Winding Up the Week #202

An end of week recap

Christmas always rustled. It rustled every time, mysteriously, with silver and gold paper, tissue paper and a rich abundance of shiny paper, decorating and hiding everything and giving a feeling of reckless extravagance.
Tove Jansson

I am winding up the week slightly earlier than usual, in anticipation of a full and festive day tomorrow. My partner and I will be spending Christmas in our seaside lodge with two dear friends and, providing there are no positive test results within our small bubble or last-minute rule changes in Wales, we hope to have a pleasant time surrounded by numerous dogs and an unruly family of feral cats (but that’s another story).

In the meantime, wherever you live and however you plan to spend the next few days, I wish you a happy, healthy and peaceful end of year. I will catch up with you before 2021 is out.

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.


If you are planning a reading event, challenge, competition or anything else likely to be of interest to the book blogging community, please let me know. I will happily share your news here with the fabulous array of bibliowonks who read this weekly wind up.

* 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:

December Stories II by Ian Sansom – Ian Sansom’s latest “antidote to the festive season […] contains a story for every day of the month,” says Cathy Brown of 746 Books. The industrious British novelist, journalist and broadcaster – author of over 20 titles – focuses on “those recognisable emotions and trials,” so prevalent during this period, and his 31 “short stories, vignettes and literary curiosities” explore “the slightly ambivalent relationship” we have with Christmas. The “seasonally subversive” December Stories II is, she says, “packed with dark humour” and pathos. Furthermore, it is “beautifully published by No Alibis Press” with “gorgeous illustrations by Fruzsina Czech,” creating the “perfect book for this strange and wonderful time of the year.”

Jolabokaflod: A Literary Christmas Tradition | Liquor Literacy – Over at the House of Cadmus, you can read about the delightful Icelandic tradition of Jolabokaflod (which, roughly translated, means ‘Christmas book flood’). It takes place annually on 24th December and refers to the practice of publishing new books during the Yule period and giving them as gifts the night before Christmas. There is also a recipe included for jólaöl – a sort of squiffy, cold-weather comfort drink (described here as “spiked Icelandic Hot Chocolate”) – plus a selection of suggested books to match this heart-warming occasion, among them Erik the Red and Other Icelandic Sagas and Hall of Smoke by H.M. Long.

* 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:


Nation Cymru: Book on Welsh history to be sent to all schools as part of new national curriculumHistory Grounded by Dr Elin Jones is to be “sent to all schools in Wales to aid in the teaching of the new national curriculum.”

NME: Iconic journalist and author Joan Didion has died – “Didion wrote about numerous topics in her career, including American counterculture in the ’60s and musicians including Joan Baez and Janis Joplin.”

Literary Hub: A Visit to Rüstem’s Bookshop, Cyprus’s Historic Bookstore-Café – Harrison Blackman on “the history of an important cultural center.”

LGBTQ Reads: Most Anticipated LGBTQ+ Adult Fiction: January-June 2022 – Dahlia Adler shares a list of LGBTQ+ titles scheduled for release in the first half of next year.

Jewish Currents: Survivor’s Guilt – “In his Novi Sad trilogy of post-Holocaust fictions, the Serbian novelist Aleksandar Tišma examines the psychologically warping effects of antisemitism.”

The Baffler: No Country for Old Women – “The British novelist Elizabeth Taylor was a master of awkward and complicated feelings,” writes Michael Hofmann.

Book Marks: The Most Scathing Book Reviews of 2021 – The “most brilliantly bilious book reviews of the year,” presented “in all their abject glory.”

Creative Boom: Dorothy turns classic books into stamps to celebrate great literature and our love of reading – “Dorothy turns classic books into stamps to celebrate great literature and our love of reading.”

Litro: Book Review: The House of Rust – Veronica Barnsley reviews Khadija Abdalla Bajaber’s Graywolf Press African Fiction Prize winning fantasy novel, The House of Rust.

The Nation: Alfred Döblin’s Surreal Foray Into Climate Fiction – “The 20th-century German writer’s novel Mountains Oceans Giants is a stunning and strange look into what an environmental apocalypse might look like,” finds Joe Bucciero.

Historia: Christmas reading 2021 – the best historical books – Eight authors each “recommend a historical book they’d love to receive for Christmas 2021, and one they would give as a Christmas gift.” 

World Literature Today: Vanuatu’s Growing Body of Literature: Why Women’s Voices Matter – “Vanuatu’s fortieth independence anniversary in 2020 sparked an unprecedented literary wave of new writing,” says Mikaela Nyman. She discusses some of the exciting work currently being produced in this South Pacific island country.

The MIT Press Reader: When Aldous Huxley Opened the Doors of Perception – An excerpt from Ido Hartogsohn’s American Trip: Set, Setting, and the Psychedelic Experience in the Twentieth Century.

iNews: Enid Blyton: A Literary Life, by Andrew Maunder, review: The many faces of the author who had it all – “Blyton the racist, Blyton the astute businesswoman and Blyton who was beloved by a nation of children, yet who shut out her own daughters. The children’s writer’s various paradoxes are exposed” in Enid Blyton: A Literary Life – a new biography from Andrew Maunder, reviewed here by Marianne Levy.

Guardian Australia: ‘We have yet to reach our postcolonial moment’: Chelsea Watego on colonialism and the canon – “The Brisbane author and academic talks about her new book [Another Day in the Colony], settler colonialism and the everyday-ness of ongoing dispossession.”

The Baffler: Burdened by Books – Robert Zaretsky on “[t]eaching Camus amid fears of ‘futile and hopeless labor.’”

Hungarian Literature Online: Central European Writers in Conversation – Writers Magdalena Grzebałkowska, Katarína Kucbelová and Edina Szvoren speak about Central Europe, realism and their own work. 

Hazlitt: ‘I Think It’s Important to Tell It Like It Is’: An Interview with Liv Albert – Samantha Edwards talks to the author of Greek Mythology: The Gods, Goddesses, and Heroes Handbook about “feminist translations of The Odyssey, the whitewashing of ancient Greece, and the link between white supremacy and classics.”

Northern Soul: Best Reads of 2021 – “As we approach the end of 2021, [the team at Northern Soul look] back on the things that have brought [them] immense comfort during another turbulent year.”

Air Mail: The Magic of Jan Morris – “Will we ever have another like the Welsh writer extraordinaire who managed to write as beautifully on Che Guevara as she did on the virtues of sneezing?” writes Pico Iyer.

LARB: Cold Fever – John Erik Riley shares his thoughts on Dálvi: Six Years in the Arctic Tundra – a memoir of the Far North by Laura Galloway.

BBC Culture: Don’t Look Up: The stories that reflect our oldest fear – “Adam McKay’s star-filled apocalyptic disaster comedy is the latest in a centuries-old genre of fiction about threats from space, writes Dorian Lynskey.”

Catapult: Why We Should Translate Literature About Trauma – Jenna Tang suggests that “[t]ranslating trauma and violence is not just about deciphering pain but also about recreating an emotional language that helps us to understand each other better.”

JSTOR Daily: Queer YA: The Early Decades – “While queer YA has exploded over the past decade, it began in the middle of the 20th century, with the first kiss in 1969,” finds Livia Gershon.

Dissent: The Deep History of Climate Change – “An interview with Amitav Ghosh, the author of The Nutmeg’s Curse: Parables for a Planet in Crisis.” Ministry calls for Estonian Literature Day to become national holiday – Estonia’s Ministry of Culture hopes to create a new national holiday on 30th January honouring the country’s literature, which is the anniversary of author Anton Hansen Tammsaare (1979-1940).”

The Korea Herald: Korean literature becoming popular overseas – “Reflecting the growing popularity of Korean literature, 180 literary works were translated into 29 different languages with assistance from the Literature Translation Institute of Korea this year,” writes Song Seung-hyun.

Chicago Review of Books: Top Feminist Fantasy Picks of 2021 – Greer Macallister picks her favourite feminist fantasy novels of 2021.

Al Jazeera: African authors took the literary world by storm in 2021 – “This year has not only seen the release of critically acclaimed works by writers from across continent, but it has also been filled with wins and international recognition,” says Samira Sawlani. 

The Irish Times: Thomas Kinsella, one of Ireland’s finest poets, has died, aged 93 – “Poetry editor Gerard Smyth salutes a poet renowned for The Táin and Butcher’s Dozen.”

Esquire: The 10 Best Christmas Books to Read During the Holidays – “Our favorite holiday books have no shortage of warm fuzzies, but they’re also morbid, modern, and, occasionally, downright hilarious,” warns Adrienne Westenfeld.

European Literature Network: Hagar Olsson’s Chitambo. Translator’s Afterword – “Translator Sarah Death marks the November 2021 Bernard Shaw Prize-shortlisting” of Chitambo, “a witty yet distraught 1930s Finland-Swedish novel.”

PBS: Hollywood bard, muse and reveler Eve Babitz dies at 78 – Eve Babitz, a writer closely identified with the 1960s and early-’70s in Los Angeles, has died at 78.

The Point: Careerism – Apoorva Tadepalli on “the writing life and its discontents”.

The Millions: Reading Tolstoy, Together: The Millions Interviews Yiyun Li – Last year Yiyun Li announced that she would lead a collective read-through of Tolstoy’s War and Peace. Here the author shares her insights with John Maher.

UPI: ‘Autopsy’: Lockdown inspired Patricia Cornwell to bring back Kay Scarpetta – Karen Butler speaks to Patricia Cornwell about Autopsy, “her 25th book about the brilliant, crime-solving medical examiner.”

Literary Review: The Great American Novelist? – In this review of Blake Bailey’s Philip Roth: The Biography and Ira Nadel’s Philip Roth: A Counterlife, Leo Robson puts Roth in the dock.

Russia Beyond: 10 best Russian books published in English in 2021 – “From a 17th century priest’s biography and Pushkin’s prose to modern writers – these translations of both contemporary and classic books are definitely worth your time.”

3:AM Magazine: Interrogating the Abyss – Matt Neil Hill reviews Interrogating the Abyss, the first volume in the collected interviews, essays and fictions of Chris Kelso. Why a physician left her career to open a bookstore in Belmont – “Belmont Books co-owner Kathy Crowley discusses why ‘medicine is not so different’ from running a bookstore and Book Club’s current read.”



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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27 replies

  1. Gorgeous opening quote Paula! Wishing you all a lovely time at the seaside lodge, it sounds wonderful! Also I want to hear the feral cats story 😀 I have recently adopted two formerly feral cats and their socialisation is proving…interesting…!

  2. Echoing Madame Bibi’s comment about that quote and wish to hear the feral cats’ story. Enjoy your Christmas, Paula. It sounds rather lovely!

  3. Thanks, as always, for a wonderful miscellany of great literary leads.
    (Would love to hear more about the colony of feral cats btw..)
    And all best wishes to you and yours.

    • Thank you, Josie, for continuing to read and support my weekly wind up. Promise I’ll tell the story of our wild kitties. Warmest good wishes to you and your loved ones 🤗⛄😺❄🎄

      • No pressure(!) but I look forward to that. Hope there will also be pics. And happy New Year. And thank-you for brightening my life every week in 2021.

  4. I so enjoyed the scathing book reviews!
    Thanks and merry Christmas!

  5. I haven’t finished reading yet but you have already made my Christmas, Paula. ‘History Grounded’ / Hanes Y Tir, made me gasp. I want this book! History going back this far is brilliant for my research and interests and I might even have a hope of learning some useful Welsh, as it is bilingual … This might be a present to myself! Enjoy your break – I hope everyone can be there and you have a great time. Very best wishes, Maria xxx

  6. Thanks as always Paula – and a very Merry Christmas to you and yours! 😀

  7. Merry Christmas Paula, look forward to some pictures of the dogs and cats!

    Must check out that bio of Blyton, and explore some Korean literature as well! I also enjoyed the pieces on Vanautu, Russian lit, and the climate related books

  8. Have a happy and healthy holiday, Paula!

  9. Thank you for your hard work once again, and hope you have a lovely Christmas!

  10. Joyeux Noël, Paula. I hope your stay at the lodge was everything you hoped for.

  11. Happy Christmas, Paula and thank you for your weekly column which I always find enjoyable and interesting.


  1. Winding Up the Week #204 – Book Jotter

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