NBCC at Decatur Book Festival: Do Book Reviews Matter?

By Jane Ciabattari

National Book Critics Circle presents: Do Book Reviews Matter?

Decatur Book Festival, Decatur GA

Old Courthouse Stage Sunday, September 1. 12:00 pm – 12:45 pm

In an age of Goodreads and Amazon, when most newspapers are slashing the space in which they formerly reviewed books, whither the book critic? Now that everyone shares their opinions via social media, what is left for the professional book reviewer to do? Should American reviewers be more willing to go negative, as our colleagues in England are famous for? Join five critics and editors as we discuss and debate the art and craft of book reviewing – including questions about its continuing relevance today.


Lev Grossman is the author of The New York Times best-selling fantasy novels The Magicians and The Magician King. The Magicians was named one of the best books of 2009 by The New Yorker, and NPR called The Magician King “triumphant — a spellbinding stereograph, a literary adventure novel that is also about a privilege, power and the limits of being human.”
George R.R. Martin said, “The Magicians is to Harry Potter as a shot of Irish whiskey is to a glass of weak tea.” They've been translated into over 20 languages, and Fox has optioned the screen rights. In 2011 Grossman won the Campbell Award for Best New Writer from the World Science Fiction Society.

Grossman is also a widely known and respected cultural commentator. He is the book reviewer at TIME magazine, and he has appeared on “Charlie Rose” and “All Things Considered.” “His writing on culture and technology has been published in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Village Voice, Lingua Franca, Wired, Time Out New York, Entertainment Weekly, US Weekly, The Week magazine and The Believer Magazine, as well as on and elsewhere. He is a former Natioanl Book Critics Circle board member.

He has degrees in literature from Harvard and Yale and lives in Brooklyn with his wife and three children.

Charles McNair, a native of the Yellowhammer State of Alabama, released his first novel,
Land O’ Goshen, to critical acclaim. Land O’ Goshen was a nominee for the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1994. Charles currently lives in Atlanta where he writes full-time, combining freelance literary duties with assignments for corporations and businesses, including “Power of Storytelling” workshops. Since 2005, he has served as Books Editor for Paste magazine and shared his reviews on Atlanta radio station WMLB 1690 AM. He is currently at work on his third novel, The Epicureans,

Teresa K. Weaver writes a monthly book column for Atlanta magazine and serves as Editorial Director at Habitat for Humanity International. Formerly the book editor at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, she was elected to the board of the National Book Critics Circle for six years and was a longtime member of the Southern Book Critics Circle.

Gina Webb has reviewed books for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution since 2009. Her reviews appeared in Creative Loafing from 1980-1998, where she also served as contributing writer and music editor. Between newspapers, she worked as editor, writer, and researcher for Longstreet Press, Turner Publishing, Lionheart Books and other Atlanta publishers. She also blogs on books.

Moderator Kate Tuttle writes “In Brief,” a weekly book review column for The Boston Globe. Her reviews and essays have appeared in The Washington Post, Salon, Atlantic, and the Boston Book Review. She was a contributing writer for Babble, executive editor of the African American National Biography project at Harvard University, and founding managing editor of