Compulsive Reader

Compulsive Reader News
Volume 26, Issue 2, 1 Feb 2024



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Hello readers. Here is the latest batch of reviews and interviews:

The World Stands on Its Head: a review of Between Two Fires by John Grey

Grey’s topic is the human condition. Fate rolls the dice. Fate, like fire, is both friend and enemy. The people in these poems are resigned and resilient. They choose and do not choose. The poet’s concerns are vitality, perplexity and empathy. Read more:

A review of How to Order Eggs Sunny Side Up by Lisa Collyer

Even when the work is set in domestic settings such as a hair dressers, a department store, or even a toilet grimacing over a toxic gut, there is always a sense of being part of a fascia that connects everything – the distinctions between people, nature, past and present are often blurred. Read more:

A review of City Under One Roof by Iris Yamashita

Yamashita’s writing is brisk and feels very written for the screen, with each scene progressing at a rapid clip. Characters are developed quickly and motives rapidly unfurl. Read more:

A review of Magus: The Art of Magic from Faustus to Agrippa by Anthony Grafton

Anthony Grafton, who has made a career writing about similar rarities, conjunctions and mystifications, is a master historian, a writer who goes elbow deep, fearlessly, into artifact, archive, and multi-lingual sources (including Latin and Ancient Greek) as he chases the dragons of medieval magic and mystification. Read more:

A review of Vanished Earth by Geoff Nelder

Nelder’s world building is excellent and his scientific capability is very clear. Everything flows smoothly and makes perfect sense, even when it involves the wryly sardonic artificial intelligence, Can, whose witty missives are no longer quite as futuristic as it was in books 1-3 given the speed at which AI is developing, quantum displacement technology (the “pinch”), or turbojets that are able to descend into Jupiter. Read more:

A review of Blood from Stone

The collection is an eye opener, poems made in an environment of incarceration and punishment about life ‘Inside’. About jail, about being a prisoner and the fear and danger of prison life. Most of the poems are coruscating and angry and explore issues of life inside, of loss and anger, pleading for real justice and rehabilitation, often displaying a hard wisdom learnt at the hands of corrupt and cruel prison officers. Read more:

A review of Letters to a Dead Man by Rosemary Nissen-Wade

Letters to a Dead Man are not letters but prose and poetry about a forbidden love or if not forbidden unethical. This intense love is between a man and a woman is set in Pentridge Prison. Reading the poems it is difficult to decide who was the prisoner and who was the free person. I had my suspicions which were confirmed later. Read more:

A review of Be Quiet About Love by Jason Beale

No sentimentality is encountered in Beale poems as he writes about life’s wounds and death. Be Quiet About Love demonstrates a philosophy of life that leans towards acceptance and resignation, often he expresses profound thoughts. Read more:

A Conversation between Mary Pacifico Curtis and Tiffany Troy

Hawk’s Cry by Mary Pacifco Curtis and Dominus by Tiffany Troy are episodic lyric poems that find beauty in the turn of the “pressed, pleated and fine” congregate towards empathy. In this wide-reaching conversation the two poets talk about their work, traditions, empathy, poetry in general and lots more. Read more:

A review of Monkey Wars by Deborah Blum

In Monkey Wars Deborah Blum walks us through the battle-field between animal researchers and animal rights activists and asks how much suffering is worth how much knowledge. Written in 1994 the book still holds up today, just as books written on politics or religion still do, as deep moral questions don’t tend to evaporate away. Read more:

A review of Nightfall Marginalia by Sarah Maclay

Everything is fragile, tenuous, in this world. It’s not threatening or frightening; indeed, a kind of vast resignation suffuses the scene. As the title of the collection, Nightfall Marginalia, suggests, the predominant atmosphere throughout is dusky, dark, and the principal mood is the nocturne – dreamy, romantic. Read more:

A review of Perfume by Patrick Süskind

Süskind’s dark taste in comedy and clever use of logic permeate every page. Jean-Baptiste’s skill as a perfumer making camouflage, shadowing and eventually murder all possible with a few drops of a home-made fragrance. Like all superhero films or books one fantasises of having said superpower and the fantastical, god-like things one could do with it. Read more:

A review of The China Shelf: New Poems by Jennifer Maiden

There are no notes or glossary, but neither is the book polemical. You are free to make your own conclusions from what comes across essentially, at least to my ignorant mind, as poetic play—full of irreverence and an open sense that we are all pawns in the global power play, and that no matter how powerful these world figures are – whether they be actors, writers, or politicians, it behooves us to pay attention and use our imaginations to engage. Read more:

All of the reviews and interviews listed above are available at The Compulsive Reader on the front page. Older reviews and interviews are kept indefinitely in our extensive categorised archives (currently at 3,269) which can be browsed or searched from the front page of the site.



In the literary news this month, Authors Jilly Cooper, Kate Mosse, Charlie Mackesy and Alexander McCall Smith are among those to have been recognised in King Charles III’s second New Year’s Honours list along with Libraries Connected president Carol Stump. Several librarians have also been celebrated as well as Christopher Jolly, publisher at Jolly Phonics and Creative Access co-founder Josie Dobrin. More than 1,200 recipients have been awarded “for their exceptional achievements”, the Cabinet Office said, “with a focus on those who have given with generosity to others in need”.  For the full honours list including all categories visit:

For the first time in history, women authors were the recipients in all three categories of the 2023 New Zealand Prime Minister’s Awards for Literary Achievement. Managed by Creative New Zealand, the awards were established in 2003 to honor writers selected by the Arts Council on the recommendation of an external panel of experts. This year’s recipients are: Fiction: Lee Murray, an award-winning writer of speculative fiction and horror.
Nonfiction: Professor Linda Tuhiwai Smith, an academic recognised internationally for her contribution to scholarship on indigenous thought. Poetry: Tusiata Avia, an award-winning poet and writer, known for dynamic performances of her work in Aotearoa and internationally.  For more detail on each of the winners and the upcoming award ceremony visit:

Several writers and book-related individuals were honoured with appointments to the Order of Canada, which recognises people across all sectors of society who have made extraordinary and sustained contributions to the nation. This year’s recipients included poet Joséphine Bacon, who was named an Officer of the Order of Canada (O.C.) “for her significant contributions to Indigenous literature and culture in Canada.” Among the Members of the Order of Canada (M.C.) inductees were Kim Thúy Ly Thanh “for amplifying the voices and experiences of migrants and refugees as an acclaimed novelist on Canada’s literary scene,” André Pierre Picard “for his dedication to advancing public health understanding and practices in Canada as a leading health journalist and bestselling author,” Patrick Gordon Crean “for championing Canadian writers, publications and readership as a leading publisher, editor and consultant,” and Bronwyn D.A. Drainie “for her long-standing contributions to Canadian arts and culture, notably as a prominent radio host and editor-in-chief of the Literary Review of Canada.”

Author and bookseller Jeff Kinney will receive the Jeremiah Ludington Memorial Award, sponsored by the Educational Book & Media Association and honouring “an individual who has made a significant contribution to the educational book world.” The presentation will be made February 5 during the EBMA’s 50th anniversary conference for publishers, educational wholesalers, and sponsors in Colorado Springs, Colo. As part of the award, EBMA will present a $2,000 check to a book-related charity of Kinney’s choice. Kinney is author of the Diary of a Wimpy Kid and Awesome Friendly Kid series and owns An Unlikely Story, Plainville, Mass.

Winners have been announced for the 2024 Pacific Northwest Book Awards, sponsored by the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association and chosen by independent booksellers. The winners are Weird Rules to Follow by Kim Spencer (Orca Book Publishers), The Lost Journals of Sacajewea by Debra Magpie Earling (Milkweed Editions), Cascadia Field Guide, edited by Derek Sheffield and CMarie Furman in conjunction with Elizabeth Bradfield (Mountaineers Books), Meet Me Tonight in Atlantic City by Jane Wong (Tin House), You Just Need to Lose Weight by Aubrey Gordon (Beacon Press), and Doppleganger by Naomi Klein (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

Three finalists have been chosen for the Story Prize, which is marking its 20th anniversary and honours the best short story collection of the year. The winner will be announced on Tuesday, March 26, at a private event that the Story Prize will livestream. The event will feature readings by and interviews with finalists, culminating in the announcement of the winner and acceptance of the $20,000 top prize and an engraved silver bowl. The runners-up will each receive $5,000. The finalists include Wednesday’s Child by Yiyun Li (Farrar, Straus and Giroux), Other Minds and Other Stories by Bennett Sims (Two Dollar Radio), and The Hive and the Honey by Paul Yoon (Marysue Rucci Books). 

Shortlists have been announced for the 2024 Writers’ Prize (formerly the Rathbones Folio Prize), which recognizes literary excellence and is open to all works of literature published in the English language in the UK in 2023. The awards are nominated and judged by the Folio Academy. Writers’ Prize category winners and the overall Book of the Year will be named March 13. The winner in each of the three categories–fiction, nonfiction and poetry–receives a £2,000 prize; the overall winner receives an additional £30,000. This year’s shortlisted titles are Fiction: The Wren, the Wren by Anne Enright, The Bee Sting by Paul Murray, and The Fraud by Zadie Smith.  For Nonfiction Thunderclap by Laura Cumming, Doppelganger by Naomi Klein, and A Thread of Violence by Mark O’Connell. For Poetry: Self-portrait as Othello by Jason Allen-Paisant, The Home Child by Liz Berry, and Bright Fear by Mary Jean Chan. 

Nominations have been made for the 2024 Philip K. Dick Award, sponsored by the Philadelphia Science Fiction Society and the Philip K. Dick Trust and honouring the best science fiction published in paperback original form in the US in the previous year. The award ceremony, sponsored by the Northwest Science Fiction Society, will take place March 29 during Norwescon 46. The nominees are Danged Black Thing by Eugen Bacon (Apex Book Company) – check out our interview with Eugen here:,  The Museum of Human History by Rebekah Bergman (Tin House). Infinity Gate by M.R. Carey (Orbit), Wild Spaces by S.L. Coney (Tordotcom). Where Rivers Go to Die by Dilman Dila (Rosarium Publishing), and These Burning Stars by Bethany Jacobs (Orbit).

The inaugural Eleanor Roosevelt Awards for Bravery in Literature are being given to five authors whose works are focused on racial justice, LGBTQ+ rights, and gender equality. They are Laurie Halse Anderson for SHOUT, Mike Curato for Flamer, Alex Gino for Melissa (previously published as George), George M. Johnson for All Boys Aren’t Blue, Jelani Memory for A Kids Book About Racism, and Maia Kobabe for Gender Queer. In addition, Eleanor Roosevelt Lifetime Achievement Award for Bravery in Literature is going to Judy Blume. The awards will be presented at the inaugural Eleanor Roosevelt Banned Book Awards ceremony on February 17 at the Fisher Center in Annandale-on-Hudson, N.Y. 

Australian independent booksellers have nominated their favourite Australian books of 2023 and are thrilled to announce their shortlist for the Indie Book Awards 2024 which includes, for fiction,  Lola in the Mirror by Trent Dalton (Fourth Estate Australia), The Seven by Chris Hammer (Allen & Unwin), Edenglassie by Melissa Lucashenko (University of Queensland Press), and The Bookbinder of Jericho by Pip Williams (Affirm Press). For Non-Fiction, Bright Shining by Julia Baird (Fourth Estate Australia), Wifedom: Mrs Orwell’s Invisible Life by Anna Funder (Hamish Hamilton), The Remarkable Mrs Reibey by Grantlee Kieza (ABC Books, HarperCollins Australia), and Killing for Country: A Family Story by David Marr (Black Inc.). For Debut Fiction, Green Dot by Madeleine Gray (Allen & Unwin), The Visitors by Jane Harrison (Fourth Estate Australia), Lenny Marks Gets Away With Murder by Kerryn Mayne (Bantam Australia), and Salt River Road by Molly Schmidt (Fremantle Press). For all other shortlists including illustrated non-fiction, children’s and young adult visit: The Category Winners and the Overall Book of the Year winner will be announced at a virtual awards event on Monday 25 March 2024.

Self-Portrait as Othello by Jason Allen-Paisant has won the £25,000 T.S. Eliot Prize, sponsored by the T.S. Eliot Foundation and honouring “the best new poetry collection published in the U.K. or Ireland.” The judges called Self-Portrait as Othello “a book with large ambitions that are met with great imaginative capacity, freshness and technical flair. As the title would suggest, the poetry is delivered with theatricality and in a range of voices and registers, across geographies and eras. It takes real nerve to pull off a work like this with such style and integrity. We are confident that Self-Portrait as Othello is a book to which readers will return for many years.”

The Mystery Writers of America has announced the nominees for the 2024 Edgar Allan Poe Awards, honouring the best in mystery fiction, nonfiction and television published or produced in 2023. The awards ceremony, celebrating the 215th anniversary of the birth of Edgar Allan Poe, will be held on May 1 in New York City. To see the full list of nominees, click here:

The shortlist has been announced for the 2024 Hans Christian Andersen Award, sponsored by the International Board of Books for Young People and honouring authors’ and illustrators’ “lifetime achievement to date and the continuing relevance of their works to children and young people.” Winners will be announced April 8 during the Bologna International Children’s Book Fair. For the full list and details of each shortlisted author and illustrator, visit:

For the first time, the Crime Writers’ Association has awarded its Diamond Dagger for lifetime contribution to crime writing to two authors after judges “almost came to blows” this year, the Guardian reported. Lynda La Plante and James Lee Burke are the joint recipients of this year’s honour, which recognises sustained excellence in the genre. 

Winners have been announced for the 73rd National Jewish Book Awards and include: Time’s Echo: The Second World War, the Holocaust, and the Music of Remembrance by Jeremy Eichler (Knopf), which won the Everett Family Foundation Jewish Book of the Year Award, the Gerrard and Ella Berman Memorial History Award, and the Holocaust Award in Memory of Ernest W. Michel.The Heaven and Earth Grocery Store by James McBride (Riverhead Books), which won the JJ Greenberg Memorial Award in Fiction and the Miller Family Book Club Award in Memory of Helen Dunn Weinstein and June Keit Miller. Kibbitz & Nosh: When We All Met at Dubrow’s Cafeteria by Marcia Bricker Halperin (Cornell University Press), which won the Jane and Stuart Weitzman Family Food Writing & Cookbooks Award.Happily: A Personal History–with Fairy Tales by Sabrina Orah Mark (Random House), which won the the Krauss Family Autobiography & Memoir Award in Memory of Simon & Shulamith (Sofi) Goldberg. Other winners and finalists in several categories can be seen here:

The finalists have been released in six categories for the National Book Critics Circle Awards, along with shortlists for the John Leonard Prize for First Book and the Gregg Barrios Book in Translation Prize. In addition, Judy Blume is receiving the Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award, Becca Rothfeld has won the Nona Balakian Citation for Excellence in Reviewing, and the winner of the Toni Morrison Achievement Award, recognizing “institutions that have made lasting and meaningful contributions to book culture,” is the American Library Association. Winners will be named on March 21 during a ceremony at the New School in New York City. Check out the complete list of finalists here:

The shortlist has been selected for the 2023-2024 Gordon Burn Prize, which honours “fiction and non-fiction books that are fearless in their ambition and execution.” The winner of the £10,000 prize will be announced on March 7. The shortlist: Killing Thatcher by Rory Carroll
If I Survive You by Jonathan Escoffery, Wifedom: Mrs Orwell’s Invisible Life by Anna Funder, O Brother by John Niven, Ordinary Human Failings by Megan Nolan, Kick the Latch by Kathryn Scanlan, and Split Tooth by Tanya Tagaq.

The longlist has been selected for the £20,000 Swansea University Dylan Thomas Prize, which honours “exceptional literary talent aged 39 or under [and celebrates] the international world of fiction in all its forms including poetry, novels, short stories and drama.” The shortlist will be announced March 21 and the winner May 16. The longlist: A Spell of Good Things by Ayòbámi Adébáyò (Nigeria), Small Worlds by Caleb Azumah Nelson (U.K./Ghana), The Glutton by A.K. Blakemore (England), Bright Fear by Mary Jean Chan (Hong Kong), Penance by Eliza Clark (England), The Coiled Serpent by Camilla Grudova (Canada)
Hungry Ghosts by Kevin Jared Hosein (Trinidad and Tobago), Local Fires by Joshua Jones (Wales), Biography of X by Catherine Lacey (U.S.), Close to Home by Michael Magee (Northern Ireland), Open Up by Thomas Morris (Wales), and Divisible by Itself and One by Kae Tempest (England).

Finally, a longlist has been released for the €100,000 Dublin Literary Award, which is sponsored by Dublin City Council to honor a single work of fiction published in English. Libraries from 35 countries around the world nominated 70 titles. If the winning book has been translated, the author receives €75,000 and the translator receives €25,000. The shortlist will be announced March 26 and the winner named May 23, as part of the International Literature Festival Dublin. Check out the complete International Dublin Literary Award longlist here:,461&library_cats_ids=0&heading=2024 LONGLIST

Have a great month. 



Congratulations to Mary Preston who won a copy of The China Shelf by Jennifer Maiden.  

Our new site giveaway this month is for a copy of The Wet Wound: An Elegy in Essays by Maddie Norris. To win, send me an email at with the subject line “The Wet Wound” and your postal address in the body of the mail.  

Good luck!




Ball writes beautifully of Rebecca’s departure, voyage and beginnings in the Bronx, evoking this complicated soup of experience with a nod to childlike wonder…Good verse leaps over temporal gaps; the reader is released from the expectation of a blow-by-blow account, free to enter and inhabit the communicative space between poems as part of the narrative rhythm.”  Meera Atkinson, The Conversation




We will shortly be featuring reviews of Kin: Family in the 21st century by Marina Kamenev,  An Unshared Secret by Ketaki Datta,  Dominus by Tiffany Troy, Notorious in Nashville by Phyllis Gobbel, and lots more reviews and interviews. 


Drop by The Compulsive Reader talks (see the widget on right-hand side of the site) to listen to our latest episode which features Valerie Werder reading from and talking about her book Thieves: You can also listen directly on Spotify, iTunes or whatever podcatcher you use.  


(c) 2024 Magdalena Ball. Please feel free to forward and share this newsletter in its entirety.

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