Compulsive Reader

Compulsive Reader News
Volume 22, Issue 11, 1 Nov 2020



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Hello readers.  Following is the latest batch of reviews:

An interview with Deborah Turner

The author of Sweating It Out talks about her educational background, the important of sports in her life and work, her themes, some of the striking lines in her work, feminism, on the influence of being a librarian, on identity and transformation, and lots more. Read more:

A review of Daddy by Michael Montlack

Beautifully written, these haunting poems pay tribute to brave men who were thrust into the AIDS crisis, and in the midst of fear and death, supported each other in hospitals across America. There are poems about first dates, Valentines, vacations, and break-ups. There is also a lot of humor in this section, through curious and endearing situations that are entertaining to readers of all sexual orientations. Read more:

A review of Driving in Cars with Homeless Men by Kate Wisel

These girls are still alive and living in Boston! Wisel does not make moral judgments. These stories are only meant to the show us lives we often overlook. The writing is vivid: you really do see these characters, and sometimes it’s a very uncomfortable vision.  Read more:

A review of River Aria by Joan Schweighardt

River Aria is an exquisitely written conclusion to the Rivers trio. Schweighardt creates rich layers of meaning through the three books, across settings that are sometimes sumptuous and sometimes desolate, but always rich in psychology, history, drama, theatre, and a very subtle political thread that hints at the power of compassion. Read more:

A review of Rebel Cinderella by Adam Hochschild

While Rose’s story grabs reader  attention, Hochschild’s book is compelling because he tells a bigger story. He shows us the gap between rich and poor during the Gilded Age and the early 20th century and educates  readers in a lucid and accessible sty le about early struggles for a fairer, kinder society. Read more:

An interview with Teresa Carmody

The author of The Reconception of Marie talks about her new book and why she’s excited about its release, why she chose to write from a young perspective, on reimagining the traditional Bildungsroman, on friendship and interpersonal relationships, Fra Angelico, the book’s relevance to today’s political landscape and lots more. Read more:

A review of Split, edited by Lee Kofman

All of the pieces are powerful, richly depicted, allowing the reader access to the very core of transition. Kofman has a well-tuned sense of what works together and the pieces flow together perfectly, each essay informing the work that surrounds it, so that the overall book feels interlinked. It makes for engaging reading that is emotionally powerful throughout.  Read more: 

A review of 125 Rus by Ana Efimenko

If you’re a Dostoevskian existentialist, an armchair philosopher, or just interested in international indie writing, 125 Rus is for you. Just don’t forget yourself reading it! Read more:

A review of The Hate Race by Maxine Beneba Clarke

From the day of early childhood to the teenage years, Clarke consistently takes moments of her life, interrogates them, and gives them a certain form of literary justice. I wouldn’t say a poetic justice, because Clarke isn’t trying to write poetically. She is giving a record of what it means to be born as a foreigner in your own country, and the existential challenges which come throughout. Read more:

A review of No Spider Harmed in the Making of this Book Edited by Cherry Potts

Editor Cherry Potts created a masterful work of art with this anthology, intricately combining poetry, short stories and flash fiction that spans a variety of themes. In all of the works, the writing is accessible, yet beautiful. The otherworldliness of spiders brings about bewitching language in almost all of the entries. Read more:

An interview with Amanda Jeffery

The author of The Fourth Year Spell talks about her new book, why she wrote it, inspiration and influences, challenges and tips for new writers, and lots more. Read more:

All of the reviews and interviews listed above available at The Compulsive Reader on the front page. Older reviews and interviews are kept indefinitely in our extensive (and growing) categorized archives (currently at 2,690), which can be browsed or searched from the front page of the site.



In the literary news this month, The Son of Good Fortune by Lysley Tenorio is the winner of the $5,000 2020 Institute for Immigration Research New American Voices Award, which recognizes “recently published works that illuminate the complexity of the human experience as told by immigrants, whose work is historically underrepresented in writing and publishing.” Finalists who receive $1,000 each are Ishmael Beah for Little Family and Vanessa Hua for Deceit and Other Possibilities.

The Writers’ Trust of Canada has announced finalists for this year’s C$60,000 Hilary Weston Writers’ Trust Prize for Nonfiction, which honors works published in Canada that demonstrate “a distinctive voice, as well as a persuasive and compelling command of tone, narrative, style and technique.” Each finalist receives C$5,000. The winner will be named November 18 in a digital presentation to be hosted on the Writers’ Trust’s website. This year’s shortlisted titles are: Through the Garden: A Love Story (with Cats) by Lorna Crozier, Reaching Mithymna: Among the Volunteers and Refugees on Lesvos by Steven Heighton, Two Trees Make a Forest: Travels Among Taiwan’s Mountains & Coasts in Search of My Family’s Past by Jessica J. Lee, Shame on Me: An Anatomy of Race and Belonging by Tessa McWatt, and The Way Home by David A. Neel.

The finalists for the National Book Awards in five categories have been named, and the winner in each category will be announced at a virtual ceremony in New York City on November 18. It’s a big list with 5 shortlisted titles in different genres, so I won’t list them all here.  The poetry winners were A Treatise on Stars by Mei-mei Berssenbrugge (New Directions), Fantasia for the Man in Blue by Tommye Blount (Four Way Books), DMZ Colony by Don Mee Choi (Wave Books), Borderland Apocrypha by Anthony Cody (Omnidawn Publishing), and Postcolonial Love Poem by Natalie Diaz (Graywolf Press). For the rest of the list, visit:

The Academy of American Poets has announced the winners of the 2020 American Poets Prizes. Nikky Finney received the $100,000 Wallace Stevens Award which is given annually to recognize outstanding and proven mastery in the art of poetry. Carmen Giménez Smith received the Academy of American Poets Fellowship. Established in 1936 and given in memory of James Ingram Merrill, with generous support from the T. S. Eliot Foundation, this prize recognizes distinguished poetic achievement and carries with it a stipend of $25,000 and a residency at the Eliot summer home in Gloucester, Massachusetts. Hanif Abdurraquib’s book A Fortune for Your Disaster (Tin House, 2019) has received the $25,000 Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize, which recognizes the most outstanding book of poetry published in the United States in the previous year. There are lots more awards, and you can check out the full list here:

A shortlist has been released for the C$100,000 (about US$74,770) Scotiabank Giller Prize, which recognizes excellence in Canadian fiction. The winner will be named November 9. This year’s shortlisted titles are: Ridgerunner by Gil Adamson, Here the Dark by David Bergen, Polar Vortex by Shani Mootoo, The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel, and How to Pronounce Knife by Souvankham Thammavongsa,

The Australian Society of Authors has announced the shortlist for the 2020 Barbara Jefferis Award: The White Girl by Tony Birch (UQP), Too Much Lip by Melissa Lucashenko (UQP), There Was Still Love by Favel Parrett (Hachette Australia), Wolfe Island by Lucy Treloar (Pan Macmillan Australia), and The Yield by Tara June Winch (Penguin Random House Australia). The winner of the 2020 Barbara Jefferis Award will be announced in an online ceremony on Wednesday 18 November at 4pm AEDT, which will be streamed on Youtube:

The Nobel Prize in Literature 2020 was awarded to Louise Glück “for her unmistakable poetic voice that with austere beauty makes individual existence universal.” Glück, a former U.S. poet laureate, is considered one of the foremost voices in American poetry, and is the author of 14 collections—her first, the appropriately titled Firstborn, with New American Library in 1968, then nine books with Ecco, followed by four with FSG starting in 2006. In 1985, she won the National Book Critics Circle award for The Triumph of Achilles and, eight years later, was awarded the Pulitzer Prize (and the William Carlos Williams Award) for The Wild Iris. You can read more about Glück and some of her gorgeous poems here:

Finalists have been announced for the C$50,000 (about US$37,385) Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize, which recognizes “Canadian writers of exceptional talent for the year’s best novel or short story collection.” Each finalist receives C$5,000 (US$3,740). The winner will be named November 18 at a digital event on the Writers’ Trust of Canada’s website. This year’s shortlisted titles are: Ridgerunner by Gil Adamson, The Beguiling by Zsuzsi Gartner, Five Little Indians by Michelle Good, Indians on Vacation by Thomas King, Good Citizens Need Not Fear by Maria Reva.

Anne Weber has won the €25,000 (about $29,315) 2020 Deutscher Buchpreis (the German Book Prize) for her novel Annette, ein Heldinnenepos (Annette, a Heroines’ Epic), Börsenblatt reported. The ceremony for the prize, sponsored by the Börsenverein des Deutschen Buchandels (the German book trade association), was held in Frankfurt at the Römer before a small crowd and livestreamed.

Finalists have been named in 16 categories for the An Post Irish Book Awards, which “celebrate and promote Irish writing to the widest range of readers possible” and “recognize the very best of Irish writing talent.” Given the constraints of Covid-19, two key events will be staged virtually. The awards ceremony will take place November 25, followed by a TV program December 10 on RTÉ One, focusing on the top overall category winners and culminating in one of the titles being named An Post Irish Book of the Year 2020. Shortlisted for the Eason Novel of the Year are Actress by Anne Enright, The Wild Laughter by Caoilinn Hughes, Strange Flowers by Donal Ryan, As You Were by Elaine Feeney, The Pull of the Stars by Emma Donoghue and Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell. Check out the complete Irish Book Awards shortlists here:

The T.S. Eliot Foundation had selected the shortlist for the 2020 T.S. Eliot Prize, honoring “the best new collection of poetry published in the U.K. or Ireland.” The winning poet receives £25,000 (about $32,555) and the shortlisted poets get £1,500 (about $1,955). This year’s shortlisted titles are: Postcolonial Love Poem by Natalie Diaz, Deformations by Sasha Dugdale, Shine, Darling by Ella Frears, RENDANG by Will Harris, Love Minus Love by Wayne Holloway Smith, How to Wash a Heart by Bhanu Kapil, Life Without Air by Daisy Lafarge, How the Hell Are You by Glyn Maxwell, Sometimes I Never Suffered by Shane McCrae, and The Martian’s Regress by J.O. Morgan. 

Irish author Anna Burns won the €100,000 (about $118,190) International Dublin Literary Award for her novel Milkman (Graywolf Press). Burns is the first writer from Northern Ireland and the fourth woman to claim the award in its 25-year history. 

The Forward Arts Foundation announced that Caroline Bird’s The Air Year won the £10,000 (about $13,085) Forward Prize for Best Poetry Collection, while RENDANG by Will Harris took the £5,000 (about $6,545) Felix Dennis Prize for debut collection and Malika Booker’s “The Little Miracles” topped the £1,000 (about $1,310) best single poem category.

Finally, a six-book shortlist has been released for the 2020 Diagram Prize for the Oddest Book Title of the Year. Founded by Trevor Bounford and the late Bruce Robertson in 1978 “as a way to stave off boredom at the Frankfurt Book Fair,” the Diagram Prize has had a home at the Bookseller and with legendary diarist Horace Bent since 1982. The winning title will be chosen by members of the public via an online vote, and a winner announced November 27. This year’s shortlisted titles are:A Dog Pissing at the Edge of a Path by Gregory Forth, Introducing the Medieval Ass by Kathryn L Smithies, Classical Antiquity in Heavy Metal Music by K.F.B. Fletcher and Osman Umurhan, How to Make Love to a Despot by Stephen D. Krasner, Lawnmowers: An Illus­trated History by Brian Radam, and The Slaughter of Farmed Animals: Practical Ways to Enhance Animal Welfare by Temple Grandin and Michael Cockram.

Have a good month!



Congratulations to Jean Patton, who won a copy of A Bend in the River by Libby Fischer.

Congratulations to Mary Preston, who won a copy of Trust by Chris Hammer

Congratulations to Susan Benedic, who won a copy of Prospects of a Woman by Wendy Voorsanger. 

Our new site giveaway is for a copy of  Delia Meade by Martin Keaveney. To win, send me an email at with the subject line “Delia Meade” and your postal address in the body of the message.  

We also have a copy of The Reconception of Marie by Teresa Carmody. To win, send me an email at with the subject line “The Reconception of Marie” and your postal address in the body of the message.  

Finally, we have a copy of The Parisian Professor by Joseph Sciuto.  To win, send me an email at with the subject line “The Parisian Professor” and your postal address in the body of the message. 

Good luck, everyone!



The Parisian Professor

The Story of a CIA Operative

A New Spy Novel by Joseph Sciuto


The Parisian Professor explores the roots of state-sanctioned corruption and the scourge of dictatorship in America and beyond.




We will shortly be featuring reviews of To Sleep in a Sea of Stars by Christopher Paolini, Thread, Form, and Other Enclosures by Carol Smallwood, The Disaster Tourist by Yun Ko-Eun, Arsenal / Sin Documentos by Francesco Levato, an interview with Leslie Klein, and lots more reviews and interviews. 

Drop by The Compulsive Reader talks (see widget on right hand side of the site) to listen to our latest episode which features an interview with Angus Gaunt who reads from and talks about his book Black Rabbit. You can listen to the latest episode directly from the site widget or go to show directly here:

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(c) 2020 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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