December, 2016

NBCC Members’ Choice 2016 Book Awards

by Tom Beer | Dec-05-2016

Every year NBCC members are asked to nominate titles to be finalists for the book awards in fiction, nonfiction, poetry, criticism, biography, and autobiography. Any title that receives 20 percent of members' votes automatically becomes a finalist. Among the past finalists advanced by member votes were Alison Bechdel's Fun Home and Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma. We hope you'll take the time to participate via the survey that comes to your in-box. The survey will close on Dec. 19 at 5 p.m. EST.

Tom Beer is books and travel editor of Newsday and NBCC board president

NBCC Reads: What’s Your Favorite Book about Resistance?

by Admin | Dec-04-2016

What's your favorite work of resistance literature?

That's the question that launches this year's NBCC Reads series, which draws upon the bookish passions of NBCC members and honorees. (NBCC Reads from previous years here.) At this time of cultural shift, what might be the resonant images and messages from The Diary of Anne Frank and Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale,or  Maus,  books by James Baldwin, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Vaclev Havel, Philip Roth, Milan Kundera?  What's your favorite book on the theme of resistance? Send your critical essay for posting on the National Book Critics Circle's Critical Mass blog between now and January 15, 2017  to

NBCC Board Elections Coming Up: Deadine December 19 for Board Statements

by Tom Beer | Dec-02-2016

It's time once again to elect new members to the Board.

Board members serve a three-year term, beginning the day after the awards presentation in March. The Board manages the NBCC's administrative tasks and selects the books for each year's NBCC Book Awards, as well as choosing those honored by the Ivan Sandrof and Nona Balakian Awards. For more information about Board duties and responsibilities, please visit our website (at

We have 8 vacancies to fill this year. All voting members of the NBCC may choose to put themselves forward to stand for election. If you are interested in running for the Board, please send a candidate statement to Vice President/NewsWire Kate Tuttle at Statements should be no longer than 300 words, and ideally will include both a sense of the candidate's work as a reviewer, any other relevant experience, and vision for what that person would contribute to the Board, if elected. In an earlier email, I had mentioned an incorrect deadline for accepting candidate statements -- we will be accepting candidate statements until December 19. 

On December 20, we will launch the election using a Survey Monkey tool that will allow all voting members to cast their votes. The election will close on January 9. Winners will be decided by popular vote. We should have the results of the election the following day, and will communicate them first to candidates, then to the membership at large.

Please don't hesitate to contact us at with any questions about the process. We hope to get a great new slate of candidates and that all voting members participate in selecting our new Board.




Tom Beer is Books and Travel Editor at Newsday and NBCC Board President

November, 2016

Announcing the #NBCCLeonard Award Finalists

by Daniel Akst | Nov-30-2016

We’re happy to report that the NBCC membership has spoken, and the 2016 John Leonard Prize finalists have been chosen. Here’s this year’s terrific list:

The Mothers, by Brit Bennett (Riverhead) 
The Girls, by Emma Cline (Random House) 
Here Comes the Sun, by Nicole Dennis-Benn (Liveright) 
Homegoing, by Yaa Gyasi (Knopf) 
The Nix, by Nathan Hill (Knopf) 
Grief Is the Thing with Feathers, by Max Porter (Graywolf) 

Nominations for the Leonard prize, for a first book in any genre, are open to any NBCC member, and the six finalists are those titles with the most nominations. In a first this year, a panel of member-volunteers will read the finalists and select the winner, to be announced in January. The John Leonard Prize will be presented at the NBCC Awards Ceremony at The New School in New York on March 16, 2017.

Critical Notes: Moonglow, Black Elk and More Swing Time

by Elizabeth Taylor | Nov-27-2016

Reception for Michel Chabon’s Moonglow have been glowing. Heller McAlpin reviews the novel for NPR.  She also reviews Zadie Smith’s Swing Time for the San Francisco Chronicle.  Ellen Akins reviews Chabon's novel for the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Michael Magras reviews Moonglow for the Houston Chronicle also writes about Amateurs by Dylan Hicks for the Kenyon Review Online. 

Ann Fabian reviews Black Elk: the Life of an American Visionary by Joe Jackson for The National Book Review.                                       

Joseph A. Esposito reviews Alexandra Zapruder’s Twenty-Six Seconds: A Personal History of the Zapruder Film in The Washington Independent Review of Books.                

Jim Ruland reviews The Haunted Looking Glass, an anthology of ghost stories selected by Edward Gorey, for his column “The Floating Library” in San Diego CityBeat.

Renee K. Nicholson’s essay "Out of the Woods: Appalachia, Literature, and the American Dream" appears in Electric Literature. 

In Harper's magazine, Daniel Asa Rose tracks down five kids who were born with him in Brooklyn Jewish Hospital on November 20, 1949 to highlight a cross-section of “The Luckiest Generation" and interviews Billy Collins for The New York Observer.

Andrew Erwin reviews Loren Eiseley’s Collected Essays in the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Karl Wolff reviews IRL by Tommy Pico at the New York Journal of Books and Disinheritance by John Sibley Williams for The Driftless Area Review and continues his essay series, “American Odd,” with an essay on Henry Darger: Selected Art and Writings, by Michael Bonesteel at the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography:

Congratulations to NBCC Board member and Balakian Committee chair Gregg Barrios who was honored with a solo event at the Texas Book Festival in Austin, and was festival’s first playwright to be distinguished this way. 


Your reviews seed this roundup; please send items, including new about your new publications and recent honors, to Make sure to send links that do not require a subscription or username and password. Please send dedicated URLs rather than hotlinks, and include the title and author of the book, as well as the name of the publication.

Critical Notes: Swing Time, Secondhand Time, and Interesting Times

by Bethanne Patrick | Nov-21-2016

The old (purportedly) Chinese curse has come true. We live in interesting times. 

For the moment, those times are still producing lots of interesting book reviews, as you'll see in this roundup. Several members weigh in on the new Zadie Smith, while others focus on poetry, which we will need more of as the weeks between the election and the inauguration pass. Nonfiction gets attention, too, and includes a thoughtful take on Dylan's Nobel as well as a piece about the oldest extant Jewish book. 

Happy reading, happy sharing, and Happy Thanksgiving to all. 

Walton Myumba notes the "rhythmic play of shadow and light" in Swing Time by Zadie Smith for LARB. Michael Magras reviewed it for The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and found it a "challenging novel" with some imperfections. Ellen Akin's Minneapolis Star-Tribune review reminds us that this is Smith's first first-person narrator, and an extended look at "the fraught territory where individual experience negotiates social norms." Over at The Brooklyn Rail, John Domini calls it "a construction of quite monstrous bagginess."

In Asymptote, Lori Feathers reviews Secondhand Time: The Last of the Soviets by Svetlana Alexievich, saying the book's arrival in English "serves as a timely antidote to reports in the Western press about Russian nationalism." 

At The Washington Post, Katherine A. Powers covers the year's best audiobooks, including Behold the Dreamers, Black Elk: The Life of an American Visionary, and The Pigeon Tunnel.

Joseph Peschel finds that Francine Prose's new novel isn't, alas, a barrel of monkeys: The Philadelphia Inquirer.

In Jewniverse, Erika Dreifus tells the tale of the earliest known Jewish manuscript in the new world, on display for the first time at The New York Historical Society. 

Yes, Bob Dylan deserves that Nobel Prize, writes Greg Barrios in The San Antonio News-Express; "To imply that a real poet or writer was denied this award because it was given to Dylan is a lack of understanding of what a poem or poetry is or can be in this century."

Julia M. Klein reviews David Cesarani's Final Solution: The Fate of the Jews, 1933-1949 for The Boston Globe and finds that the author's "great gift for synthesis" helps to puncture "the twin myths of German efficiency and Jewish gullibility and passivity."

Rayyan Al-Sharwaf covers Future Sex by Emily Witt for The Toronto Star and writes that it's "stylistically uneven" but "best when laying bare the infantilization of women woven into assertions made by people, even certain feminists, who ostensibly wish to empower them."

For The Washington Post, Elizabeth Lund's Best Poetry of the Month column includes new collections from Philip Levine, Christian Wiman, and Paul Muldoon.

Celia Bland writes about C.D. Wright's Shallcross for Tarpaulin Sky, paying tribute to the recently deceased Wright and testimony 'to an artistic truth rather than a factual one."

Your reviews seed this roundup; please send items, including new about your new publications and recent honors, to Make sure to send links that do not require a subscription or username and password.

How We’ll Pick This Year’s #NBCCLeonard Award

by Daniel Akst | Nov-14-2016

This year we’ve changed how we’ll choose the winner of the John Leonard Prize,  and since NBCC members have been asking how the process will work, let me take a moment here to lay it out. 

As ever, the Leonard prize is for the best first book in any genre. As in years past, we’re using SurveyMonkey to enable any NBCC member to nominate eligible books. That survey just went out; nominations will close at 10 a.m. EST on Nov. 28, so please get going and make your picks!

Once the survey is closed, the half dozen or so books with the most nominations will be designated as finalists (the actual number of finalists may vary a bit based on ties etc). Here’s where the new part comes in: At this point NBCC members who’ve volunteered for our new Leonard voting committee will have four to six weeks to read those books and vote on a winner. Members of this panel have solemnly pledged to read all the books, and we look forward to their informed judgement. 

The panel is open to any full voting member of the NBCC who is willing to make the commitment. I’m pleased to report that nearly 50 members have signed up for this committee, which will remain open to new volunteers until 10 a.m. EST this Friday, Nov. 18. 

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