawrence?” asks Daphne Merkin in her piece about Frances Wilson’s new biography, Burning Man: The Trials of D. H. Lawrence.
Inside Hook: Why News Reporters Write the Best Crime Novels – Jason Diamond argues that “seasoned newspaper writers like Carl Hiaasen and Laura Lippman understand something that can’t be learned in an MFA program”.
Lapham’s Quarterly: Edgar Allan Poe Needs a Friend – Matthew Redmond revisits “the relationships of ‘a man who never smiled.’”
Quill & Quire: A Different Booklist looks ahead to an expanded home – The Toronto bookstore’s new home and expanded cultural centre, which will continue to celebrate African and Caribbean heritage, “will anchor the legacy A Different Booklist has created over more than two decades.”
Five Books: Landmarks of Scottish Literature – “Scottish culture is best understood as related to, but distinct from, that of Britain or England, says the acclaimed novelist James Robertson. Here, he selects five landmark works of Scottish literature”.
Poetry Foundation: Seed Banks & Perennial Poetics (I) – In this “craft essay”, Kayleb Rae Candrilli searches for ways to “write and create when the pressures of the world, and of capitalism, are too weighty.”
AP: Karen Tei Yamashita to receive honorary National Book Award – Karen Tei Yamashita is this year’s recipient of the National Book Award for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters.
Yorkshire Bylines: Book review: The Brilliant Abyss, by Helen Scales – “The Brilliant Abyss reveals the true scale of our oceans, the astonishing wealth of biological diversity, and the damage of deep-sea mining”, writes Natalie Bennett.
The Conversation: Yes, audiobooks count as ‘real reading’. Here are 3 top titles to get you started – Listening-as-reading is a growing segment of the publishing market. Audiobooks revive ancient ways of storytelling and might get more people excited about books.
BBC Culture: The 100-year-old fiction that predicted today – “Two cult authors both wrote about human nature – and the dystopian horrors that technology can unleash. Dorian Lynskey explores the parallel lives of the writers whose work still resonates.”
Penguin: The good reading habits to get into this September – “Keen to capture that ‘new term’ feeling? Finding some new ways to fall in love with books is a great way to kickstart the cosiest part of the year.”
Al-Fanar Media: May Ziade’s Writings on Women’s Education Are Republished – A new book sheds light on the life of one of the most important Arab women writers in the first half of the 20th century.
Hungarian Literature Online: Dismiss All Questions — A Review of László Krasznahorkai’s Chasing Homer – A review by Ágnes Bonivárt of Hungarian writer László Krasznahorkai’s novel, Chasing Homer.
Aeon: The cliché writes back – “Machine-written literature might offend your tastes but until the dawn of Romanticism most writers were just as formulaic”, says Yohei Igarashi, author of The Connected Condition: Romanticism and the Dream of Communication.
Chicago Review of Books: Colm Tóibín Conjures Thomas Mann in “The Magician” – Ross Collin reviews Colm Tóibín’s new historical novel, The Magician – “an intimate portrait of Thomas Mann, the great German novelist and foe of the Nazi regime.”
Longreads: A Tall Tree Reading List – “Let’s go down to the woods today … with a reading list all about trees.”
The Paris Review: Tolstoy’s Uncommon Sense and Common Nonsense – “Books that I feel drawn to and reread, War and Peace among them, are full of uncommon sense and common nonsense”, says Yiyun Li, author of Tolstoy Together: 85 Days of War and Peace.
The Economist: A family grapples with its past in David Grossman’s new novel – “The characters in More Than I Love My Life are plunged into the traumas of history.”
Northern Soul: Book Review: Ghosted – A Love Story by Jenn Ashworth – “In the age of internet dating, words such as ‘orbiting’ and ‘ghosting’ have fast become a part of the collective lexicon”, finds Emma Yates-Badley.
Medievalists.net: Manuscript fragments of the Merlin legend now published – “Medieval manuscript fragments discovered in Bristol that tell part of the story of Merlin the magician […] have been identified by historians […] as some of the earliest surviving examples of that section of the narrative.”
Into: Spalding Gray was Super Queer, and His Journals Prove It. – Henry Giardina on the American actor and writer, Spalding Gray, best known for his autobiographical monologues.
The Irish Times: ‘Writing is often like sneaking up on myself when I’m not looking’ – “Adam Wyeth on about:blank, a book and audio-immersive work with Olwen Fouéré and Owen Roe”.
Apollo: Dust jackets and dinner jackets – the man who illustrated Bond – Richard Chopping’s striking designs for Ian Fleming’s novels add greatly to the books’ allure for collectors – but his artistic talent went far beyond Bond, finds Peter Parker.
Stylist: Women’s Prize for Fiction 2021: Susanna Clarke’s Piranesi wins this year’s award – “Despite delays, Susanna Clarke’s Piranesi, a novel about “what it means to be human”, has won the Women’s Prize for Fiction 2021”, reports Amy Beecham.
ABC: The best new books to read in September as selected by avid readers and critics – ABC Arts presents “a shortlist of new releases read and recommended by The Bookshelf’s Kate Evans and The Book Show’s Claire Nichols and Sarah L’Estrange — alongside freelance writers and book reviewers.”
The Christian Science Monitor: From terrorism to heroism: Books on 9/11 offer perspective, grace – Twenty years on, Americans are still coming to grips with 9/11. Six books selected by Barbara Spindel offer valuable insights on what happened, and why.
Baillie Gifford Prize: Baillie Gifford Prize for Non-Fiction 2021 longlist is announced – “This year’s longlist explores empire and its impact, personal stories, the environment and notorious historical figures.”
The Hedgehog Review: Performative: How the meaning of a word became corrupted – In his piece on how the meaning of a word can be corrupted into its opposite, Wilfred M. McClay writes: “What is worse, the meaning of performative in contemporary parlance, while not very precise, is almost exactly the opposite of the word’s original meaning.”
Book Riot: 10 Bibliomemoirs About the Life-Altering Power of Reading – Senjuti Patra simply loves “snooping through other people’s bookshelves”.
LoveReading: Winners Announced: Wainwright Prize for UK Nature Writing and for Global Conservation Writing – “The winners of the much-loved Wainwright Prize for UK Nature Writing and for Global Conservation Writing were announced this week at a live award ceremony at the London Wetland Centre.”
Al Jazeera: Nicaragua orders arrest of prominent writer Sergio Ramirez – “President Daniel Ortega has been accused of cracking down on critics, political opponents ahead of November elections”, among them the award-winning novelist, Sergio Ramirez.
Firstpost: Ami Ganatra on book Mahabharata Unravelled, clarifying misconceptions about the epic – Ganatra discusses the book [Mahabharata Unravelled], how it changed her understanding of the epic and its characters, and the Mahabharata’s enduring relevance.
Bitch Media: Academia Is Even Darker Than We Thought – Alaina Leary discovers Katie Zhao and Victoria Lee are shaping the canon of dark academia.
The Guardian: ‘I don’t care’: text shows modern poetry began much earlier than believed – “Academic finds that lines widely reproduced in the eastern Roman empire are ‘stressed’ in a way that laid the foundations for what we recognise as poetry”.
Electric Literature: A Literary Guide to Understanding Afghanistan, Past and Present – “Afghan American author Nadia Hashimi recommends books that illuminate the history and conflicts of Afghanistan”.
Words Without Borders: Naveen Kishore, Renowned Publisher of Seagull Books, to Receive 2021 Ottaway Award – The founder of Seagull Books in Kolkata has won the 2021 Words Without Borders Ottaway Award for the Promotion of International Literature.
AARP: How to Start a Little Free Library – Jenna Gyimesi suggests you let your neighbours “enjoy your old books, while you declutter”.
Polygon: 17 major sci-fi and fantasy books arriving in fall 2021 – Andrew Liptak invites you to “open a book and a brand new world”.
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