Compulsive Reader

Compulsive Reader News
Volume 26, Issue 3, 1 March 2024



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

A review of Open Throat by Henry Hoke

At times Dracula, Thelma & Louise, and Nightcrawler, Open Throat is a captivating exploration of queer longing and kinship that is simultaneously an ode to the wild and to the humanity that, particularly in Los Angeles, can be so quickly glossed over in favor of the superficial. Read more:

A review of Ghost Poetry by Robbie Coburn

Ghost Poetry is a poetry collection that converts anguish and sadness into a creative power. There is suffering throughout the book, but the strength that underpins the pain is unmistakable, like a wild horse “burning unbridled inside the sky’s ceiling” exerting its will to live. Read more:

A review of We are the Walrus by Pete Mullineaux

The poet aptly observes a ‘Bovine Heaven’. However, it also subtly indicates that such peaceful living is impossible for human beings, be it from a sociological or ecological perspective. It also sets off a train of thought where Earth is not left the same from one generation to the next. Read more:

A review of The End of Good Intentions by David Borofka

Set against the back drop of American culture and history from the 1970s, the age of politically progressive Protestantism, right up to contemporary times and the expansive hell right wing evangelicals want to make for us all. Letting readers draw their own conclusions, Borofka does this in deft strokes that never seem strident or extreme. Read more:

A review of Review of River City Fires by Derek Annis

We’re not taken through the streets of this city as much as we are taken on a tour of language. These poems are driven by sound, and a tone that lulls us until images catch, tumble open, or almost combust. Pace and momentum shape the collection, delivering softly-stated violence often inflicted by the natural world upon itself. In Still Life with Razor Blade, we see “night cut evening’s /throat to let the dark out.” Read more:

The Echoes of Dominus: Navigating Through the Poetic Journey of Tiffany Troy

Troy surprises every time with her complex and introspective exploration of her inner thoughts and emotions, particularly in the context of relationships. In her poem “At my Trial,” she mentions an authoritative figure referred to as “Master.” This poem is divided into five sections, each revealing different aspects of the poet’s experiences and emotions. Read more:

A review of Ask Me About the Future by Rebecca Jessen

Jessen plays with language and meaning. She values the visual form: the spacing and arrangement of the words, phrases and sentences. The poems can be interpreted in many ways, and I am not surprised that the poet has won numerous awards. Read more:

A review of An Unshared Secret and Other Stories by Ketaki Datta

In her latest book of short stories, An Unshared Secret, Ketaki Datta shows her skill with the form, creating a series of twenty short stories set primarily in Datta’s home country of India, mostly in or around Kolkata. The capital of West Bengal is so much a presence in these stories that it almost functions as a character itself, providing more than a backdrop. Read more:

Dark Continents: Sima Godfrey’s The Crimean War and Cultural Memory and Raymond Roussel’s Impressions d’Afrique

The Crimean War and Cultural Memory is more than a window on cultural disapprobation, from a particular era. It is a sensitive, scholarly (with great photographs and illustrations) exercise in resurrecting obscure, ‘forgotten’ history. How history gets to forgotten is the main issue here. Read more:

A review of Rambles by Beatriz Copello

Rambles is a passionately written and vivid collection for our times. Stylistically accessible and typographically varied, I am left with an abiding sense of the warmth and raw honesty of its writer and her unwavering compassion for those who are struggling. And perhaps we should not be surprised: that energy is, I feel, implicit in the cover of the collection, painted by the poet—a lively abstract depicting a swirl of soft blues, greens and yellows, as vigorous and warm as the words of Copello herself. Read more:

An interview with Ninety-Day Wonder’s Stephen Davenport

Now ninety-three, he shares his frank recollection of his discomfort, ill-fit, and near disastrous mishaps calling the shots for his ship and crew, many who were tagged the Greatest Generation. He also recounts becoming a newly-wed, and his first years with his sweetheart, Joanna. (Steve and Joanna are now in their 70th year of marriage.) Read more:

A review of Kin: Family in the 21st century by Marina Kamenev

Kin is a deeply researched book that explores the many ways families are made today, whether that be families without children, families created by sperm donation, IVF, surrogacy, adoption, and parenting with three or more to name just a few. Kamanev does a wonderful job exploring these iterations, combining historical context, stories, interviews, research, personal anecdotes, and pervasive assumptions. Read more:

A review of Notorious in Nashville by Phyllis Gobbell

Music is everywhere in Notorious. From the opening scene at the venerable Bluebird Cafe to the Schermerhorn Symphony to the rusty strings of a down-and-out songwriter forgotten by radio and time. And so, like a great country song, Notorious descends into the trouble in Music City in search of its truth. Read more:

An interview with Maddie Norris, author of The Wet Wound

The author of The Wet Wound talks about her new book, choice of subtitle, balancing the heaviness of subject matter, ideal reader, the use of illustrations, and more. 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 3,308) which can be browsed or searched from the front page of the site.



In the literary news this month, winners have been chosen in four categories for the inaugural Nero Book Awards, celebrating outstanding books and writers from the U.K. and Ireland. Sponsored by Caffè Nero, the prizes are run in partnership with Right to Dream, Brunel University London and the Booksellers Association. The awards were created following the end of the Costa Book Awards and include Children’s fiction: The Swifts by Beth Lincoln, illustrated by Claire Powell, Debut fiction: Close to Home by Michael Magee
Fiction: The Bee Sting by Paul Murray, and for Nonfiction: Strong Female Character by Fern Brady. From these four category winners, one book will be selected as the overall winner and recipient of the Nero Gold Prize, Book of the Year, to be named March 14 in London. Each category winner receives £5,000, with the overall winner getting an additional £30,000.

Finalists in the 27 categories of the 2024 Audie Awards, including the Audiobook of the Year, have been announced by the Audio Publishers Association and can be seen here: Winners will be named March 4 at the Audie Awards Gala in Los Angeles.

The longlist has been selected for the second annual Republic of Consciousness Prize, United States and Canada, which honors fiction from independent presses of “exceptional literary value.” The shortlist will be announced March 5 and the winner March 19. A total of $35,000 will be distributed to the presses and the authors. Each press with a longlisted book will receive $2,000. The five shortlisted books will be rewarded an additional $3,000 each, split equally between the publisher and author, or publisher, author, and translator where applicable.  The longlist includes Cross Stitch by Jazmina Barrera (Two Lines Press), The Long Form by Kate Briggs (Dorothy), Two Sherpas by Sebastián Martínez Daniell, translated by Jennifer Croft (Charo Press), Breaking and Entering by Don Gilmour (Biblioasis), Your Love Is Not Good by Johanna Hedva (And Other Stories), Landscapes by Christine Lai (Two Dollar Radio), The Birthday Party by Laurent Mauvigneir, translated by Daniel Levin Becker (Transit Press), Lojman by Ebru Ojen, translated by Aron Aji and Selin Gökçesu (City Lights), The Box by Mandy-Suzanne Wong (Graywolf Press), and The Sorrow of Others by Ada Zhang (A Public Space). 

Mubanga Kalimamukwento won the 2024 Drue Heinz Literature Prize, which recognises and supports writers of short fiction, for her collection, Obligations to the Wounded. The University of Pittsburgh Press will publish the book on October 8.

Grace Yee has won Australia’s single richest literary prize, the $100,000 Victorian Prize for Literature, for her poetry collection Chinese Fish (Giramondo) at this year’s Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards (VPLAs). The other winners in each category are, for Fiction ($25,000) Edenglassie (Melissa Lucashenko, UQP). For  Nonfiction ($25,000), Personal Score: Sport, culture, identity (Ellen van Neerven, UQP), for Indigenous writing ($25,000) Close to the Subject: Selected works (Daniel Browning, Magabala). For Children’s literature ($25,000), Ghost Book (Remy Lai, A&U). For Drama ($25,000), The Jungle and the Sea (S Shakthidharan & Eamon Flack, Belvoir St Theatre & Currency Press), for Poetry ($25,000), Chinese Fish (Grace Yee, Giramondo), for Writing for young adults ($25,000)A Hunger of Thorns (Lili Wilkinson, A&U Children’s), for Unpublished manuscript ($15,000)‘Panajachel’ (Rachel Morton), and People’s choice award ($2000) The Palestine Laboratory: How Israel Exports the Technology of Occupation Around the World (Antony Loewenstein, Scribe). Winners were announced at a ceremony on 1 February in Melbourne. Last year’s Victorian Prize for Literature winner was Cold Enough for Snow (Jessica Au, Giramondo).

The shortlist has been released for the Pol Roger Duff Cooper Prize for nonfiction books published in the U.K. during 2023. The winning author, who will be named March 4, receives £5,000 and a magnum of Pol Roger Champagne. This year’s shortlisted titles are Revolutionary Spring by Christopher Clark, The Revolutionary Temper: Paris 1748-1789 by Robert Darnton, Courting India by Nandini Das, France on Trial by Julian Jackson, and Monet by Jackie Wullschläger. 

The Australian Children’s Laureate Foundation (ACLF) has named Sally Rippin as the Australian Children’s Laureate for 2024–25. Rippin has written over 100 books for children and young adults, including the series Billie B Brown, Hey Jack!, Polly & Buster, and School of Monsters, as well as the adult nonfiction book Wild Things: How we learn to read and what can happen if we don’t (Hardie Grant), focusing on helping neurodivergent children to read. The Australian Children’s Laureate initiative was established in 2008 to ‘promote the transformational power of reading, creativity and story in the lives of young Australians’. Rippin succeeds laureate Gabrielle Wang (2022–23) and previous laureates, the most recent of which include Ursula Dubosarsky (2020–21), Morris Gleitzman (2018–19), Leigh Hobbs (2016–17), Jackie French (2014–15) and Alison Lester and Boori Monty Pryor (both 2013–14).

Finalists have been unveiled for the C$10,000 Edna Staebler Award for Creative Nonfiction, which is administered by Wilfrid Laurier University, Quill & Quire reported. The prize recognizes a Canadian writer of a first or second published book with a Canadian locale and/or significance. The winner will be named later this spring. This year’s shortlisted titles are: Half-Bads in White Regalia by Cody Caetano and Thick Skin: Field Notes from a Sister in the Brotherhood by Hilary Peach.

The PEN/Faulkner Foundation released the longlist for the 2024 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction. Finalists will be unveiled in early March, with the winner named in April. The longlisted titles are: Witness by Jamel Brinkley (Farrar, Straus and Giroux), The Guest by Emma Cline (Random House), Monica by Daniel Clowes (Fantagraphics), Open Throat by Henry Hoke (MCD), The Best Possible Experience by Nishanth Injam (Pantheon), What Happened to Ruthie Ramirez by Claire Jiménez (Grand Central), Biography of X by Catherine Lacey (Farrar, Straus and Giroux), The Heaven & Earth Grocery Store by James McBride (Riverhead), Absolution by Alice McDermott (Farrar, Straus and Giroux), and Users by Colin Winnette (Soft Skull). 

Nine literary translators and one editor were awarded prizes at this year’s Society of Authors’ Translation Prizes. Along with the runners-up, they shared a prize fund of £28,000 in awards, which were presented for translations into English from Swedish, French, Spanish, Arabic, and German as well as the TA First Translation Prize for a translation from Dutch. Alison Watts won the inaugural Great Britain Sasakawa Foundation Prize for translation from Japanese for her translation of The Boy and the Dog by Seishu Hase. Translator Sophie Collins and editor Marigold Atkey won the TA First Translation Prize for The Opposite of a Person by Lieke Marsman. Check out the complete list of SoA Translation winners here:

A five-book shortlist has been released for the C$50,000 Lionel Gelber Prize, which recognises “the world’s best book on international affairs published in English.” The winner will be named March 6, and take part in a hybrid event hosted by the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs & Public Policy on March 25. This year’s Lionel Gelber finalists are: Power and Progress: Our 1000-year Struggle Over Technology and Prosperity by Daron Acemoglu & Simon Johnson (PublicAffairs), Underground Empire: How America Weaponised the World Economy by Henry Farrell & Abraham Newman (Holt), Homelands: A Personal History of Europe by Timothy Garton Ash (Yale University Press), Seven Crashes: The Economic Crises that Shaped Globalisation by Harold James (Yale University Press), We, The Data: Human Rights in the Digital Age by Wendy H. Wong (MIT Press). 

A longlist has been released for the 2024 Ockham New Zealand Book Awards, the Spinoff reported, noting that Te Herenga Waka University Press has 11 books on the longlist of 44 in four categories. Overall, 20 publishers are represented. The prizes include the NZ$12,000 Booksellers Aotearoa New Zealand Award for Illustrated Nonfiction. The Ockham NZ Book Awards shortlist of 16 titles (four books in each category) will be unveiled March 6. The winners, including the four Mātātuhi Foundation Best First Book Awards recipients, will be named May 15 during the Auckland Writers Festival. Check out the complete list of NZ Book Awards longlist here:

The shortlist has been selected for the 2024 International Prize for Arabic Fiction. The winner will be announced April 28 during the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair. Each of the finalists receives $10,000, and the winner receives another $50,000. The shortlist includes Bahbel: Makkah Multiverse 1945-2009 by Raja Alem (Saudi Arabia), Suleima’s Ring by Rima Bali (Syria), The Seventh Heaven of Jerusalem by Osama Al-Eissa (Palestine), A Mask, the Colour of the Sky by Basim Khandaqji (Palestine), Gambling on the Honour of Lady Mitsy by Ahmed Al-Morsi (Egypt), and The Mosaicist by Eissa Nasiri (Morocco). 

The Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance has named the winners of the Southern Book Prize, honouring “the best Southern book of the year” as nominated by Southern indie booksellers and voted on by their customers. Winners receive a donation in their name to the charity or nonprofit of their choice. The 25th anniversary Southern Book Prize winners are, for fiction, Tom Lake by Ann Patchett (Harper), for Nonfiction, The Comfort of Crows by Margaret Renkl (Spiegel & Grau), and for Children’s & YA, When Sea Becomes Sky by Gillian McDunn (Bloomsbury Children’s Books). 

The longlist has been selected for the inaugural £30,000 Women’s Prize for Non-Fiction, open to “all women writers from across the globe who are published in the U.K. and writing in English.” The shortlist will be announced March 27 and the winner June 13. At 16 books, the longlist is quite long so check it out, along with videos of judges talking about the books, here:

Hilary Peach won this year’s Edna Staebler Award for Creative Nonfiction for her book, Thick Skin: Field Notes from a Sister in the Brotherhood. Administered by Wilfrid Laurier University, the C$10,000 prize recognises Canadian writers for a first or second work of creative nonfiction that includes a Canadian locale or significance. A ceremony and reception honouring Peach will be held March 27 on Laurier’s Waterloo campus.

Finally, a longlist has been selected for the £25,000 (about $31,700) 2024 Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction. The shortlist will be announced in May and the winner in June. The longlisted titles include The New Life by Tom Crewe, A Better Place by Stephen Daisley, Hungry Ghosts by Kevin Jared Hosein, For Thy Great Pain, Have Mercy on My Little Pain by Victoria MacKenzie, Music in the Dark by Sally Magnusson, Cuddy by Benjamin Myers
My Father’s House by Joseph O’Connor, The Fraud by Zadie Smith, Mister Timeless Blyth by Alan Spencer, The House of Doors by Tan Twan Eng, In the Upper Country by Kai Thomas, and Absolutely and Forever by Rose Tremain. 

Have a great month. 



Congratulations to Sabine Blanch who won a copy of The Wet Wound: An Elegy in Essays by Maddie Norris.  

Our new site giveaway this month is for a copy of The Waves Take You Home by María Alejandra Barrios. To win, send me an email at with the subject line “The Waves Take You Home” and your postal address in the body of the mail.  

We also have a copy of Ghost Poetry by Robbie Coburn.  To win, send me an email at with the subject line “Ghost Poetry” and your postal address in the body of the mail.  

Good luck!




“Bobish is quite an amazing accomplishment, so fine, calls to depth of feeling in coolly precise and beautifully balanced lines, tells so much it’s as if a vast hefty epic were distilled somehow…Sometimes I’d gasp, sometimes I’d sigh, sometimes I’d pause and read something over and over… ~Inez Baranay

Now available on Kindle:



We will shortly be featuring reviews of Helens by Mathew David Kalash, If Some God Shakes Your House by Jennifer Franklin, For You I Would Make an Exception by Steven Belletto, Boat Girl: A Memoir of Youth, Love, and Fiberglass by Melanie Neale, 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 Marina Kamenev reading from and talking about her book Kin: Family in the 21st Century: 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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