Critical Notes

Death cleaning, literary secrets, and an artist of the year

By Laurie Hertzel

Lesley Nneka Arimah, artist of the year

Reviews and profiles

NBCC VP/Online Jane Ciabattari joins NBCC president Kate Tuttle, NBCC board members Laurie Hertzel and Kerri Arsenault, and former NBCC presidents John Freeman and Tom Beer, in Lit Hub's new “Secrets of the Book Critic”s series.

NBCC board member Laurie Hertzel profiled writer Lesley Nneka Arimah for the Minneapolis Star Tribune, which named Arimah Minnesota's Artist of the Year. Hertzel also reviewed Rachel Joyce's new novel, “The Music Shop,” and wrote her weekly column on “The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning.

NBCC Emerging Critic Zack Graham reviewed “The Maze at Windermere” by Gregory Blake Smith for Newsday.  

Denise Low reviews Stanley Lombardo’s translation “Sappho: Complete Poems and Fragments” for the new issue of New Letters.

Lanie Tankard reviewed Croatian author Dasa Drndic's novel “Belladonna” for The Woven Tale Press.

Michael Gessner reviewed Wendy Burk's “Tree Talks: Southern Arizona,” for The Kenyon Review.

Michael Magras reviewed “The Immortalists” by Chloe Benjamin for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Joan Silverman reviews “Why You Eat What You Eat,” by Rachel Herz for the Portland Press-Herald.

Jim Schley reviewed Robin MacArthur's book, “Heart Spring Mountain,” for Seven Days, a regional weekly in Vermont.

Hamilton Cain reviewed Neel Mukherjee's novel, “A State of Freedom,” for the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

Robert Allen Papinchak reviewed Ali Smith's “Winter,” for the National Review.


Interviews and other great news

NBCC board member John McWhorter spoke about his most recent book, “Talking Back, Talking Black: Truths About America’s Lingua Franca,” which examines Black English (or African American Vernacular English, AAVE) in America, on Talks at Google. 

Tobias Carroll interviewed Juan Tomas Avila Laurel about his novel “The Gurugu Pledge” and writing about immigration for Words Without Borders Daily. He also discussed Rivers Solomon's “An Unkindness of Ghosts” and Carmen Boullosa's “Heavens on Earth” at

Andrew Ervin interviewed Tayari Jones for Tin House.

David Nilsen interviewed author Daniel A. Olivas about his story collection, “The Kings of Lighting Fixtures,” for The Rumpus.

NBCC Emerging Critic Heather Scott Partington has published two recent author interviews–one with Chloe Benjamin, author of “The Immortalists,” at Goodreads, and one with Deanne Stillman, author of “Blood Brothers: The Story of the Strange Friendship Between Sitting Bull and Buffalo Bill,” at the LA Review of Books.


NBCC members note: Your reviews seed this roundup; please send items, including news about your new publications and recent honors, to 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 and autobiography committee chair Laurie Hertzel is the senior editor for books at the Minneapolis Star Tribune.