October, 2017

The 2017 Leonard Award

by Kate Tuttle | Oct-17-2017

It's that time of year again: time to talk about the John Leonard Prize, our annual award based on member nominations and chosen by a panel of member volunteers.

Named for the longtime critic and NBCC co-founder, the prize is awarded for the best first book in any genre. Previous winners - Anthony Marra's "A Constellation of Vital Phenomena" (2013), Phil Klay's "Redeployment" (2014), Kristin Valdez Quade's "Night at the Fiestas" (2015), and Yaa Gyasi's "Homegoing" (2016) - have all been fiction. But works of nonfiction and poetry are also eligible. All nominated titles must be an author's first-ever book in any genre, published in the United States in calendar year 2017.


To generate more discussion, members are invited to write a short review about a favorite 2017 debut for the NBCC blog, Critical Mass. If you're interested in contributing, please contact board member Kerri Arsenault. We expect this will be a lively forum for getting the word out about Leonard Prize contenders. And, as always, please share your suggestions on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram using the hashtag #NBCCLeonard.


In November, you'll receive an email via SurveyMonkey asking you to nominate your top 5 books for the prize. We'll compile those nominations to come up with a slate of the most nominated books as finalists.


Last year, for the first time, we invited members to join a panel of volunteers who committed to read the entire slate of Leonard finalists (probably 5-7 books) and vote for the winner, which was announced in January. It went well except for difficulties with holiday season book distribution to our 50 panelists. So we're doing the same thing this year-except this time there will be ebooks only. If you don't have a suitable device, this would be a great time to get one. 

The Leonard committee is open to any NBCC member, and there is no cap on how many may participate. So please join! To sign up, click here by 5 pm NY time Nov. 20. We anticipate you'll have about six weeks to read the books before voting for a winner by Jan. 8. If you have any questions about joining, please email board member Dan Akst, who is chairing the committee. And as always, you're welcome to email me with questions and comments.

Happy reading, and we hope you'll be actively involved in the John Leonard Prize this year.



Kate Tuttle

NBCC Board President

Great Reads for a Harvest Moon from Jeffrey Eugenides, Jennifer Egan, Salman Rushdie & more

by Anjali Enjeti | Oct-09-2017












Reviews and other news:

The Nobel Prize in Literature goes to Kazuo Ishiguro, whose 2005 novel
Never Let Me Go" was an NBCC finalist in fiction.

NBCC board member and former president Tom Beer wrote about new books from Ta'Nehisi Coates, Dan Brown and Jeffrey Eugenides for Newsday and offers some insight into book reviewing for Lit Hub's new "Secrets of the Book Critics" series. 

NBCC VP/Online Jane Ciabattari interviewed the co-founders of Litquake, a San Francisco Literary Institution. Her BBC Culture column features NBCC fiction award honoree Jennifer Egan & multiple NBCC fiction finalist Jeffrey Eugenides.  

NBCC board member Anjali Enjeti reviewed "Nasty Women: Feminism, Resistance and Revolution in Trump's America" edited by Samhita Mukhopadhyay and Kate Harding for Rewire News

NBCC board member and VP/Secretary Mary Ann Gwynn reviewed Masha Gessen's "The Future Is History: How Totalitarianism Reclaimed Russia," recently named a National Book Award finalist, for Newsday.

Steven G. Kellman, former NBCC board member and Balakian recipient, reviewed Roger D. Hodge's "Texas Blood" for the Texas Observer.  

Former NBCC board member Steve Paul is the author of "Hemingway at Eighteen: The Pivotal Year That Launched an American Legend," published in October by Chicago Review Press. In 2016 he retired from The Kansas City Star after a career of more than 40 years, including long stretches as book review editor and arts editor.

Katha Pollitt, who was honored with an NBCC award for "Antarctic Traveller," writes about Hugh Hefner for her column in The Nation

Longtime NBCC member Jonah Raskin published a new noir murder mystery set in Sonoma, California, titled “Dark Land, Dark Mirror” and published by McCaa Books.

DeWitt Henry reviewed Margot Livesy's "The Hidden Machinery: Essays on Writing" and Beth Ann Fennelly's "Heating and Cooling" for The Woven Tale Press. 

Clea Simon’s latest mystery, "World Enough," will be published in the US by Severn House on Nov. 1. Kirkus Reviews called it “a fascinating reminiscence of sex, drugs, and rock and roll,” and Publishers Weekly called it “an intriguing series launch,” adding “readers with a taste for noir are sure to want to see more.”

Olga Zilberbourg reviewed "Knots" by Gunnhild Øyehaug, translated from Norwegian by Kari Dickson for The Common.

Jim Ruland reviewed Elizabeth Hand's "Fire" from PM Press' Outspoken Author series for San Diego CityBeat

Robert Allen Papinchak reviewed Salman Rushdie's "Golden House," Jennifer Egan's "Manhattan Beach," and Bill Goldstein's "The World Broke In Two: Virginia Woolf, T.S. Eliot, D.H. Lawrence, E.M. Forster and the Year That Changed Literature" for the National Book Review.

Heller McAlphin reviewed Jeffrey Eugenides' "Fresh Complaint" for NPR.

Maureen Corrigan reviewed Jon McGregor's "Reservoir 13" for the Washington Post

Michael Lindgren wrote about Jennifer L. Liebermann's "Power Lines: Electricity in American Life and Letters, 1882-1952" for Empty Mirror Books.

Former NBCC board member David Haglund wrote about Kazuo Ishiguro's 2017 Nobel Prize in Literature for The New Yorker. 

Hamilton Cain reviewed Nathan Englander's "Dinner at the Center of the Earth" in the October issue of O, the Oprah Magazine and reviewed Bolivian writer Rodrigo Hasbún's "Affections" for the New York Journal of Books.

David Nilsen interviewed Carmen Machado about her debut novel, "Her Body and Other Parties" for The Millions.  

NBCC members note: Your reviews seed this roundup; please send items, including news about your new publications and recent honors, to NBCCCritics@gmail.com. With reviews, please include title of book and author, as well as name of publication. Make sure to send links that do not require a subscription or username and password.​ We love dedicated URLs. We do not love hyperlinks. 

NBCC board member Anjali Enjeti writes about books for the Atlanta Journal Constitution, Rewire News, The Literary Hub, The Guardian, and elsewhere.

Critical Notes: October Launches, Jennifer Egan, Jonathan Eig, Sally Rooney & More

by Jane Ciabattari | Oct-02-2017

Member reviews and interviews:

Jennifer Egan, who earned the NBCC Fiction Award for her novel A Visit from the Goon Squad,  has a new novel out this month. Priscilla Gilman reviewed Manhattan Beach for the Boston Globe. Eileen Weiner reviewed it for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 10/1/17

NBCC board member and Minneapolis Star-Tribune senior editor for books Laurie Hertzel interviewed “Five Under 35” winner Lesley Nneka Arimah about the honor.  She also wrote her weekly column pondering which books to save in the event of a hurricane or other natural disaster. (An unthinkable question!) And she reviewed Jonathan Eig's biography, "Ali: A Life," for the Star Tribune.

David Varno has new reviews up, including Rodrigo Hasbún’s Affections, in Words Without Borders, and Juan Villoro's The Reef, in the Brooklyn Rail

NBCC board member Kerri Arsenault interviews new FSG Vice President, Colin Dickerman, on Lithub, for her column “Interview with a Gatekeeper." She also reviews Inara Verzemnieks’s book, Among the Living and the Dead: A Tale of Exile and Homecoming on the War Roads of Europe, for the Brooklyn Rail.

Gail Pool's essay, "The Case for Classics," was published by WBUR's Cognoscenti.

New NBCC member Alison Buckholtz reviews two novels for the Florida Times-Union: Conversations with Friends by Sally Rooney amd Elif Batuman's The Idiot. She also reviewed the poetry collection Dots & Dashes by Jehanne Dubrow for the Military Spouse Book Review.

Kai Maristed reviewed Peter Stamm's To The Back of Beyond for The Arts Fuse.

Patti Jazanoski reviews Thi Bui’s The Best We Could Do for Consquence Magazine.

Other News:

Jack Sullivan ( an NBCC  member since 1978)  has a new book, New Orleans Remix, from University Press of Mississippi, coming in October. Based on dozens of interviews and archives, this book covers the contemporary music scene in New Orleans, a city which since the 1990s has experienced its greatest renaissance since the Louis Armstrong era. The focus is jazz, but the book also includes opera, brass band, funk, zydeco, and much else.

Shenandoah awarded Philip Belcher the Carter Prize for the Essay for “Beyond Autobiography: Claudia Emerson through Three Poems on Race" in Vol. 66, no. 1.

NBCC Balakian award winner  (and former board member) Parul Sehgal describes her new role as NYTimes book critic.

NBCC members note: Your reviews seed this roundup; please send items, including news about your new publications and recent honors, to NBCCCritics@gmail.com. With reviews, please include title of book and author, as well as name of publication. Make sure to send links that do not require a subscription or username and password.​ We love dedicated URLs. We do not love hyperlinks. 

President’s Letter for NBCC Members

by Kate Tuttle | Oct-01-2017

Dear NBCC Members:

I hope summer treated you well, and that you're enjoying nice fall weather, wherever you may be. The NBCC board met in New York last month, and I wanted to share the minutes from that meeting - you'll see them below - and to remind you of some upcoming NBCC business.
First, a few key dates: the awards for books published in 2017 will be presented Thursday, March 15, 2018. The finalists' reading will take place the previous evening, Wednesday, March 14, 2018. Both events are free to the public, and will take place at the New School. Our annual gala will be held immediately following the awards presentations on March 15 - tickets will be available for purchase closer to the date.
John Leonard Prize
This is the fifth year of the NBCC's John Leonard Prize, awarded to an outstanding first book in any genre and selected by the general membership. To be eligible, a book must have been published in the United States in 2017, and it must be the author's first book. (A first novel by author who has already published a book of short stories or a memoir, for example, would NOT be eligible.) Last year, Yaa Gyasi's "Homegoing" received the prize.
We invite members to join an all-volunteer committee of Leonard readers who commit to read the entire slate of Leonard finalists (probably 5-7 books) and vote for the winner, to be announced in January. The Leonard committee is open to any NBCC member. Look for an email with more Leonard details in the next week.
The Nona Balakian Citation for Excellence in Reviewing

The NBCC awards the Nona Balakian Citation for Excellence in Reviewing each year to recognize outstanding work by a member of the NBCC. The citation is awarded in honor of Nona Balakian, a founding member of the National Book Critics Circle. Nominees for the Balakian Award must be NBCC members in good standing, and may submit up to 5 book reviews for a total of 5000 words.  The deadline is December 17. Compete guidelines are HERE.
The Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award
The Sandrof Award honors outstanding contribution to American letters. Named after the first president of the NBCC, the award is given annually to a person or institution-a writer, publisher, critic, or editor, among others-who has, over time, made significant contributions to literary culture.  Recent recipients include Margaret Atwood, Wendell Berry, Toni Morrison, Rolando Hinojosa-Smith, and Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar. The deadline for nominations is December 1. Please submit your ideas, along with a few sentences about why the proposed candidate should be considered, to committee chair Michael Schaub at mschaubtx@gmail.com. There's more information HERE.
NBCC Members' Choice
Every year NBCC members are asked to nominate titles to be finalists for the book awards in fiction, nonfiction, biography, autobiography, poetry and criticism. Any title that receives 20 percent of members' votes automatically becomes a finalist. It's been a decade since a book was honored that way-Michael Pollan's "The Omnivore's Dilemma" in 2006-but we hope you'll take the chance to participate. Look for a SurveyMonkey nomination form in your email in November.
NBCC Board Elections
We are now accepting nominations for eight open seats on the board of directors. Board members serve three-year terms and participate throughout the year helping to run our all-volunteer organization and discussing books under consideration for awards. If you are interested in running for a board position, please don't hesitate to contact me at kate.tuttle@gmail.comfor more information. To nominate yourself for a board position, e-mail board member Tom Beer at TomNBeer@aol.com with a statement outlining the contributions you hope to make to the board as well as your relevant qualifications. We will send out another call for nominations closer to the December 1 deadline.
Membership Issues, Concerns, etc.
We've heard from many members lately about problems with paying your dues, issues receiving emails, and other concerns. We want you to know we hear you and we're working on some technological changes that we hope will fix all problems. In the meantime, if you have anything to report or any questions needing answers, please feel free to reach out to Yahdon Israel, our new VP of membership, at yahdonisrael@bookcritics.org.
One last thing...
Don't forget to follow the NBCC on various social media platforms - it's a great way to see what's going on and to interact with other members. Look for @bookcritics on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. 

I hope that you all have a good fall, with many good books and book reviews on the agenda. As always, if you have questions, concerns, or suggestions please feel free to email me at kate.tuttle@gmail.com.
Kate Tuttle
NBCC Board President

Minutes of the NBCC board meeting, September 16, 2017, at the New York University Institute for the Humanities.
Board members present: Laurie Hertzel, Kerri Arsenault, Daisy Fried, Michele Filgate, Clay Smith, Elizabeth Taylor, Carlin Romano, Marion Winik, Anjali Enjeti, John McWhorter, Dan Akst, Mark Rotella, Michael Miller, Walton Muyumba, Jane Ciabattari, Yahdon Israel, Tess Taylor, Tom Beer, Kate Tuttle, Mary Ann Gwinn
Via video: Katherine Powers, Lori Feathers
The meeting opened with committee reports. Yahdon Israel, membership chair, said member numbers are down about fifty people from spring levels - at that point  there were 721 full members, 200 "friend of " memberships and 98 student memberships. Full membership is down about 50, to about 470; other categories are maintaining.
He blamed part of the decline in part on continuing problems with Pay Pal and the web site  - people are still not receiving notifications when their memberships have expired.  A more general issue is uncertainty among members concerning what benefits they are getting for belonging to the NBCC.  Yahdon said he is putting together a spreadsheet of members by location, which could generate opportunities for regional programming and meet-and-greets.  This could also result in a system in which editors are matched to reviewers in their cities.
President Kate Tuttle announced the dates for March awards week. The readings will be on March 14;  awards night will be March 15. Kerri Arsenault noted that AWP is later this year and falls the week before NBCC awards week.
Treasurer Marion Winik gave the treasurer's report. We have about $16,000 in the bank. Taxes and annual reports have been filed. She said members could now link their reimbursements to Pay Pal, and said she would walk people through how to do that, but she's still willing to send a check via snail mail.

Online VP Jane Ciabattari gave the online committee report. She was very complimentary of new online committee members and their hard work:  "A special thanks to our hard-working new online committee. Laurie Hertzel, Bethanne Patrick, Michele Filgate and Anjali Enjetiare curating Critical Mass. (Anjali also is in charge of our Constant Contact version.) Yahdon Israel jumpstarted our Instagram (he's also on our Twitter feed). Kerri (Arsenault), Anjali, Daisy (Fried) and Laurie (Hertzel) keep Facebook going." She encouraged other folks to get involved with online activities, including  a themed series of blog posts for Critical Mass.
Other online highlights:

Facebook: 8.5K likes, up from8.4K in March.  @bookcritics 16.5K, up from16.2Kin March. InstaGram @bookcritics: 983 followers, up from 864 in March.
Critical Mass highlights: NBCC finalists' announcementin January drew just shy of 30,000 page views.
The #ResistanceLit NBCC Reads series drew13,811pageviews, an average of about 1,000, with T.J. Stiles on Vonnegut's Mother Night  coming in at 1667 and Jonathan Lethem on Philip K. Dick's The Penultimate Truth at 1396.
The annual 30 Books in 30 Daysseries of finalists reviewed by board members drew 25,496 pageviews and was cross posted on Lit Hub (top was Clay Smith's review of our fiction winner, Louise Erdrich's LaRose).
The announcement of the NBCC awards and video of the ceremony gathered more than 14.5 pageviews.  The speech by Margaret Atwood (6588), which was cross posted on Lit Hub, also was popular.
Announcements of NBCC summer events have also drawn well-the BEA panel (1910), NBCC/Zyzzyva cocktail party in San Francisco (900) and Brooklyn Book Festival Bookend event (2328)
This summer four of ourEmerging Criticscontributed to a blog series onSummer Reading for a total of 3200 pageviews.
The weeklyCritical Notes roundups, curated by our new online team, drew up to 2500+ pageviews, with most reaching at least 1500; Critical Notes, a cut/paste email version of these roundups, builds further visibility for members' work.  

 Michele Filgate gave the events report. The Sept. 14 Center for Fiction panel "At Home in the World: On Writing, Immigration, and Belonging" went very well, with capable organization by Jane Ciabattari. Walton Muyumba moderated, and panelists included former NBCC board member Rigoberto Gonzalez.  Michele said she has reached out to members in Chicago and Washington, D.C. about doing events in those cities. Tess Taylor suggested cocktail parties at book festivals; Walton Muyumba said that when John Freeman was president, he worked through book editors in different cities to get events organized.
VP of technology Bethanne Patrick was ill and could not attend. Kate Tuttle said she is working on ways to revamp the web site and will offer a report at the January meeting.
Elizabeth Taylor, chair of the Emerging Critics program, reported on success with two Skype seminars for this year's class of critics. Tom Beer conducted one on professionalism in book reviewing, and Michele Filgate led a seminar on how to make your professional life manageable. Liz has lined up Ron Charles, former board member and book critic at the Washington Post, to give a session on craft and Kerri Arsenault will give a webinar on interviewing. Several board members said they would love to attend such a session. Other board members commented on how the emerging critics program should approach the fact that editors increasingly want off-the-books-page features such as author interviews, rather than reviews themselves. This raises the issue of how much of this coverage is real criticism, versus promotion.
Carlin Romano suggested a seminar on ethics, and said he could provide the emerging critics with copies of two ethics surveys the NBCC has conducted, the first in 1987, the second about twenty years later.  
Anjali Enteji said that a discussion of ethics would be helpful for emerging critics. In an era when critics may work for a number of different editors, they may miss out on foundational knowledge about and instruction in ethics.
There was a general discussion of fundraising efforts for the NBCC, based on the comment that the organization has the same amount of money in the bank that it did 20 years ago. Tess Taylor suggested a Skype conversation about various fundraising strategies, including grants and corporate sponsorships.
Yahdon Israel addressed the need for continuity in positions held by various NBCC board members. He said that when he took on the VP awards job, Michele Filgate sent him a jobs/task sheet by date, and that it was very helpful. Everyone agreed that it would be smart for all officers and board chairmen to put together such a sheet to pass on to their successors. Yahdon said the worst thing is when "something doesn't get done and no one knows about it."  Tom Beer said sharing the job descriptions among all officers could help ensure that this doesn't happen.
Dan Akst said he believes that the NBCC needs a part-time employee to help the organization run more smoothly . It was pointed out that we do have a part-time employee, David Varno, who does great work on technical and other issues. Kate Tuttle said that the board needs to address the issue of institutional knowledge, regardless of what happens in the employment/fundraising arenas.
Michael Shaub, Sandrof committee chairman, was ill and could not attend the meeting. He asked that the board send any prospective candidates for the Sandrof award to him.
Katherine Powers, Balakian committee chair, gave her report. Katherine said the deadline for submissions this year is December 17.
Dan Akst, chair of the Leonard Prize, said the volunteer NBCC members' reading panel has worked very well for evaluating Leonard prize candidates, but that getting the books to members was a logistical nightmare. He suggested that book submissions be by e-book only, and that readers should agree that they will read candidates in the e-book format.  Board members agreed that this was a good idea.
The meeting was then turned over to discussion of books by the six different prize committees.
Respectfully submitted, Mary Ann Gwinn

September, 2017

Flashback to 2011: The NBCC Celebrating Philip Roth

by Jane Ciabattari | Sep-28-2017

Coming up tonight (September 28) at Book Culture in New York: A panel discussing the art and influence of Philip Roth, moderated by Harpers Magazine editor and former NBCC board member James Marcus, and including Rick Moody, NBCC finalists Vivian Gornick and  Claudia Roth Pierpont and Daniel Smith.

Which reminds me of a National Book Critics Circle celebration of Philip Roth, in 2011, attended by Zadie Smith and Nathan Englander (with Roth, above), among others. Roth is the NBCC's  most honored author, surviving the grueling winnowing process by 24 critics to become an award finalist seven times and being honored with the NBCC award for fiction (for The Counterlife) and also for autobiography (for Patrimony). Introducing Roth, I quoted from Saul Bellow, who, in nominating Roth for the Nobel Prize, wrote to the Swedish Academy from Brookline. His letter was brief:"I wish to nominate the American novelist Philip Roth for the Nobel Prize.  His books have been so widely examined and praised that it would be superfluous for me to describe, or praise, his gifts."

The Roth celebration included a panel with Nathan Englander, Claudia Roth Pierpont, and Scott Raab, and Roth reading that night from his NBCC-award winning autobiography, Patrimony. (He timed it to exactly 50 minutes.) There was a festive party after, cohosted by the Center for Fiction's Noreen Tomassi.  Roth also shared with us via Critical Mass his  acceptance speech when he received the NBCC fiction award for The Counterlife in 1988. (Roth was unable to attend the ceremony on April 1, 1988 to accept the award. He sent a tape recording of his speech, which was played at the ceremony. It has been an inspiration to writers ever since.) Also of note on Critical Mass: Nathan Englander's essay on how reading Portnoy's Complaint changed his life. And Balakian award winning critic Wyatt Mason's evaluation of The Ghostwriter.

NBCC’s Emerging Critics

by Elizabeth Taylor | Sep-27-2017

Meet the Inaugural Class of NBCC's Emerging Critics

Taylor Brorby is an award-winning essayist, and a poet. Taylor is a fellow at the Black Earth Institute whose work has been supported with residencies and fellowships from Mesa Refuge, Blue Mountain Center, Breadloaf, and the Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture. Taylor's work has appeared in The Huffington Post, North American Review, Orion, Earth Island Journal, among others. He is the author of Crude: Poems, Coming Alive: Action and Civil Disobedience, co-editor of Fracture: Essays, Poems, and Stories on Fracking in America. He travels around the country to speak about the Bakken oil boom and climate change and is at work on both a memoir and an anthology of environmental writing. He is Reviews Editor at Orion Magazine and the Emerging Writing Fellow at Gettysburg College.


Paul Gleason is a PhD candidate in the University of Virginia’s religion department but lives in Los Angeles. Specializing in American religion, politics, and literature, he has published essays and reviews in The Point, The Los Angeles Review of Books, The Guardian, and elsewhere. He has written on American civil religion and its critics (like Ta-Nehisi Coates) and American liberal Christianity and its champions (like Marilynne Robinson). When not reading and writing about religion, he likes to watch BBC-style whodunits and listen to country music. You can find examples of his work (and a picture of one of his cats) at www.paulwgleason.com. He teaches Introduction to Religion at California Lutheran University.



Zack Graham’s criticism has appeared in or is forthcoming in Rolling Stone, GQ, Electric Literature, and The National Book Review, among other publications, and his short stories have appeared in Seven Scribes, the Cobalt Review, Liars League NYC, and elsewhere.  A native of Chicago, Zack graduated from Yale University and currently lives in New York, where he makes films in addition to writing fiction and criticism.  He can be found on Twitter and Instagram: @zgraham19.





Yalie Kamara is a Sierra Leonean-American writer and native of Oakland, California. She is the author of When The Living Sing (Ledge Mule Press, 2017) and A Brief Autobiography of My Name (Akashic Books/African Poetry Book Fund) to be included in the 2018 New-Generation African Poets chapbook set. Her poetry, fiction, and translations have been/will be published by Vinyl Poetry and ProsePop-Up MagazinePuerto del Sol and Indiana University Press. She was a 2017 Brunel International African Poetry Prize finalist and is a Callaloo Fellow. She holds BA degrees in Languages and Creative Writing from UC Riverside and an MA in French from Middlebury College. She is currently an MFA candidate at Indiana University. For more: www.yaylala.com 




Summer McDonald is a Chicago-based writer and editor. She received a BA in English from Purdue University and holds an MA in English from the University of Chicago. Her writing often explores literature, race, sports, and popular culture. Her work has been featured on The Black Youth Project, Specter Literary Magazine, and The Literary Hub. She is an avid NBA fan and overly dedicated fantasy football player. Site: summcd.com | Twitter: @summcd





Ismail Muhammad is a writer and critic based in Oakland, California. Originally from Los Angeles, he studied English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University before returning to California. He's a staff writer at the Millions, a contributing editor at ZYZZYVA, a Ph.D. candidate in the English department at U.C. Berkeley, and an alum of the VONA 2017 workshops. His writing, which focuses on literature, identity, art, and black popular and visual culture, has appeared in publications like Slate, the Los Angeles Review of BooksReal Lifeand Catapult. He's currently working on a novel about the Great Migration and queer archives of black history. Talk to him for any amount of time and you'll probably end up learning more than you ever wanted to know about Los Angeles and/or Drake. He tweets @trapmotives, and is on Instagram @trapmotifs. 



Heather Scott Partington is a writer, teacher, and book critic. Her writing has appeared in The New York Times Book Review, The Los Angeles Times, and The Los Angeles Review of Books. She is a contributing writer for Goodreads, Las Vegas Weekly, and Electric Literature. A classically trained dancer, Heather’s pre-writing life included years of ballet and contemporary dance. She danced as an apprentice to Sacramento Ballet, was a member of CORE Contemporary Dance, and an Associate of Cecchetti USA. Heather holds an MFA in Fiction from UC Riverside. She lives in Elk Grove, California, where she teaches high school English and AVID. Twitter: @HeatherScottP | Facebook: @HeatherScottP | Instagram: @HeatherScottP | Website: hspartington.com

Frogs, secrets and tons of reviews

by Laurie Hertzel | Sep-25-2017

A German frog. Associated Press photo by Jens Meyer


Welcome to autumn, high season of publishing, as well as the heady season of book awards. Hang on! It's going to be busy straight through to New Year's. And heeeeere we go:

NBCC Board member Anjali Enjeti reviews Patrick Ryan's "The Dream Life of Astronauts," for the Atlanta Journal Constitution, and writes about trying and failing to get a book deal in The Atlantic.

Board member Kerri Arsenault reviews "Among the Living and the Dead" by Inara Verzemnieks for the Brooklyn Rail.

Board member Laurie Hertzel profiled two Minnesota writers who are up for some big awards: Emily Fridlund, who was short-listed for the Man Booker Prize for "History of Wolves," and poet Danez Smith, longlisted for the National Book Award. Both profiles ran in the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

Frank Freeman published a review of the Oxford Classic, On Death and Life by Cicero in University Bookman.

Lanie Tankard reviewed Sunvault: Stories of Solarpunk and Eco-Speculation edited by Phoebe Wagner and Brontë Christopher Wieland for The Woven Tale Pressas well as Cloud Farming in Wales by Rhys Hughes for World Literature Today and The Hour of Land: A Personal Topography of America's National Parks by Terry Tempest Williams for Women's Memoirs.

Elizabeth Lund wrote about "Why Poetry" for the Washington Post, in which she gently reminds readers that there is no need to dissect a poem the way one might dissect a frog.And that seems like very good advice indeed.

In time for the Jewish New Year, Erika Dreifus recommended fiction and nonfiction about Israel for Tablet magazine. She also recently conducted a Q&A with Matthew Zapruder about Zapruder's new book, Why Poetry

Paul Wilner writes about Larry McMurtry's "Thalia'' trilogy -- the re-release of his first three novels, "Horseman, Pass By,'' "Leaving Cheyenne'' and "The Last Picture Show'' -- for ZYZZYVA magazine.

Hamilton Cain writes about Ibram X. Kendi's National Book Award-winning book, "Stamped from the Beginning," on Chapter 16, Tennessee's premier literary website, in connection with the author's appearance in Nashville. 

Laverne Frith reviews Nicole Sealey's "Ordinary Beast" and Mary Jo Salter's "The Surveyors," both for the New York Journal of Books.

Rayyan Al-Shawaf reviews "A Disappearance in Damascus," by Deborah Campbell, for the Washington Post.

Jenny Yacovissi reviews "Steam Titans," by William M. Fowler Jr., and "Improbable Destinies," by Jonathan B. Losos, both for the Washington Independent Review of Books.

David Cooper reviews Nicole Krauss' "Forest Dark" for the New York Journal of Books.


Awards, events and other good things

Former board member Gregg Barrios just returned from a summer as a Harvard Fellow. He reviewed the PBS series The Vietnam War for The Rivard Report.

Board members Anjali Enjeti and John McWhorter each have notable essays in this year's "Best American Essays 2017," edited by Robert Atwan. John McWhorter's, "Thick of Tongue," was published in Guernica, and Anjali Enjeti's "Identity Lost and Found," was published in the Atlanta Journal Constitution.

C.M. Mayo's poetry collection, Meteor, won the Gival Poetry Prize and will be published by Gival Press in 2018.

NBCC board member Laurie Hertzel is highlighted on Lit Hub's new Secrets of the Book Critics feature. (NOTE: Do not click on that link unless you are prepared to see a giant head.)

Board member Kerri Arsenault will moderate a discussion between authors Jonathan Dee and Scott Spencer at 7 p.m. Oct 3 at the Center for Fiction in New York. The authors will discuss the often grim reality of the American Dream explored in their latest novels. Dee’s The Locals centers on a rural, working-class New England town that elects a hedge fund millionaire from New York as mayor in the months following 9/11 and the class-based tensions that arise. Spencer’s River Under the Road follows the lives of two couples over twenty years and the fragile balance between triumph and defeat, creativity and commerce.

NBCC members note: Your reviews seed this roundup; please send items, including news about your new publications and recent honors, to NBCCCritics@gmail.com. With reviews, please include title of book and author, as well as name of publication. Make sure to send links that do not require a subscription or username and password.​ We love dedicated URLs. We do not love hyperlinks. 

Laurie Hertzel is the senior editor for books at the Minneapolis Star Tribune and a board member of the NBCC.

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About the Critical Mass Blog

Commentary on literary criticism, publishing, writing, and all things NBCC related. It's written by independent members of the NBCC Board of Directors (see list of bloggers below).



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Award Winners for 2016

See all award winners

Find out how to submit

Read how we select

Frequently Asked Questions

Videos and Podcasts

NBCC 2016 Awards Ceremony

NBCC 2015 Awards Ceremony

NBCC 2015 Finalists Reading

NBCC 2014 Awards Ceremony

NBCC 2013 Awards Ceremony

NBCC 2013 Finalists Reading

Video: New Literary Journals

Video: The VIDA Count and Gender Bias in Book Reviewing

Podcast: What Is Criticism? NBCC Winners and Finalists at AWP

All videos and podcasts.

The postings on this blog represent the views and opinions of each individual poster and are not representative of views held by the National Book Critics Circle as an organization, or the NBCC board as a whole. Everything on this blog is copyright protected

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