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19 January 2020 - Sunday

Epigram Books Fiction Prize | Lee Child handing over Jack Reacher

       Epigram Books Fiction Prize

       They've announced the winner of the 2020 Epigram Books Fiction Prize, a leading Singaporean literary prize for an unpublished manuscript -- and it is How the Man in Green Saved Pahang, and Possibly the World, by Joshua Kam; it and the three other finalists will be published by Epigram in the second half of the year.

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

       Lee Child handing over Jack Reacher

       Author of the Jack Reacher-series Lee Child has announced that he's getting too old for this and is handing off the series to his brother (fifteen years his junior). The transition will apparently be gradual, with the next in the series, The Sentinel, attributed to Lee Child (in large print) and Andrew Child (in much smaller print ...).
       See also the reports at the BBC and The Guardian.

       Several Jack Reacher novels are under review at the complete review:        I imagine I'll get to a few more -- but probably more from the backlist rather than this new direction .....

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

18 January 2020 - Saturday

New Asymptote | Bestselling French books in 2019

       New Asymptote

       The January 2020 issue of Asymptote is now available online -- a ton of great international literary material for your weekend reading.

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

       Bestselling French books in 2019

       After listing the bestselling French authors of 2019 (see my previous mention) and the bestselling books in France of the past decade (see my previous mention), they've now come out with the list of top-selling titles of 2019 in France.
       The Livres Hebdo report is mostly paywalled, but most of the information is also available, for example, here.
       With 1,573,000 copies sold, an Astérix-volume was, by far the top seller; two (!) Guillaume Musso titles followed at number two and three, The Reunion selling 565,237 copies and La vie secrète des écrivains selling 391,000 copies. In fourth place: Michel Houellebecq's Serotonin, with 384,709 copies sold -- just ahead of the prix Goncourt-winner by Jean-Paul Dubois, Tous les hommes n'habitent pas le monde de la même façon (367,652 copies).
       Only seven titles sold more than 300,000 copies -- compared to 12 in 2017 and 10 in 2018 .....

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

17 January 2020 - Friday

Bestselling French authors in 2019 | 'Latvian Literature' in 2019 | Divya review

       Bestselling French authors in 2019

       Le Figaro has its annual look at Notre palmarès des romanciers français qui vendent le plus -- the French authors who sold the most books (fiction) in France last year. Their article is paywalled, but helpfully you can find the information elsewhere -- see, for example, the RTBF report.
       Guillaume Musso easily topped the list again, selling 1.4 million books in France; one of his books appeared in the US last year, too -- The Reunion -- which I suspect did not sell quite (or anywhere near ...) as impressively as the original did in France .....
       The top ten were:
  1. Guillaume Musso (1.4 million books sold)
  2. Michel Bussi (946,008)
  3. Virginie Grimaldi (755,819)
  4. Marc Levy (744,544)
  5. Aurélie Valognes (683,338)
  6. Raphaëlle Giordano (631,609)
  7. Agnès Martin-Lugand (592,279)
  8. Franck Thilliez (585,072)
  9. Michel Houellebecq (basically all on the back of Serotonin)
  10. Valérie Perrin (503,867)
       The numbers were lower across the board than 2018's, when the top five all sold more than 800,000 books.

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

       'Latvian Literature' in 2019

       At Latvian Literature they offer their Top Ten 'Latvian Literature' Moments of 2019.
       Amazing that: "Last year saw the first translations of Latvian works into Japanese and Chinese".

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

       Divya review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Yashpal's 1945 Hindi classic, Divya.

       Translator Anand notes re. this translation -- finally published in 2006 by Sahitya Akademi --:
Although the final draft was ready by 1988, the manuscript languished with literary agents in North America for several years, including one in Hollywood who, in the wake of the success of various television min-seres on the Orient in the eighties, took an option on Divya with a view to marketing it in the media as a similar US production. It also survived suggestions by two publishers to rewrite Divya's story in a less literary language so as to make it more accessible to the average reader, until the present publisher rescued it from further inattention.
       The surreal world of publishing books in translation in the US ... whereby it should be noted that this title still hasn't come out in a US edition (i.e. isn't readily available in the US (or, for that matter, UK) market). But then, according the Translation Database at Publishers Weekly, not a single translation of a work of fiction from Hindi was published in the US in all of 2019. (Indeed, the entire period covered by the Translation Database unearths all of six translations of works of fiction from Hindi for the entire period it covers -- 2008 through 2020 .....)

       Of course, what I'd really like to see now is his This Is Not That Dawn, which got a lot of attention (in India) when the English translation came out; see the Penguin India publicity page. But it's surprisingly hard to come about in the US .....

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

16 January 2020 - Thursday

Akutagawa and Naoki prizes | National Jewish Book Award
Best of 2019 in ... Hungary | 'Rightwing literature in Poland'
NEA Arts Project Grants

       Akutagawa and Naoki prizes

       The latest set of winners of two of the leading Japanese literary prizes, the Akutagawa and Naoki prizes, have been announced; see, for example, the Kyodo report, 2 novelists named for Japan's Akutagawa, Naoki literary awards.

       Furukawa Makoto won the Akutagawa Prize for his 背高泡立草 see also the Shueisha publicity page.

       Kawagoe Soichi won the Naoki Prize for 熱源; see the Bunshun publicity page.

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

       National Jewish Book Award

       They've announced the winners of the 2019 (American) National Jewish Book Awards -- now in its sixty-ninth year ! --, in all its many categories.
       The winners will be honored on 17 March.

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

       Best of 2019 in ... Hungary

       At hlo they collect "the twelve most important books from 2019" in Hungary, in Best Books of 2019 -- all in Hungarian, but some familiar names (Krasznahorkai !) and some really good sounding books; hopefully some will be available in English soon.

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

       'Rightwing literature in Poland'

       At Eurozine they reprint Maciej Urbanowski's Osteuropa article, an extensive look at: "Rightwing literature in Poland after 1989", Conservative revolution
       Disturbing if fascinating; I wonder whether we'll see any of these in translation.

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

       NEA Arts Project Grants

       The (American) National Endowment for the Arts has announced its latest batch of grants -- 1,187 grants, for $27.3 million, including 53 'Literary Arts' grants worth $1,150,000; see also the full list (warning ! dreaded pdf format !) of grants.

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

15 January 2020 - Wednesday

Swiss Grand Prize for literature | Crossword Book Awards
(More) coming in 2020 | A Sight for Sore Eyes review

       Swiss Grand Prize for literature

       They've announced the 2020 winners of the federal Swiss literary prizes, including the two career/author prizes, with Sibylle Berg winning the Grand Prix suisse de littérature and translator(-from-the-German-(and-Russian-)to-French) Marion Graf winning the 'special translation prize'; seven books also received prizes.
       Berg has had quite a past year, also winning the (limited to German-language books) Swiss Book Prize for GRM (see the Kiepenheuer & Witsch foreign rights page; I really should get my hands on this one), while her play, Hass-Triptychon -- Wege aus der Krise won the Nestroy Prize (see also the Rowohlt publicity page).
       Graf has translated Robert Walser, Markus Werner, Conrad Ferdinand Meyer, Anna Akhmatova, and Boris Pasternak, among others.
       Berg and Graf will each get CHF 40,000, while each of the book-winners get 25,000; they all pick up their prizes at the official ceremony, on 13 February.

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

       Crossword Book Awards

       They've announced the winners of this year's Crossword Book Awards, a leading Indian literary prize, with both a juried and 'popular' (voted on by the public) set of prizes.
       The Far Field, by Madhuri Vijay, won the English fiction category; see the publicity pages from Harper Collins India and Grove Press, or get your copy at Flipkart,, or
       Jayasree Kalathil's translation (from the Malayalam) of Diary of a Malayali Madman by N.Prabhakaran won the Indian language translation category; see the Harper Collins India publicity page, or get your copy at Flipkart,, or

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

       (More) coming in 2020

       The Millions' Most Anticipated: The Great First-Half 2020 Book Preview, covering some 140 books, came out last week, but now the Literary Hub doubles down with their even more extensive offering of the Lit Hub's Most Anticipated Books of 2020: A Look Ahead at the Year in Reading -- 281 books !
       Here, too, the focus is on 'bigger' books -- but, for that, it's certainly useful. Still: there are lots (and lots and lots) of titles, generally from smaller publishers, also worth looking out for; the Big Other's Most Anticipated Small Press Books of 2020 ! is one place to find some of those -- but there are a lot more out there .....

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

       A Sight for Sore Eyes review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Ruth Rendell's 1998 mystery, A Sight for Sore Eyes.

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

14 January 2020 - Tuesday

T.S.Eliot Prize | 'Indian writers who defined the decade'

       T.S.Eliot Prize

       The T.S.Eliot Prize, a £25,000 prize for: "the best new poetry collection published in the UK or Ireland" has now announced its 2019 winner -- not yet at the official site, last I checked, but see, for example, Sian Cain's report in The Guardian, British-Trinidadian dub poet Roger Robinson wins TS Eliot prize.
       Robinson's A Portable Paradise was the winning title; see also the Peepal Tree Press publicity page, or get your copy at or

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

       'Indian writers who defined the decade'

       At Firstpost Aishwarya Sahasrabudhe suggests Indian writers who defined the decade, from Siddhartha Mukherjee to Sujatha Gidla, Perumal Murugan -- a fairly extensive list.

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

13 January 2020 - Monday

1969 Nobel Prize nominations | Inside the Critics' Circle review

       1969 Nobel Prize nominations

       The 1969 Nobel Prize in Literature was awarded to Samuel Beckett.
       Fifty years after the fact they open the archives regarding deliberations, and so they've now opened those for 1969; usually this gets some press coverage, but it's been very quiet this year. Kaj Schueler had quick coverage in Svenska Dagbladet -- but his report is behind a paywall; at least one can glean that it was ultimately apparently between Beckett and André Malraux.
       At least the list of nominees (warning ! dreaded pdf format !) is now available. There were 103 names nominated, including 28 first-time nominees (marked with an "x"); among them were future laureates Elias Canetti and Alexandr Solzhenitsyn, as well as Edward Albee, Louis Guilloux, Tawfiq al-Hakim, Inoue Yasushi, Arthur Miller, Robert Pinget, Anthony Powell, Raymond Queneau, Alain Robbe-Grillet, and Nathalie Sarraute.
       Quite a few future laureates were also nominated -- as were worthy authors that never won, including Jorge Luis Borges, Nabokov, and Tarjei Vesaas.

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

       Inside the Critics' Circle review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Phillipa K. Chong's look at Book Reviewing in Uncertain Times, in Inside the Critics' Circle, just out from Princeton University Press.

       (Of course it's impossible to resist reviewing a book on book reviewing .....)

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

12 January 2020 - Sunday

NBCC Awards finalists | The last 100 reviews

       NBCC Awards finalists

       The (American) National Book Critics Circle has announced the finalists for its awards in their six categories: autobiography, biography, criticism, fiction, non, and poetry.
       I have read (sigh: seen) none of these.
       The winners will be announced 12 March.

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

       The last 100 reviews

       I recently reached 4500 books under review at the complete review, so it's time for another overview of the past 100 reviewed titles (4401 through 4500) -- somewhat confusingly coming almost right after the more comprehensive year in numbers overview covering all of 2019 (and twice as many reviews).

       - The last 100 reviews were posted over 188 days -- slightly longer than the previous 100 (162 days), and totaling 131,184 (last 100: 138,605 words). The longest review was 4519 words, and eight reviews were over 2000 words long.
       Reviewed books had a total of 25,743 pages, slightly above the previous 25,858, making for a pages-per-day rate of 137.54 (down from the previous 156.8).

       - Reviewed books were originally written in 30 different languages (including English); English led the way, with 22 titles, followed closely by French (21), and then Japanese (9), German (8), and Spanish (7). Two new language was added -- Faroese and Latvian -- bringing the total number of languages covered to an impressive 80. More impressively, there are now 37 languages from which at least ten books have been reviewed (one-offs are something, but by the time ten titles are reviewed, that begins to amount to meaningful coverage, I think). (See also the updated full breakdown of all the languages books under review were originally written in.)

       - Reviewed books were by authors from around 42 countries (previous 100: 36) -- 'around' because it's not always clear what 'country' a particular place (from a particular era) should be counted as --, France leading the way with 17, followed by Japan and the UK (9 each).

       - Male-written books were, yet again, overwhelmingly dominant, with 82 of the reviewed books written by men (just better than the historic sexist average of written-by-women titles under review of now ... 16.22 per cent).

       - One book was rated A -- Welcome to America, by Linda Boström Knausgård, and 8 were rated A-; B was the most common grade (52), while one title got a B-.

       - Fiction dominated, as it always does, with 83 titles that were novels/novellas/stories.

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

11 January 2020 - Saturday

Publishing in ... Africa | Lokalbericht review

       Publishing in ... Africa

       Via I'm pointed to Stanley Gazemba's African Publishing Minefields and the Woes of the African Writer in The Elephant; it's from a couple of weeks ago, but I only came across it now.
The best efforts to find a successor to the hugely successful African Writers Series have so far failed to bear fruit while the indigenisation of the book trade has seen the neglect of the African writer of fiction, with local publishers preferring the financial safety of educational publishing.
       Quite a few AWS titles are under review at the complete review; note, however, that books from a lot of present-day African publishers are readily available through the invaluable African Books Collective.

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

       Lokalbericht review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Hermann Burger's Lokalbericht -- his first novel, from 1970, but only published posthumously, in 2016.

       The whole book is also available, in exemplary form, online.

       Only a smattering of Burger is available in English -- e.g. -- but his Brenner is forthcoming from Archipelago Books in Adrian Nathan West's translation; for now, see the Nagel & Kimche publicity page.

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

10 January 2020 - Friday

Shortlists: The Hindu Prize - RBC Taylor Prize - Romain Rolland Book Prize
Disturbance review

       Shortlists: The Hindu Prize

       They've announced the shortlists for this year's The Hindu Prize, a leading Indian literary prize; among the fiction finalists is Upamanyu Chatterjee's collection of stories, The Assassination of Indira Gandhi; see also the Speaking Tiger publicity page.
       The winners will be announced in April.

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

       Shortlist: RBC Taylor Prize

       The five finalists for this year's RBC Taylor Prize, the Canadian prize whose mandate is: "to enhance public appreciation for the genre known as literary non-fiction", have been announced.
       The winner will be announced on 2 March; it is the final time the prize will be awarded.

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

       Shortlist: Romain Rolland Book Prize

       The Romain Rolland Book Prize is awarded by the French Institute of India for the best translation from the French into an Indian language, and they've now announced this year's finalists; see the ... Instagram post.
       The finalists are three Astérix-volumes translated into Hindi, the Bengali traslation of Leïla Slimani's Chanson Douce, the Tamil translation of Hubert Haddad's Corps désirable, and a Malayalam translation of a Simone de Beauvoir.
       The winner will be announced at the at Zee Jaipur Literature Festival on 23 January.

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

       Disturbance review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Philippe Lançon's account of Surviving Charlie Hebdo, Disturbance, recently out from Europa Editions.

       Lançon will be on tour in the US 23 January to 1 February.

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

9 January 2020 - Thursday

Banipal Prize | Coming in 2020 | Translation from ... the Latvian

       Banipal Prize

       Most of the winners of the Society of Authors' Translation Prizes will only be announced at the ceremony 12 February, but they have now announced the winner of this year's Saif Ghobash Banipal Prize for Arabic Literary Translation and it is Leri Price for her translation of Death is Hard Work by Khaled Khalifa; see also the Farrar, Straus and Giroux publicity page, or get your copy at or

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

       Coming in 2020

       The Millions have now published their Most Anticipated: The Great First-Half 2020 Book Preview, covering some 140 books.
       Meanwhile, at Buzzfeed Arianna Rebolini and Tomi Obaro explain These Are Our Most Highly Anticipated Books Of 2020 -- 83 titles, both fiction and non.

       Neither, however, includes the second volume of Peter Weiss' The Aesthetics of Resistance, coming from Duke University Presss (fifteen years after the first volume was published in translation; there's still one more to go) -- surely one of the highlights of the year.

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

       Translation from ... the Latvian reports that “Latvian Literature” spends almost 140 000 euros publishing works abroad, as:
Latvian Literature export platform “Latvian Literature” spent 138 829 euros in 2019 translating and publishing 29 works of Latvian literature abroad
       The 29 works were translated into 25 different languages.

       I only finally got around to reviewing a work translated from the Latvian last year -- an Albert Bels novel -- and I'm very much looking forward to another Bels title, his Insomnia, forthcoming from Parthian Books.

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

8 January 2020 - Wednesday

Booker Prize judges | A Case of Exploding Mangoes (not) in Pakistan
SF in Brazil | Quarry review

       Booker Prize judges

       They've announced the judges for the 2020 Booker Prize: Margaret Busby (chair), Lee Child, Sameer Rahim, Lemn Sissay, and Emily Wilson.

       I wonder if Child will get them to confirm whether or not his publishers ever submitted any of his novels for the prize (though I think we all know the answer to that one ...). (Outrageously, like many literary prizes, they don't reveal the titles that are actually considered for the prize.)

       The longlist will be announced in July; the shortlist in September; and the winner 27 October.

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

       A Case of Exploding Mangoes (not) in Pakistan

       Mohammed Hanif's A Case of Exploding Mangoes came out quite a while ago, but the Urdu translation is relatively recent, and it's now attracted some unwanted attention in Pakistan; as the BBC reports, Exploding Mangoes seized in Pakistan raids.
       A bit late in the day, but it'll be interesting to see how this plays out.

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

       SF in Brazil

       In the new Locus Roberto Causo offers a good overview of the current situation re. SF in Brazil.

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

       Quarry review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Célia Houdart's 2011 novel, Quarry, now (just about) out in English from Dalkey Archive Press.

       An impressive command here -- definitely an author I'd like to see more from. (I hadn't seen any of her work previously; will definitely be keeping an eye out now; Villa Crimée (see the P.O.L. publicity page), for example, definitely sounds of interest.)

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

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7 January 2020 - Tuesday

Whitbread Costa category winners | Virginie Despentes quits Académie Goncourt
Audiobook popularity

       Whitbread Costa category winners

       The Whitbread Costa Book Awards have announced the winners in the prize's five categories -- first novel, novel, biography, poetry and children's book --; these five titles are now in the running for the final Costa Book Award, to be announced 28 January.
       One of the category winners -- best novel -- is under review at the complete review: Jonathan Coe's Middle England.

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

       Virginie Despentes quits Académie Goncourt

       Vernon Subutex-author Virginie Despentes has resigned from the prix Goncourt-deciding Académie Goncourt -- though not for any scandalous reason: her official statement (warning ! dreaded pdf format !) explains that she needs/wants more time to write, and that she's relocating to Barcelona, which makes regular attendance in Paris more of an imposition.

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

       Audiobook popularity

       For a while it was e-books that were the fastest growing sector in publishing, but now its audiobooks that are hot, and at the BBC site Clare Thorp reports on Audiobooks: The rise and rise of the books you don't read.
       Impressive, what's now on offer -- including how fancy some of the productions have become -- but I'm afraid they fall on deaf ears as far as my reading-habits go; I remain devoted to text, plain and simple. (Similarly, I still have never managed to listen to an online podcast; I'm no great video fan either.)

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

6 January 2020 - Monday

Coming in 2020 in translation from ... the French
Top comics of 2019 in Germany | The Town with Acacia Trees review
2019 in review at the complete review

       Coming in 2020 in translation from ... the French

       The Cultural Services of the French Embassy in the U.S. has an impressive overview of French Books in the U.S. - The 2020 Edition, covering all genres, complete with a full list (warning ! dreaded pdf format !) of all the titles.
       Among the interesting notes, too:
In 2020, 117 fiction books, a majority of which were released in France over the last 3 years, will be published in the United States. In contrast, in 2019 and 2018, over half of the translated publications dated back 5 and 10 years, respectively.
       And it's (somewhat) surprising that only:
32% of the fiction books to be published in 2020 were written by women, a similar proportion to last year.
       Beyond 117 fiction books, they report that 140 non-fiction books are scheduled, and 112 graphic novels.

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

       Top comics of 2019 in Germany

       The German magazine Comics has released their Comic-Bestenliste - 2019, with 30 critics voting on the top 20 comics published in Germany in 2019.
       The top-ranked comic that originally appeared in English -- a Posy Simmonds -- only clocks in at sixth; overall it's an impressively international selection.

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

       The Town with Acacia Trees review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Mihail Sebastian's 1935 novel, The Town with Acacia Trees, now out in English from Aurora Metro Books.

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

       2019 in review at the complete review

       The year that was at the site, in (some) numbers:

       In 2019, 209 books were reviewed at the complete review, slightly down from 2018 (217). (The soft target each year is 200.)

       You can find the 50 most popular reviews, 2019 here. (I've mentioned these previously, here.)

       The most popular (of the not particularly popular) author pages were:
  1. Amélie Nothomb
  2. Patrick White
  3. Murakami Haruki
  4. Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o
  5. Roberto Bolaño
       Just like last year, the top four were also the previous year's top four -- though in different order, with Nothomb coming out number one this year.

       The most popular review-indices were for:
  1. Far East Asian (Chinese, Japanese, Korean) literature
  2. Books from selected Imprints and Publishers
  3. French literature
  4. Erotic, Pornographic, and Sex-related books
  5. Eastern European literature
  6. Mysteries and Thrillers
  7. German literature
  8. Books Written Before 1900
  9. Latin and South American literature
  10. Scandinavian literature
       The erotic index was the most popular in 2018, but it plunged to fourth in 2019; surprisingly, the index to Indian literature fell all the way out of the top 10.

       I received 437 review copies in 2019, a considerable (and very welcome) increase from the 384 received the previous year and the most since 2016.
       The leading providers of review copies were mostly the usual suspects, with a particularly strong showing from university presses; Harvard University Press was propelled to the top spot in large measure by their various excellent bilingual classical series, beating out last year's leader New York Review Books, even though I received considerably more NYR titles in 2019 than 2018 (30, versus 23).
       Big-five imprints contributed a fairly small number of titles -- though it was good to finally receive at least a decent selection of Pengun Classics (even if a considerable percentage were Simenons ...); World Editions was also a basically new source.
       The top ten providers of review copies in 2019 were:
  • 1. Harvard University Press (40)
  • 2. New York Review Books (30)
  • 3. Other Press (25)
  • 4. Penguin Classics (19)
  • 5. Oxford University Press (16)
  • 6. Columbia University Press (14)
  • -. New Directions (14)
  • -. World Editions (14)
  • -. Yale University Press (14)
  • 10. Dalkey Archive Press (13)
       As of 31 December 2019 I had reviewed 102 of the titles acquired this way (i.e. not including library or bought books, etc.) --: 23.34% of all review copies received over the course of the year, and accounting for 48.80% of all titles reviewed. (Amazingly, this is almost the exact number of 2018 review-copies reviewed by year's end in 2018, when it was 101.) (Obviously, a considerable number of titles are only reviewed the year (or years ...) after they've been received/acquired -- I've already reviewed three more 2019 review-copies in 2020, for example, while 25 review-copies received in 2018 were reviewed in 2019.)

       Books originally written in 45 languages (up slightly from 44 in 2018) were reviewed. It's particularly nice to see that a significant number of languages weren't simply one-offs: more than one book in each of 21 languages was reviewed -- though there was also a particularly good showing for titles in English this year.
       The top ten languages were:
  • 1. English 46 (22.01% of all books) (2018: 35)
  • 2. French 39 (2018: 37)
  • 3. German 20.5 (17)
  • 4. Japanese 18 (22)
  • 5. Spanish 12 (13)
  • 6. Dutch 7
  • 7. Korean 5
  • -. Russian 5
  • 9. Norwegian 4
  • 10. Italian 3.5
       Counting countries is a bit less useful, since they change (and occasionally disappear) over the decades and centuries, but books by authors from more or less 59 countries (or rather: 59 more or less countries) were reviewed (2018: 54), the top ten being:
  • 1. France 30 (2018: 28)
  • 2. UK 22 (13)
  • 3. Japan 18 (22)
  • 4. US 13
  • 5. Germany 12
  • 6. India 9
  • 7. Austria 8
  • 8. Belgium 7
  • 9. Italy 5
  • -. Netherlands 5
       Fiction was, as always, dominant: 163 of the reviews were of novels, along with reviews of three novellas and eight story-collections. Eighteen works were of general non-fiction, along with six poetry collections and (disappointingly only) two dramas.

       Recent publications again dominated, with 18 works originally published (in the language they were written in, not the English translation) in 2019, the scecond highest total for any year, behind 2017 (19).
       Yet again, the 1980s were a (relatively) unpopular decade, while there was a big jump in titles from the 1960s (from 10 to 20):
  • 1990s: 17
  • 1980s: 8
  • 1970s: 17
  • 1960s: 20
  • 1950s: 1
  • 1940s: 4
  • 1930s: 7
  • 1920s: 2
  • 1910s: 2
  • 1900s: 1
       Seven titles from the nineteenth century were reviewed, as well as seven from earlier than that -- slight increases in both categories.

       The ratio of male-to-female authors was not good, but it was several points above the terrible historical average, with 22.01% of titles by women (46).

       No title was graded 'A+' in 2019, but two were graded 'A':        As in 2018, the lowest grade was a 'C', and again it was only awarded to one title, Johanna Sinisalo's Renaten tarina.

       Books reviewed ranged in length from 70 to 1582 pages (2018: 33/1152). Only ten titles were over 500 pages long (2018: 16), and only nine were less than 100 pages long (2018: 15); while five were under 50 pages long in 2018, none were in 2019.
       The total number of pages reviewed was down slightly, to 54,185 (compared to 56,101 in 2018), but the average reviewed book came in slightly longer, at 259.26 pages. the median -- 228 -- was also up from 2018 (220).

       The length of the average review again increased significantly, to 1352 words (2018: 1167.76 words), and the reviews posted in 2019 totaled 282,561 words, almost 30,000 more than in 2018 (253,405). The longest review was 6501 words long, two more were over 4000 words, and seventeen more over 2000; only one was under 500 words. The median review was 1213 words long, up from 1063 in 2018.

       Disappointingly, site traffic as a whole continued to decline: the number of visitors was down 10.00% compared to 2018, while page-views were down 6.73%.
       At least there was a significant increase in traffic from a variety of countries, notably in eastern Asia -- traffic from China was up 56.75% (pushing it to 13th place, up from 24th in 2018) and from Japan it was up 24.98% (pushing it to 16th place, up from 22nd in 2018).
       There were visitors from 221 countries and territories in 2019 (2018: 220).

       The countries from which the most traffic came were:
  1. United States (34.49%; 2018: 33.17%;)
  2. India (13.27%)
  3. United Kingdom (7.55%)
  4. Canada (4.30%)
  5. Philippines (4.20%)
  6. Nigeria
  7. Australia
  8. Germany
  9. Netherlands
  10. South Africa
       The top ten nations remained unchanged, with only the Netherlands and South Africa switching positions.

       Visitors to the site still overwhelmingly reach it via search-queries -- and Google search queries at that (Bing, DuckDuckGo, and anything else are barely a trickle compared to the Google flood) -- while outside site-referrals continue to depressingly barely rate a mention.

       Only two titles shifted double-digit amounts of copies purchased by users via the links on the review-pages -- The Face on the Cutting-Room Floor by Cameron McCabe and Waves by Eduard von Keyserling.

       As usual, I am disappointed by the many books I didn't get to, and that I didn't cover an even greater variety of titles (language, genre, period), but overall I think it was a pretty decent selection. And there's always next (this) year .....

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

5 January 2020 - Sunday

Coming in 2020 in translation from ... the Japanese
Bestselling of the decade in ... France | Maigret appreciation

       Coming in 2020 in translation from ... the Japanese

       In The Japan Times Iain Maloney has an overview of a selection of The books and translations about Japan to watch out for in 2020; a few not listed there are noted by Lines from the Horizon in an older post (with update hopefully to follow ...) -- including one of the most-anticipated titles, Kawakami Mieko's Breasts and Eggs; see also the Europa Editions publicity page. (Kawakami's Ms Ice Sandwich is the only one of her works translated so far.)
       Great to see there will also be new books by Convenience Store Woman-author Murata Sayaka and The Factory-author Oyamada Hiroko -- and more.

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

       Bestselling of the decade in ... France

       Livres Hebdo/GFK have determined the top twenty bestselling titles in France over the past decade; the article reporting on this is (largely) paywalled, but you can actually find and click through all twenty titles in the 'Livres cités (20)'-column on the left side of the piece .....
       The top seller was Stéphane Hessel's Time for Outrage !, followed by quite a few Asterix-comics (four of the next five titles). Impressively, Elena Ferrante (just) beat out E.L.James (though with four titles in the top 20, her series as a whole did better) -- and Camus' The Stranger came in a strong eleventh.
       Two other titles are under review at the complete review: The Truth about the Harry Quebert Affair by Joël Dicker (17th) and The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared (18th).
       No actual sales numbers, however .....

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

       Maigret appreciation

       With Penguin Classics having completed their six-year project of bringing out all of Georges Simenon's Maigret-novels in new translations -- with Maigret and Monsieur Charles (get your copy at or the seventy-fifth, final volume -- Graeme Macrae Burnet offers an appreciation in The Observer, Put that in your pipe: why the Maigret novels are still worth savouring.
       I've gotten to a few of these -- see, for example, Maigret and the Good People of Montparnasse -- and I have a pile more to get to.
       Of course, as I've mentioned before, what I really would love to see is more of Simenon's romans durs -- many of which haven't even been previously translated.

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

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