Compulsive Reader

The Compulsive Reader News
Volume 19, Issue 10, 1 October 2018



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Literary News
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Hello readers. Here is the latest batch of reviews:

A review of Rise: Surviving the Fight of My Life by Paige VanZant

Throughout the later chapters of Rise, VanZant takes readers on the rollercoaster of her professional career. From the incredible flying head kick finish of Bec Rawlings to her famous defeat at the hands of Michelle Waterson in the main event of UFC on Fox 22, we see her excitement and disappointment at various moments in her career. No matter if she’s sharing the highs or lows, it is impossible to read these reminiscences without rooting for her every inch of the way. Read more:

Interview with Peter Cochrane

Peter Cochrane is a widely published historian and writer based in Sydney best known for his book Colonial Ambition: Foundations of Australian Democracy, which won the inaugural Prime Minister’s Prize, for Australian History and the Age Book of the Year in 2007. His first venture into fiction was the novella, Governor Bligh and the Short Man. He is a Fellow of the Australian Academy of the Humanities.’ (PRH 2018). Read more:

A review of Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom by David W. Blight

David Blight’s book delivers the new Frederick Douglass standard-bearer for years to come. In our own troubled times the “prophet of freedom” can indeed offer wisdom, but we must be cognizant of the pitfalls of forcing him into modern controversies. We should acknowledge his compelling radicalism without sidestepping his essential complexity. Read more:

A review of A Biography of a Chance Miracle by Tanja Maljartschuk

A Biography of a Chance Miracle is a collection of stories that appear unnoteworthy at first glance, but swell and fill the imagination as one reads them.  The final twist is both perfectly surreal and perfectly logical in a book whose hero’s stubborn faith—in herself, if nothing else—is nothing short of magic. Read more:

A review of Love and Ruin by Paula McLain

Although Love and Ruin is a first-rate historical novel, it might not have pleased Gellhorn, because, in a way, it reduces her to a footnote in Hemingway’s life. By focusing on 1936-1945, Gellhorn’s “Hemingway” years, McLain makes them seem the major experience of Gellhorn’s life, when in fact they were just a blip on the radar screen of Gellhorn’s eighty-nine year life span. Even so, Love and Ruin is a page-turner, a novel that’s hard to put down. Read more:

A review of The Patron Saint of Cauliflower by Elizabeth Cohen

Some secrets when told are betrayals, or suicides, blood spilled or spells cast, for magic and saints governing and protecting, are also secret languages, the ancient rites of certain religions also called “mysteries.” And, so it is in this well-balanced and short collection, an excursion into mysteries, methods of preserving and enduring. Read more:

A review of Welcome to Saint Angel by William Luvaas

With its descriptions of a collective madness sparked by mendacity and greed disguised as irresistible ‘progress’, Welcome to Saint Angel has literary antecedents in the cynical realism of Sinclair Lewis and the paranoid desperation of Nathaniel West, plus a liberal dose of Gore Vidal in his Duluth mood. Read more:

Aching toward Redemption: a review of Medusa’s Country by Larissa Shmailo

It is a collection of incredibly intelligent and subtle poetry that never loses focus of its themes. It is a poetry that aches toward redemption even as it is bogged down by histories and impulses that cannot be undone. So between the transcendent and the incarnate there is a wrestling for justice. Read more:

Time Traveller’s Guide to Elizabethan England by Ian Mortimer

If you want to fit in, to know the dos and don’ts, and to understand the cultural oddities, you’ll need a copy of Ian Mortimer’s Time Traveller’s Guide. In it, he paints a living, breathing picture of the sickness and the suffering, the power and the glory that was Elizabethan England, and tells you everything you’ll need to know to survive in their world. When you arrive, you’ll find that your “ancestors are not inferior to [you]; they do not lack sophistication, subtlety, innovation, wit or courage”. Read more:

A review of Beneath the Mother Tree by D M Cameron

Cameron’s first novel is not your usual mystery/love story. For one thing, her book has seventy-nine mosquitoes (but no sand-flies or ticks) squashed between the pages and they certainly give this story atmosphere. In fact there are experiments with mosquitoes, mosquitoes in jars and cages; yes so many hungry bloodsuckers and all just a figurative screen door away from biting you. 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 2,303!), which can be browsed or searched from the front page of the site.



In the literary news this month, the shortlist for the £50,000 ($66,025) 2018 Man Booker Prize consists of: Milkman by Anna Burns (U.K), Washington Black by Esi Edugyan (Canada), Everything Under by Daisy Johnson (U.K.), The Mars Room by Rachel Kushner (U.S.), The Overstory by Richard Powers (U.S.), and The Long Take by Robin Robertson (U.K.). The winner will be announced on October 16.

Neil Gaiman and Haruki Murakami have been shortlisted for a substitute Nobel literature prize, created by cultural figures in Sweden after the Academy, rocked by a sexual assault scandal, was forced to postpone the awarding of 2018’s prize. The New Academy Prize was established, “to warrant that an international literary prize will be awarded in 2018, but also as a reminder that literature should be associated with democracy, openness, empathy and respect,” the organisers said. However, Murakami has withdrawn from the shortlist, citing a wish to concentrate on his writing.  Two other finalists include Maryse Conde, a Guadeloupean author of historical fiction, and Kim Thuy, a Vietnamese-born Canadian writer, whose 2009 debut Ru won the Governor General’s Literary Award for French-language fiction. In contrast to the behind-closed-doors approach of the Swedish Academy, The New Academy asked Sweden’s librarians to submit nominations of authors for the prize. Voting was then opened up to a worldwide audience that whittled the 47 names put forward down to just four authors. The alternative Nobel will be awarded on 12th October, working within the same time-frame as the original prize, and presented at a formal event on 9th December 2018.

The winners of the 2018 Ngaio Marsh Awards for New Zealand crime fiction, as reported by Books+Publishing, are: Best Crime Novel: Marlborough Man by Alan Carter. Judges called this novel about an ex-undercover agent from England trying to distance himself from his dangerous past and settle into a quieter life as a local cop in the Marlborough Sound “a terrific, full-throated crime thriller that puts the freshest of spins on the cop-with-a-past trope.” Best First Novel: All Our Secrets by Jennifer Lane. The judges called this “a very assured debut,” a novel set in the fictional Australian town of Coongahoola, “about a bullied adolescent girl from a troubled family who is the only person who knows who is responsible for the town’s missing children.”

The shortlist for The Nayef Al-Rodhan Prize for Global Cultural Understanding 2018, the British Academy’s international book prize, has been announced. The prize, which comes with a £25,000 purse, rewards and celebrates the “best works of non-fiction that have contributed to global cultural understanding and illuminate the interconnections and divisions that shape cultural identity worldwide.” The six books on the 2018 shortlist are: The Islamic Enlightenment: The Modern Struggle Between Faith and Reason by Christopher de Bellaigue (The Bodley Head, U.K.), Al-Britannia: A Journey Through Muslim Britain by James Fergusson (Bantum Press, U.K.), Border: A Journey to the Edge of Europe by Kapka Kassabova (Granta Books, Bulgaria), Black Tudors: The Untold Story by Miranda Kaufmann (One World, U.K.), I Was Told to Come Alone: My Journey Behind the Lines of Jihad by Souad Mekhennet (Virago, Germany), and Tears of Rangi: Experiments Across Worlds by Dame Anne Salmond (Auckland University Press, New Zealand).

Finalists in eight major award categories have been announced by the Canadian Children’s Book Centre to celebrate the best in Canadian children’s literature. Winners of the English-language awards will be announced October 29 in Toronto, with French-language awards being revealed November 19 in Montreal. Check out the complete CCBC longlists here:

Simon Smith won the £3,000 (about $3,910) Shakespeare’s Globe Book Award, a “biennial prize for a study of the Bard’s early modern plays and the playhouse in which they were performed,” for his book Musical Responses in the Early Modern Playhouse, 1603-1625, the Bookseller reported. His monograph was chosen from a shortlist that also included Shakespeare’s Two Playhouses: Repertory and Theatre Space at the Globe and the Blackfriars, 1599-1613 by Sarah Dustagheer; Hamlet’s Moment: Drama and Political Knowledge in Early Modern England by Andras Kisery; and Shakespeare and Manuscript Drama by James Purkis.

The poetry longlists for the 2018 National Book Awards consist of: Wobble by Rae Armantrout (Wesleyan University Press), feeld by Jos Charles (Milkweed Editions), Be With by Forrest Gander (New Directions), American Sonnets for My Past and Future Assassin by Terrance Hayes (Penguin), Museum of the Americas by J. Michael Martinez, (Penguin), Ghost Of by Diana Khoi Nguyen (Omnidawn Publishing), Indecency by Justin Phillip Reed (Coffee House Press), lo terciario/the tertiary by Raquel Salas Rivera (Timeless, Infinite Light), Monument: Poems New and Selected by Natasha Trethewey (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), and Eye Level by Jenny Xie (Graywolf Press). For a full set of longlists for of fiction, nonfiction, translated literature, and young people’s literature, visit: The shortlists will be announced later this month with winners announced at the National Book Awards Ceremony and Benefit Dinner on November 14 in New York City.

Hala Alyan and Ta-Nehisi Coates have been named the fiction and nonfiction winners, respectively, of the Dayton Literary Peace Prize, for Salt Houses and We Were Eight Years In Power. The prize, which has been awarded annually since 2006, recognizes “the power of the written word to promote peace.” Both awards carry a $10,000 cash prize.

Finally, a longlist of 12 titles has been unveiled for the C$100,000 (about US$76,810) Scotiabank Giller Prize, which recognizes excellence in Canadian fiction. The shortlist will be announced October 1 and a winner named November 19. This year’s Scotiabank Giller Prize longlisted titles are:  Zolitude by Paige Cooper, French Exit by Patrick DeWitt, Songs for the Cold of Heart by Eric Dupont, translated by Peter McCambridge. Washington Black by Esi Edugyan. Beirut Hellfire Society by Rawi Hage. Motherhood by Sheila Heti. Our Homesick Songs by Emma Hooper. An Ocean of Minutes by Thea Lim, Something for Everyone by Lisa Moore. Split Tooth by Tanya Tagaq. Vi by Kim Thúy, translated by Sheila Fischman. Amd Jonny Appleseed by Joshua Whitehead

Have a great month!



Congratulations to Diane Dubay, who won a copy of Not Her Daughter by Rea Frey.

Our new site giveaway is for a copy of Normal People by Sally Rooney. To enter the giveaway, send me an email at with the subject line “Normal People” and your postal address.

We also have a beautiful hardcopy copy of Witches of St Petersburg by Imogen Edwards-Jones to giveaway.   To enter, send me an email at with the subject line “Witches of St Petersberg” and your postal address.

Good luck everybody!



IMPERFECT, a poetry anthology about mistakes for middle schoolers

Why put together an anthology about mistakes? Because we make mistakes all the time. Some are the size of erasing a hole in your paper, mispronouncing a word, or tripping over your shoelace. Some are the size of telling a friend’s secret. Some can be useful, like a science experiment that goes wrong but gives you a new idea. How can we make the most of the good mistakes and do our best to fix the ones that need fixing? Poetry can help us figure it out.

Places to Buy IMPERFECT:
Barnes and Noble



We will shortly be featuring reviews ofBridge of Clay by Markus Zusak, Normal People by Sally Rooney, Silk Roads by Peter Frankopan, A Body’s Just as Dead by Cathy Adams, The Wounded Muse by Robert F. Delaney, 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 latest interview with poet Steve Armstrong, who reads from and talks about his new poetry book Broken Ground. 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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