Critical Notes

Super-Sized NBCC Awards and Catch-up Edition

By Jane Ciabattari

Here is the news rundown on the National Book Critics Circle awards:

Critical Mass.

Video of awards ceremony.

Associated Press.

New York Times.

Washington Post.

Minneapolis Star Tribune

Brooklyn Magazine.

Los Angeles Times.

Miami Herald.

Tampa Bay Times. (And here.)

PW Daily.

Shelf Awareness

Publishers Lunch.


Lit Hub.

Library Journal.

Parnassus Books blog (Ann Patchett).

Emory News.



Atlanta Journal Constitution.

Michelle Dean remarks on Critical Mass and The New Republic.  

Margaret Atwood remarks on Critical Mass and Lit Hub.

Yaa Gyasi remarks on Critical Mass. Interviewed by Minneapolis Star-Tribune's Laurie Hertzel.

Newly elected NBCC president Kate Tuttle reviews Marina Benjamin's The Middlepause for the Los Angeles Times.

Michael Lindgren's review of all the NBCC criticism finalists for the Washington Post.

Former NBCC board member Rigoberto Gonzalez writes about the bittersweet experience of being a professional of color for the Los Angeles Times.

NBCC Balakian winner and current board member Katherine A. Powers picks the best audiobooks for March for the Washington Post.

Priscilla Gilman reviews NBCC criticism finalist Elif Batuman's first novel, The Idiot, for the Boston Globe.

Creative Writing MFA New School student, Kelly Stewart, interviews New School alum and NBCC Board member, Kerri Arsenault, about her forthcoming book, What Remains.H

Helene Cardona reviews Ghost/Landscape by Kristina Marie Darling and John Gallaher in the Colorado Review. Salmon Poetry will publish Next year Salmon Poetry will publish The Birnam Wood, her translation of El bosque de Birnam (Consell Insular d'Eivissa, 2008) by her father José Manuel Cardona, in a bilingual edition. And Life in Suspension (Salmon Poetry, 2016) was a finalist for the Julie Suk Award for the best poetry collection published by an independent press in 2016.

Minneapolis Star Tribune books editor (and NBCC board member) Laurie Hertzel writes about the secret joys of reading aloud. She also reviews Jess Kidd's  Himself for the Star-Tribune and wrote about the “poetry coalition” and a plan to give away poems at Twin Cities bookstores.

Former board member and Balakian winner Steve Kellman reviews Mohsin Hamid's Exit West for the Dallas News.

Former NBCC board member Katharine Weber reviews Hari Kunzru's White Tears for the Washington Post.

Lisa Spaar's most recent  Second Acts installment for the Los Angeles Review of Books pairs second books by Rosanna Warren and Melissa Range.

Just departed NBCC board member David Biespiel notes that many people are calling for a political poetry of social engagement. In his column for The Rumpus, he offers a different take: the political as personal.

Michael Berry reviews John Darnielle's International Harvester for the San Francisco Chronicle.

Julia M. Klein reviews Joselin Linder's The Family Gene and Niki Kapsambelis's The Inheritance for the Chicago Tribune. She also reviews Wendy Lesser's You Say to Brick  and Peter Hayes' Why? for the Forward.

For Inside Higher education, John Domini reviews memoirs by Peter Selgin and Scott Abbott, both “sensitive about the strange shapes that passion can take:” In Brooklyn Rail, Domini hails Mary Troy’s new novel for it’s “gallows humor” and “rueful sympathy:” In the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Domini praises a memoir of life as an illegal immigrant by a Mexican “gonzo journalist.”

Michael Magras reviews Last Day On Earth: Stories by Eric Puchner for the Houston Chronicle.

Grace Lichtenstein reviews High Noon: The Hollywood Blacklist and the Making of an American Classic by Glenn Frankel in the New York Journal of Books.

Joan Silverman reviews Ron Currie's The One-Eyed Man for the Portland Press-Herald.

Lanie Tankard reviews A Hope More Powerful Than the Sea by Melissa Fleming on Women's Memoirs and a debut noir novel, Graveyard of the Gods by Richard Fleming.

Joe Peschel reviews Kevin Canty's novel The 'Underworld': Gritty Life and Death in a Mining Town in the Houston Chronicle.

Chuck Greaves reviews Hannah Tinti's The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley for the Four Corners Free Press.

C.M. Mayo, a native of El Paso, was recently elected to the Texas Institute of Letters.

Andrew Hazlett reviews The House by the Lake: One House, Five Families, and a Hundred Years of German History, by Thomas Harding (Picador) in the February 2017 issue of Reason Magazine.

Ingrid Rojas Contreras, the new columnist for Book Spine, KQED's column about books, reviews Melissa Febos' Abandon Me, 

Kai Maristed reviews Peter Handke's The Moravian Night for Boston's Artfuse.

Rebecca Kightlinger reviews Ashley Mace Havird's debut novel Lightningstruck for Historical Novels Review.

South and West: From a Notebook  by Joan Didion, reviewed by Ann Fabian in The National Book Review. Paul Wilner also reviews the Didion, for the San Francisco Chronicle.

Philip Graham's recent essay for The Millions, “Stuck Inside of Stockholm with the Nobel Blues Again,” examines the possible reasons behind Bob Dylan’s 2016 Nobel Prize in Literature.

Frank Freeman reviews C.S. Lewis on Politics and the Natural Law  and Alica Kaplan's Looking for the Stranger for University Bookman.

Photo credit: John Midgley

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Jane Ciabattari is a former president and current vice president/online of the National Book Critics Circle. She is a columnist for and Lit Hub, and contributes regularly to and others. She serves on the advisory board of The Story Prize and is a member of the San Francisco Writers Grotto. She is the author of two story collections, Stealing the Fire and California Tales. She can be found on Twitter @janeciab.