Compulsive Reader

The Compulsive Reader News
Volume 17, Issue 5, 1 May 2016



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Hello readers. Here is the latest batch of reviews this month:

A review of Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert

Gilbert’s book – so full of soundbites it’s almost impossible not to begin quoting it immediately – urges readers to pursue a creative life, without becoming bogged down by questions of talent, and by all-pervasive fear. Creativity is its own end, and Gilbert suggests that it’s the birthright of all human beings. So clear and compelling is Gilbert’s argument, that, after reading Big Magic, it feels greedy not to write; guilty not to paint; wrong to let one’s creativity submerge into the busyness of life’s daily demands. Read more:

A review of Re-Enchanting Nature by David Vigoda

Readers who look for a novel well steeped in philosophy which takes the classic love scenario and turns it upside down will find much to relish in this evocative story of adventurers who seek to reinvent not just themselves and each other, but their worlds. For the full review visit:

Arsen Petrosyan’s Charentsavan: Music for Armenian Duduk

The roots of Armenian music are ancient—and its past is told in its stories of country and city, and in its melodies and rhythms, and by the instruments—cornet, drum, cymbal—that have been found by accident or excavation, as well as in the notes others have made in texts and paintings. The music, a folk art, is yet known for its singular voice—out of many, one. Of course, a classical art—an art of notation and study, of theory and excellence—began to be born too. Read more:

A review of Tesserae by Mathias B Freese

Freese weaves a narrative rich in human frailty and humanity. His reflections regarding life, affection and the way we all change and become who we are now, may serve to motivate the reader toward exploring and perhaps setting down memories for themselves. Freese’s writing is distinctive and well-written with universal appeal. Tesserae is a work to be read and perhaps re-read, for the perceptions it offers into memory and the nature of the self. For the full review visit:

A review of Diaboliad & Notes on a Cuff by Mikhail Bulgakov

These two handsome and distinctive paperbacks form part of a series showcasing the work of Russian Master Mikhail Bulgakov. Some of the stories in Notes on a Cuff appear in English for the first time, so this is a real treat for Bulgakovians. In addition, both books include valuable textual apparatus: photographs (Mikhail was quite the dandy), notes and a concluding section on the life and work of Bulgakov. Read more:

A review of Hitler: Volume I: Ascent 1889-1939 by Volker Ullrich

This nuanced, well researched and often reflective biography follows closely upon the heels of Peter Longerich’s books about Himmler and Goebbels and a new scholarly edition of Mein Kampf. Apparently, there is renewed interest in what the Nazis did and thought, and this is perhaps because our world, as Timothy Snyder notes in Black Earth, is becoming more like theirs. Read more:

A review of The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson

Though there’s much about the book that could be (and has been) called radical, in terms of the way the book resists any kind of classification and subverts definitions that have long had specific meanings associated with them, and in terms of the dramatic physical transformations that are undergone by the characters through the book. Yet what comes through for me is how tender and universal a love story The Argonauts is. For the full review visit:

Interview with Les Américains about Beginning French

Les Américains How can two people write a memoir? In this interview, married couple Eileen McKenna and Marty Neumeier, “Les Américains,” talk about how they balanced complementary talents to write their soon-to-be-released travel memoir, Beginning French. Read more:

A review of Gray Mountain by John Grisham

Grisham employs several new strategies that constitute his most meaningful strides towards lessening prejudice against women and giving them a strong status in the legal field as is true nowadays in attempting to create a strong novel with a strong heroine: nearly no objectification towards women, objectification of men, and verbalized desire to change their status quo and lessen objectification. For the full review visit:

An interview with Gary Wilson

The author of Getting Right talks about his new novel, about his character development, his writing process, top tips for authors, his influences, work-in-progress, how he decided on his title, and more. 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 1,922 reviews!), which can be browsed or searched from the front page of the site.



In the literary news this month, Marilynne Robinson has been named this year’s recipient of the Library of Congress Prize for American Fiction. The prize honors “an American literary writer whose body of work is distinguished not only for its mastery of the art but also for its originality of thought and imagination. The award seeks to commend strong, unique, enduring voices that–throughout long, consistently accomplished careers–have told us something new about the American experience.”

David Morley, an ecologist who studied the impact of acid rain in the Lake District, has won the Ted Hughes award for New Work in Poetry. The £5,000 prize, funded by Carol Ann Duffy from her honorarium as Poet Laureate, was awarded to the Blackpool-born poet for his collection, The Invisible Gift: Selected Poems. Morley’s subjects range from Romani tales and political allegory to poetry which “evokes the enchantment and truth of the natural world and our place in it.”

German author-illustrator Rotraut Susanne Berner and Chinese author Cao Wenxuan are the winners of the 2016 Hans Christian Andersen Award for illustration and writing, respectively. This is the 60th anniversary of the prestigious international children’s book award, which is presented biennially.

The debut novel from former Blue Peter presenter Janet Ellis is included in the longlist for the ninth Desmond Elliott Prize. The Butcher’s Hook, written after Ellis attended a writing course run by literary agency Curtis Brown, is one of ten books to be longlisted for the Prize, cited as the “most prestigious award for first-time novelists” (Telegraph). The Desmond Elliott Prize 2016 longlist includes: Spill Simmer Falter Wither by Sara Baume (Windmill), The Trouble with Goats and Sheep by Joanna Cannon (Borough Press), The Honours by Tim Clare (Canongate), The Butcher’s Hook by Janet Ellis (Two Roads), Things We Have in Common by Tasha Kavanagh (Canongate), Disclaimer by Renée Knight (Doubleday), Mrs Engels by Gavin McCrea (Scribe), The Glorious Heresies by Lisa McInerney (John Murray), The House at the Edge of the World by Julia Rochester (Viking), and The Weightless World by Anthony Trevelyan (Galley Beggar Press).

The longlist for the 2016 Miles Franklin Award, Australia’s most prestigious literature prize, is: Tony Birch for Ghost River, Stephen Daisley for Coming Rain

Peggy Frew for Hope Farm, Myfanwy Jones for Leap, Mireille Juchau for The World Without Us, Stephen Orr for The Hands: An Australian Pastoral, A.S. Patric for Black Rock White City, Lucy Treloar for Salt Creek, and Charlotte Wood for The Natural Way of Things.

James Hannaham’s novel about racism and exploitation in the US, Delicious Foods, has won the PEN/Faulkner award for fiction, a prestigious US literary prize that has gone in the past to authors such as E Annie Proulx and Philip Roth. The book, which beat titles by authors including Julie Iromuanya and Viet Thanh Nguyen to the $15,000 (£10,600) PEN/Faulkner prize, is Hannaham’s second novel. The New York Times said that its “finest moments are … in the singular way that Hannaham can make the commonplace spring to life with nothing more than astute observation and precise language”.

Meg Rosoff has won the five million Swedish kronor (about $614,030) Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award, which is given annually to authors, illustrators, oral storytellers and reading promoters “to promote interest in children’s and young adult literature.”

Novelist Toni Morrison, who has won major literary awards including the Pulitzer Prize and the Nobel Prize in Literature, has been announced as recipient of the 57th Edward MacDowell Medal for her “outstanding contribution to American culture.” In a statement, Colony chairman Michael Chabon called Morrison “indisputably the greatest living American novelist” whose “face belongs on postage stamps and mountainsides.” The author of novels including The Bluest Eye, Sula, Song of Solomon, and Beloved, Morrison will accept the award at a ceremony at the MacDowell Colony in New Hampshire on August 14, 2016.

The 2016 International Dublin Literary Award shortlist has been announced. At €100,000 (£80,000), the prize – formerly known as the Impac award – is the world’s most lucrative for a single novel in any language published in English and is open to novelists of any nationality. The shortlist includes Outlaws by Javier Cercas (Spain), translated by Anne McLean, Academy Street by Mary Costello (Ireland), Your Fathers, Where Are They? And the Prophets, Do They Live Forever? by Dave Eggers (US), The End of Days by Jenny Erpenbeck (Germany), translated by Susan Bernofsky, A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James (Jamaica), Diary of the Fall by Michel Laub (Brazil), translated by Margaret Jull Costa, Our Lady of the Nile by Scholastique Mukasonga (Rwanda), debut novel, translated from French by Melanie Mauthner, Dept of Speculation by Jenny Offill (US), Lila by Marilynne Robinson (US), and Family Life by Akhil Sharma (US)

This year’s Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction includes: Cynthia Bond – Ruby (Two Roads) – American – 1st Novel, Anne Enright – The Green Road (Jonathan Cape) – Irish – 6th Novel, Lisa McInerney – The Glorious Heresies (John Murray) – Irish – 1st Novel, Elizabeth McKenzie – The Portable Veblen (Fourth Estate) – American – 2nd Novel, Hannah Rothschild – The Improbability of Love (Bloomsbury) – British – 1st Novel, Hanya Yanagihara – A Little Life (Picador) – American – 2nd Novel. Enright, the first laureate for Irish fiction, was shortlisted in 2012 for The Forgotten Waltz. The Green Road was shortlisted for the 2015’s Costa novel award.

The Man Booker International Prize has revealed the shortlist of six books in contention for the 2016 Prize, celebrating the finest in global fiction. Each shortlisted author and translator will receive £1,000, while the £50,000 prize will be divided equally between the author and the translator of the winning entry. The list includes:

A General Theory of Oblivion (Harvill Secker), José Eduardo Agualusa (Angola), Daniel Hahn (UK), The Story of the Lost Child (Europa Editions), Elena Ferrante (Italy), Ann Goldstein (USA), The Vegetarian (Portobello Books), Han Kang (South Korea), Deborah Smith (UK), A Strangeness in My Mind (Faber & Faber), Orhan Pamuk (Turkey), Ekin Oklap (Turkey), A Whole Life (Picador), Robert Seethaler (Austria), Charlotte Collins (UK), The Four Books (Chatto & Windus), Yan Lianke (China), Carlos Rojas (USA).

The 2016 NSW Premier’s Literary Awards Shortlist, which includes for the first time a new prize for Indigenous writers, have been announced. For the Christina Stead Prize for Fiction ($40,000) the list is: Ghost River, Tony Birch (University of Queensland Press), Locust Girl. A Lovesong, Merlinda Bobis (Spinifex Press) Clade, James Bradley (Penguin Random House), The Life of Houses, Lisa Gorton (Giramondo), A Guide to Berlin, Gail Jones (Penguin Random House), and The World Without Us, Mireille Juchau (Bloomsbury). For the Kenneth Slessor prize for poetry ($30,000), the list includes Brush, Joanne Burns (Giramondo),
Eelahroo (Long Ago) Nyah (Looking) Möbö-Möbö (Future), Lionel G.

Fogarty (Vagabond Press), The Hazards, Sarah Holland-Batt (University of Queensland Press), Fainting with Freedom, Ouyang Yu (Five Islands Press),
Terra Bravura, Meredith Wattison (Puncher & Wattmann), and
Not Fox Nor Axe, Chloe Wilson (Hunter Publishers). For the full list (and the opportunity to cast a vote for the People’s Choice Award), visit:

Viet Thanh Nguyen took the Pulitzer Prize in fiction Monday for his debut novel, “The Sympathizer,” published by Grove Press. Nguyen, a professor at the USC, is one of the L.A. Times’ 10 critics at large. In poetry, Peter Balakian won for Ozone Journal (University of Chicago Press), a collection of “poems that bear witness to the old losses and tragedies that undergird a global age of danger and uncertainty.” For the full list, visit:

The winner of the 2016 Stella Prize is Charlotte Wood for her novel The Natural Way of Things (which has been sitting patiently on my bookshelf – I’ll be reading it next!). The Stella Prize judges described it as ‘a novel of – and for – our times’ and ‘a riveting and necessary act of critique.’ You can read Wood’s phenomenal acceptance speech here:

Finally, the The 28th annual Publishing Triangle Awards were presented on April 21, 2016, at a gala ceremony held at the Tishman Auditorium of the New School, co-hosted with Ferro-Grumley Literary Awards and the New School Creative Writing Program, with support from Curtis Brown Ltd. The winner of the Ferro-Grumley Award for LGBT Fiction was A Poet of the Invisible World, by Michael Golding (Picador). The full range of award winners and shortlisted titles can be found here:

Have a great month!

======================================================== is the place to go for all your reading needs. We have book reviews, book giveaways, and many other interesting places to visit. Visit:



Congratulations to Mary Preston and Hasani Malik who both won copies of Jadwa’s Story by Aabra.

Congratulations also to Laurie Blum, who won an autographed copy of American Female by Emily Carpenter.

Congratulations to Jean Patton, who won a copy of Getting Right by Gary D Wilson.

Our new site giveaway is for a copy of The Opposite of Comfortable by Sharon Nir. To win, send me an email at with your postal address and the subject line “The Opposite of Comfotable”.

We also have a copy of The Weekenders by Mary Kay Andrews. To win, send me an email at with your postal address and the subject line “The Weekenders”.

Good luck everybody!



We will shortly be featuring a very special Sydney Writers Festival edition, along with reviews of The Bricks that Built the House by Kate Tempest, Things Unsaid by Diana Y Paul, Good Globe by Shelby Simpson, a review of The Blackest Eye by the music band Aye Nakoan, an interview with Sharon Nir (see our giveaway this month), 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 the latest interview with Bad Behaviour’s Rebecca Starford. To listen, visit the showpage or you can listen directly from the site widget (middle of the right hand side).

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(c) 2016 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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