Critical Notes

Libraries, surrealism, and Alex Trebek

By Laurie Hertzel

Susan Orlean. Photo by Noah Fecks.


Reviews, interviews, profiles

Rebekah Denn reviewed Susan Orlean's “The Library Book” for The Christian Science Monitor, and she reports that it made her feel better about the world. She also reviewed Philip Pullman's essay/speech collection, “Daemon Voices,” for the Monitor. It didn't make her feel better about the world, but she notes that perhaps she shouldn't have tried reading it on a beach vacation. She also did a cookbook roundup for Seattle Metropolitan magazine and wrote about Sara Bir's “The Fruit Forager's Companion” for The Seattle Times. 

Regina Marler reviewed San Francisco Museum of Modern Art's exhibition, “Magritte: The Fifth Season,” for the New York Review of Books.

Allen Adams reviewed Susan Orlean's “The Library Book” and “8-Bit Apocalypse,” by Alex Ruben, both for the Maine Edge.

Jennifer Solheim reviewed Algerian novelist and journalist Kamel Daoud's “Chroniques” for the Los Angeles Review of Books.

The latest installment of Tobias Carroll's Watchlist column is up at Words Without Borders.

Rayyan Al-Shawaf has reviewed “Lake Success” by Gary Shteyngart, for PopMatters.

Ann Fabian reviews “On Sunset” by Kathryn Harrison for The National Book Review.

Letitia Montgomery-Rodgers–one of the NBCC Emerging Critics–reviewed Anita Fellicelli’s “Love Songs for a Lost Continent” and Lars Petter Sveen’s “Children of God,” both for Foreword Reviews.

David Nilsen reviewed Carmen Giménez-Smith's poetry collection, “Cruel Futures,” for The Bind. 

Chelsea Leu reviewed “Timefulness: How Thinking Like a Geologist Can Help Save the World,” by Marcia Bjornerud, in Bay Nature.

Lisa Spaar writes about poets who published only one collection in their lifetime for LA Review of Books.

This week's NBCC Reads series offers Lanie Tankard's look at Victor Hugo's “Les Miserables.


And other good stuff


On her her Machberet blog, Erika Dreifus hosts the October iteration of the Jewish Book Carnival, a project of the Association of Jewish Libraries that aims to share news, reviews, and interviews from the world of Jewish books.

Lisa Russ Spaar was interviewed for LitHub's “Secrets of the Book Critics” column. (She confesses a desire to have reviewed “Wuthering Heights.”)

Allen Adams will be making his debut as a contestant on “Jeopardy!” on Oct. 30. We wish him all the best and hope he spends all his winnings at indie bookstores.


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.

Laurie Hertzel is the senior editor for books at the Minneapolis Star Tribune and the author of a memoir, “News to Me: Adventures of an Accidental Journalist,” published by the University of Minnesota Press in 2010 and winner of a Minnesota Book Award. Her work has appeared in Tri-Quarterly, the Chicago Tribune, Minnesota Monthly magazine, and many other publications in the United States, Finland, and Australia. She has an MFA from Queens University in Charlotte, N.C. Hertzel teaches at the Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis.