Compulsive Reader

The Compulsive Reader News
Volume 19, Issue 6, 1 June 2018



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Hello readers. Here is the latest batch of reviews:

A review of The Book of Air by Joe Treasure

The stories it tells gather momentum and significance with each short chapter; it is populated by personages in whom we can believe; it is profoundly intelligent and deeply engrossing. Its allusions and references are delightfully subtle and oblique, conveyed effortlessly by the author’s gift for language and ideas. I doubt I shall read a finer novel this year. Read more:

A review of Marxism: A Graphic Guide by Rupert Woodfin and Oscar Zarate

Now this was a big surprise, a highly detailed historic guide that is very easy to digest and also presented in a captivating and powerful graphic form, making it an excellent ready reference for students and the politically aware. This is not another boring history book. The first couple of sheets will confirm that as a fact. As each new page was turned I congratulated Rupert and Oscar for their informative style. It reminded me of a rather good visual lecture that lucky students would certainly appreciate. Read more:

A Review of Fire Road by Kim Phuc Phan Thi

A person who has experienced deep tragedy and lived to tell the story often comes to grips with profound truths along the way.  Such is the case with Phan Thi.  As she started her recovery, she had to endure daily baths to treat her burns. She says, “Those baths were worse than death itself.  Dying is far worse than death.”  As I’ve observed this with people I know in my own life, I know this is a profound truth. Read more:

A review of Beneath a Scarlet Sky by Mark Sullivan

Overall, this book is interesting because it gives a new perspective on war from a boy who has never been involved in it. Also, because it is from the perspective of someone who is from a foreign country, the reader can understand what World War II was like for that country and how it affected them. I was personally intrigued by the character Pino because of the hope that he held throughout the whole war. Even though things around him were falling apart, and it seemed like nothing was going right, Pino still had faith that everything would be ok. Read more:

A review of Someone Like you by Karly Lane

Lane has chosen Saint Albans, a NSW inland settlement located on the Macdonald River on the same latitude as Tuggerah and Central Mangrove fictionalised as Lochway. Lane’s characters are well-defined and likeable. Her narrative leaves an impression of familiarity and association. Using the central figure as an author automatically opened up a vault of her own personal experiences to relate with and enrich the book’s content. Read more:

An interview with Gideon Haigh

Having spent over thirty years within the field of journalism, Gideon Haigh has regularly appeared in publications now numbering in the hundreds. In addition to his work for magazines and newspapers, he has produced a staggering thirty-two non-fiction books thus far, many of which have related to the history of cricket. He has received numerous prestigious awards and accolades, including the NSW Premier Award For Non-Fiction for The Office and the Ned Kelly Award for True Crime for Certain Admissions. A Scandal In Bohemia is his second true-crime work and chronicles the sensational (and still unsolved) murder of Mollie Dean, a controversial figure within Melbourne’s 1920/30s Bohemia scene. Read more:

A review of 16 Pills by Carley Moore

Moore writes like her life depends on it. She dissects the stories of her life with intelligence and precision, and invites the reader to share in her examination. Feminist, political, funny, and irreverent, Moore’s essays are masterful, and show a true love of the form; the stories are deeply personal, while still tapping into shared human experience. Read more:

A review of Grace in Love by Ruth Latta

Having co-authored, with Joy Trott, the biography Grace MacInnis: A Woman to Remember, Ruth Latta is an expert on her subject. In Grace in Love, she holds a magnifying glass to a crucial portion of Grace Woodsworth MacInnis’s long life. Because Grace in Love is a novel, not a biography, some fictional characters mingle with the real ones. Read more:

An interview with Scott Erickson

Scott Erickson, author of The History of the Decline and Fall of America, talks about his new satirical novel and how it came about, his ideal audience, the value they’ll get from his book, about the idea of a collapsing America and the need for open discussion, about “semi-fiction” as a genre, why he writes satire, and lots more.  Read more:

A review of The Anarchist Thing to Do by Michael Raship

The Anarchist Thing to Do is immensely readable in a way that reminds me of Salinger, whose shorter works are particularly admired by Skye and Jude – I suspect because their descriptions of family life are as eccentric, hermetic and all-encompassing as their own. Embedded in a rich tradition of American storytelling, The Anarchist Thing to Do is a thoroughly enjoyable and rewarding book, written with great assurance by an author who rarely puts a foot wrong. Read more:

A review of Green Point Bearings by Kathryn Fry

Though the poems in Green Point Bearings are grounded in the natural world and are rooted in place, particularly Lake Macquarie, the Hunter and Northern Sydney, there is also something a bit magical in these poems.  There is a mystery in this natural world that is inexplicable, arising from the spaces in which the poems are contained, in the rock, the trees, the flowers and shrubs that are everywhere and still precious, always in motion and changing: “Everything here speaks of infinity”.  Read more:

All of the reviews listed above available at The Compulsive Reader on the front page. Older reviews are kept indefinitely in our extensive (and growing) categorized archives (currently at 2,245!), which can be browsed or searched from the front page of the site.



In the literary news this month, the Swedish Academy says a seventh board member has decided to step down amid a crisis at the prestigious institution that awards the Nobel Prize in literature. The academy said in brief statement on Saturday that Sara Stridsberg informed the body on Friday that she would like to leave her position. No details were given. The secretive 18-member body has been roiled by an internal feud triggered by a sex-abuse scandal linked to the husband of one of its female members. That member and five others, including the body’s first-ever female leader, stepped down earlier. The Swedish Academy’s permanent secretary Anders Olsson told Swedish media earlier this week that it may have to postpone handing out this year’s Nobel literature prize due to the crisis.

Annie Proulx has been named winner of the 2018 Library of Congress Prize for American Fiction. The honor recognizes an experienced writer whose body of work has “told us something new about the American experience.” Proulx, 82, is best known as the author of the 1993 novel “The Shipping News,” which won a Pulitzer Prize and a National Book Award, and the short story “Brokeback Mountain,” which was adapted into an Academy Award-winning movie in 2005. Last year, she received the National Book Foundation’s Lifetime Achievement Award.

Mark O’Connell won the £30,000 (about $40,902) Wellcome Book Prize, which recognizes a work of fiction or nonfiction with “a central theme that engages with some aspect of medicine, health or illness,” for To Be a Machine: Adventures Among Cyborgs, Utopians, Hackers, and the Futurists Solving the Modest Problem of Death.

Martín Espada has won the $100,000 Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize, which honors “a living U.S. poet for outstanding lifetime achievement.” The award is sponsored and administered by the Poetry Foundation, publisher of Poetry magazine, and will be presented June 11 at a ceremony at the Poetry Foundation. Espada is, the Poetry Foundation said, the first Latino poet to win the award, which was founded in 1986. Don Share, editor of Poetry magazine, said, “Martín Espada’s work and life tell the real and lived story of America, in which the importance of poems and legal rights go hand in hand. A tenants’ rights attorney before he became a celebrated and cherished poet, Espada’s passions are as compelling and apt as his precisions–both now more timely than ever.”

Zambian-born British poet Kayo Chingonyi has been chosen from a shortlist of six authors to win the Swansea University International Dylan Thomas Prize for his debut collection, Kumukanda. The prize comes with a £30,000, purse, and is awarded to “the best literary work published in the English language, written by an author aged 39 or under.”

Richard Lloyd Parry won the £20,000 (about $27,085) Rathbones Folio Prize, which honors “the best work of literature of the year, regardless of form,” for Ghosts of the Tsunami: Death and Life in Japan’s Disaster Zone. The judges said: “From a shortlist of eight powerful, moving, important books, we have selected Ghosts of the Tsunami by Richard Lloyd Parry as our winner. It is a piece of heightened reportage about the 2011 Japanese earthquake and its devastating aftermaths, rendered as great literature. It is both harrowing and inspiring. Here is a book which not only interprets for a non-Japanese reader the subtleties and complexities of that nation’s life, especially its family life and how it copes with grief, but also has the depth and reach to close the gaps between other nations, other cultures. Read it and you will be changed for the better.”

Pascale Petit has won the £10,000 (about $13,550) Royal Society of Literature Ondaatje Prize for Mama Amazonica. This is the first time the award, given to “a distinguished work of fiction, nonfiction or poetry, evoking the spirit of a place,” has been won by a work of poetry. One of the judges, Eva Hoffman, described Mama Amazonica this way: “In Pascale Petit’s evocations, the Amazon rainforest comes alive, with human characters as much a part of nature as the creatures and plants living there–alluring and frightening, violent and vulnerable, dangerous and endangered. A feat of imaginative intensity, this is also an act of reckoning and reparation, in which deep empathy for a disturbed mother is transmuted into the exacting beauty of poetic language.”

Polish author Olga Tokarczuk won the £50,000 (about $67,170) Man Booker International Prize, which celebrates the finest works of translated fiction from around the world, for her novel of linked fragments, Flights, translated by Jennifer Croft. The cash award is divided equally between author and translator, who also both receive £1,000 for being shortlisted.

This year’s longlist has been announced for the AU$60,000 (about US$45,535) Miles Franklin Literary Award, which honors a novel “of the highest literary merit and presents Australian life in any of its phases,” the Age reported. A shortlist will be unveiled June 17, and the winner named August 26 in Melbourne. The 2018 Miles Franklin longlisted titles are: A Long Way from Home by Peter Carey, No More Boats by Felicity Castagna, The Life to Come by Michelle de Kretser, The Crying Place by Lia Hills, The Last Garden by Eva Hornung, Some Tests by Wayne Macauley, Storyland by Catherine McKinnon, Border Districts by Gerald Murnane, From the Wreck by Jane Rawson, The Restorer by Michael Sala, and Taboo by Kim Scott.

Finally, a five-novel shortlist has been announced for the Golden Man Booker Prize, which was created to showcase the winning titles from Man Booker history “that have best stood the test of time.” The winner will be announced July 8 from the Man Booker 50 Festival at the Southbank Centre in London. Five judges were appointed to read the winning novels from each decade of the prize and then choose what, in his or her opinion, was the best winner from that particular decade. The judges were writer and editor Robert McCrum (1970s); poet Lemn Sissay (1980s); novelist Kamila Shamsie (1990s); broadcaster and novelist Simon Mayo (2000s); and poet Hollie McNish (2010s). The Golden Man Booker shortlisted titles are: In a Free State by V. S. Naipaul, Moon Tiger by Penelope Lively, The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje, Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel, and Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders.

Have a great month!



Congratulations to Kim Miller, who won a copy of 60 Days Left by Andrea Lechner-Becker.

Our new site giveaway is for copy of Play With Knives 3 & 4 by Jennifer Maiden. To enter the giveaway, send me an email at maggieball@compulsivereader.comwith the subject line “Play With Knives 3 and 4” and your postal address.

Good luck everybody!



Farewell Olympus by Jack Messenger

Meet Howard. His sweet life is about to turn sour.
A long, hot summer in the capital of the world: Farewell Olympus is about love and rivalry, ambition and morality, Armageddon and the quest for the perfect croissant. Witty, intelligent and entertaining, it will make you feel you are too, even if you have no experience of volleyball. Check it out at:

Kindle Paperwhite giveaway code inside!



We will shortly be featuring reviews of Brink by Jill Jones, The Water Rabbits by Paul Tarragó, The Murderer’s Maid by Erika Mailman, Little Gods by Jenny Ackland, Monash’s Masterpiece by Peter FitzSimons and lots more reviews, news, interviews, and giveaways.

Don’t forget to drop by The Compulsive Reader talks (see widget on right hand side of the site) or at to listen to our new interview with Holly Ringland on The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart. To listen, visit the show page or you can listen directly from the site widget (right hand side of the site).

You can also subscribe to the show via iTunes and get updates automatically. Just find us under podcasts by searching for Compulsive Reader. Then just click subscribe.


(c) 2018 Magdalena Ball. Nothing in this newsletter may be reproduced without the written consent of the publisher, however reprint rights are readily available. Please feel free to forward this newsletter in its entirety.

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