Compulsive Reader

Compulsive Reader News
Volume 23, Issue 1, 1 Jan 2021



New Reviews at Compulsive Reader
Literary News
Competition News
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Hello readers.  Happy new year!  To say that 2020 was quite the year would be an understatement. Here’s hoping that 2021 is a year of healing (and great books) for all of us. We are now in our 23rd year at Compulsive Reader and it feels like a lifetime!  Thanks for being part of it all. Following is the latest batch of reviews and interviews:

A review of From the Ancestors: Poems and Prayers for Future Generations, edited by Ron Whitehead

The poems, prayers and music in this collection are courageous, refreshing and from the heart. We identify and are not strangers to their expressions of love, joy, and uncompromising cries for justice, peace and healing. They address the challenging and turbulent and political and social climate we live under today. Uniting this collection is hope. The unrelenting determination to persevere. Read more:

An interview with Kentucky Outlaw Poet Ron Whitehead

In this new interview with a poet that Lawrence Feelinghetti calls a “Bodhisattva in Kentucky”, Ron Whitehead talks about how he became aware he was a poet, some of his favourite poems, what his life was like growing up, how he’s navigating Covid-19, his writing, music and visual art style, his project From the Ancestors: Poems and Prayers for Future Generations, 14 suggestions for aspiring poets and writers, and lots more. Read more:

A review of Four Quartets Poetry in the Pandemic edited by Kristina Marie Darling and Jeffrey Levine

The pandemic has made time blur for people. This anthology offers a variety of excellent poems by an inclusive array of artists to help us remember and acknowledge how we coped (or not.) Just as T. S. Elliot’s “Four Quartets” were originally published as stand-alone works, the chapbooks that make up this anthology by the same name can be savored separately even as we appreciate how they weave and intersect. This anthology will resonate and shine in the future as a historic literary gem. Read more:

A review of Alchemy by Fiona Perry

Reading Alchemy will excite your imagination. You will travel in a magic carpet to the past and present, the vivid images in the poem will become a painting in your mind. I advise: read each poem a few times and you will, with each reading discover layers of beauty and humanity. Read more:

A review of The Hole by Hiroko Oyamada

This might seem like another predictable tale about how the bourgeois people of the city don’t know how to adapt to a small town, but the author, Japanese writer Hiroko Oyamada, manages to turn The Hole into a surreal and fantastical story that is as intense as a dream and intoxicating as a hallucination. Read more:

A review of Life of a Firefly by Sandra Brown Lindstedt

Life of a Firefly is funny, uplifting, and, according to the author, ninety-eight per cent true. A graduate in English and Theatre from Lewis and Clark College in Portland, Oregon, Ms Brown Lindstedt  lives with her husband, Christer Lindstedt, in Goteburg Sweden where she is drama director for Smyrna International Church. Life of a Firefly is a book that parents and librarians should put in the hands of young readers. Read more:

An interview with Tom Maremaa, author of Man on the Isle of Jura

The author of Man on the Isle of Jura, a sequel to his novel Of Gods, Royals & Superman, returns to Compulsive Reader to talk about his latest novel and how it came about, why he decided to continue the story of his character Christopher Reed, the significance of the Isle of Jura, what happens to George Orwell in 1948, on writing genre, and more. Read more:

A review of What the Living Remember by Nancy Gerber

In her preface, she tells us that this account is based on research and her father’s experience as an adolescent in pre-war Germany, although he shared little of his memories. But Gerber wants to remember and record this time, as does Karl, in order to honor the memories of those who perished in the hands of the Nazis, and also those who, like Karl, survived, but were forever haunted by those they lost.  Read more:

A review of Be Sincere Even When You don’t Mean It: The Memoirs of Jimmy Sizemore by Jim Flynn

Flynn’s attention to detail in describing Sizemore’s various meetings and situations is what makes the story so believable and hilarious. Always the gentleman (“I’d learned through osmosis from my father that you always compliment somebody before you turn them down”), he gets what he wants with a smile. It’s a lesson in how to conduct yourself in the most difficult situations with the most persuasive people. There are very few revered institutions and American ideals that are left unscathed by Flynn, and rightfully so. Read more:

Questions for Craig W. Gill, Director of the University Press of Mississippi, with Congratulations on the press’s 50th anniversary

They are books in which tenderness and teaching and terror are threaded through the texts. The University Press of Mississippi’s director Craig W. Gill has spoken of being able to learn about, and respond to, different subjects in any given year, as he seeks manuscripts that contribute to significant fields of study. 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 2,720), which can be browsed or searched from the front page of the site.



In the literary news last month, Sarah Frier’s No Filter: The Inside Story of How Instagram Transformed Business, Celebrity and Our Culture won the Financial Times and McKinsey & Company Business Book of the Year Award 2020. The book is published by Random House Business in the U.K., and Simon & Schuster in the U.S and is worth £30,000. Each of the five runners-up get £10,000.

Among the nominations for the 2021 Grammy Awards, which will be televised January 31, are some book-related ones. In the Best Spoken Word Album category (which includes poetry, audiobooks & storytelling), the nominees are: Acid for the Children: A Memoir by Flea (Hachette Audio), The Answer Is…: Reflections on My Life by Alex Trebek, read by Trebek and Ken Jennings (S&S Audio), Blowout: Corrupted Democracy, Rogue State Russia, and The Richest, Most Destructive Industry on Earth by Rachel Maddow (Random House Audio), Catch and Kill by Ronan Farrow (Hachette Audio), and Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White, read by Meryl Streep & full cast (Listening Library). 

The Center for Fiction awarded its First Novel Prize of $15,000 to Luster by Raven Leilani. The Center also presented its On Screen Award to James McBride and Showtime for the original series The Good Lord Bird and its Medal for Editorial Excellence to publisher and editor Chris Jackson of One World, an imprint of Random House.

Camilla Townsend, a professor at Rutgers University, won the 2020 Cundill History Prize for Fifth Sun: A New History of the Aztecs (Oxford). Townsend receives $75,000—the largest reward for a work of non-fiction in English. The two runners up are Vincent Brown for Tacky’s Revolt: The Story of an Atlantic Slave War (Harvard) and William Dalrymple, for The Anarchy: The Relentless Rise of the East-India Company (Bloomsbury). They each receive $10,000.

This year’s winner of the Bookseller/Diagram Prize for Oddest Book Title of the Year, A Dog Pissing at the Edge of a Path: Animal Metaphors in Eastern Indonesian Society, marks the “first-ever win of the august literary prize by a Canadian author–the University of Alberta anthropologist Gregory Forth–while McGill-Queen’s University Press now becomes the only Canadian publisher to grab the crown,” the Bookseller reported.

The Longlist for the Indie Book Awards 2021 has been announced and includes, for fiction: The Tolstoy Estate by Steven Conte (Fourth Estate Australia), All Our Shimmering Skies by Trent Dalton (HarperCollins Australia), The Living Sea of Waking Dreams by Richard Flanagan (Knopf Australia), Mammoth by Chris Flynn (University of Queensland Press), A Room Made of Leaves by Kate Grenville (Text Publishing), The Survivors by Jane Harper (Macmillan Australia), Infinite Splendours by Sofie Laguna (Allen & Unwin), The Last Migration by Charlotte McConaghy (Hamish Hamilton Australia), The Good Turn by Dervla McTiernan (HarperCollins Australia), and Honeybee by Craig Silvey (Allen & Unwin). I haven’t read them all, but at this stage, my pick is All Our Shimmering Skies – just listening to the audiobook now and it’s incredible – like Boy Swallows Universe, Dalton’s debut, it’s one of those books I’m not sure I even want to review – I don’t want to unpick the magic of it.  That doesn’t happen to me often! For the full list visit:

The Hans Christian Andersen Award, the highest international honor given to creators of books for young readers, has announced the shortlist for its 2022 edition. Given every other year by the International Board on Books for Young People, the award celebrates lifelong achievement and is given to an author and an illustrator whose work has made an enduring impact on literature for children and teens. Nominations are made by each national section of IBBY and are judged by an international jury of children’s literature specialists.  There are 62 candidates from 33 countries – too many to list, but you can see the full list here:

A longlist has been released for the $50,000 2021 Joyce Carol Oates Prize, recognizing mid-career authors in fiction. The award is administered by the Simpson Project, a collaboration of the Lafayette Library & Learning Center Foundation and the University of California, Berkeley, English Department. Shortlist finalists will be announced in early March 2021 and winner in early April. To see the longlist, click here:

The 2020 Prime Ministers Literary Awards were announced at a livestreamed event from the National Library of Australia on the 10th of December. They include, for fiction: ‘The Yield’ by Tara June Winch. Non-fiction joint winners: ‘Songspirals: sharing women’s wisdom of Country through songlines’ by the Gay’wu Group of Women, and ’Sea People: The Puzzle of Polynesia’ by Christina Thompson. For Poetry: ‘The Lost Arabs’ by Omar Sakr, for Children’s literature: ‘Cooee Mittigar: A Story on Darug Songlines’ by Jasmine Seymour, illustrated by Leanne Mulgo Watson. For Young adult literature: ‘How it Feels to Float’ by Helena Fox, and for Australian history: ‘Meeting the Waylo: Aboriginal Encounters in the Archipelago’ by Tiffany Shellam. 

David Constantine has been awarded the 2020 Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry, which was established by King George V in 1933 at the suggestion of the then Poet Laureate, John Masefield, and is awarded annually for excellence in poetry. The medal committee, chaired by the Poet Laureate Simon Armitage, recommended Constantine on the basis of his 11 books of poetry, in particular his Collected Poems (2004), which spans three decades of his work. 

The winners of the 2020 Royal Society of Literature Giles St. Aubyn Awards for Nonfiction are: £10,000 (about $13,520), to Doreen Cunningham for Soundings: A Journey with Whales (2022). £5,000 (about $6,760), to Alice Sherwood for The Authenticity Playbook (2022).  £2,500 (about $3,380), to Danny Lavelle for Down and Out: A Journey Through Homelessness (2022). 

Have a great month!



Congratulations to Audrey Larson, who won an autographed copy of Poppy in the Wild by Teresa J. Rhyne.

Congratulations to Anita Yancey, who won a copy of Talking to the Sky by Aimee Mayo. 

Congratulations to Sharon Berger, who won a copy of Thread, Form, and Other Enclosures by Carol Smallwood.

Jan is a big giveaway month for us this year (and a good way, I think, to kick off 2021). Our new site giveaway is for a copy of 337 by M. Jonathan Lee. To win, send me an email at with the subject line “337” and your postal address in the body of the email. 

We also have another autographed copy of The Parisian Professor by Joseph Sciuto to giveaway. To win send me an email at with the subject line “The Parisian Professor” and your postal address in the body of the email.  

We also have a copy of Creature by Rosalee Kiely (check out our review here: To win send me an email at with the subject line “Creature” and your postal address in the body of the email. 

Finally, we have a copy of The Merciful by Jon Sealy to give away.  To win send me an email at with the subject line “The Merciful” and your postal address in the body of the email. 

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 Square Haunting by Francesca Wade, Love After Love by Ingrid Persaud, Beowulf, A New Translation by Maria Dahvana Headley, 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) 2021 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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