Critical Notes

Michelle Obama, Diane Seuss, and Tara Westover

By Taylor Anhalt

NBCC Deadlines

The deadline for signing up for the #NBCCLeonard commitee is Tuesday, November 27 5 pm EST.   The first nine blog posts in the #NBCCLeonard series here. If you want to contribute a blog post 500 words or less about your favorite first book of 2018 in any genre, send to with Leonard in the heading.

The deadline for submitting a candidate statement to run for one of the eight open seats on the NBCC board is December 7.

The deadline for nominating yourself for the Balakian award for excellence in book reviewing, which comes with a $1,000 award thanks to board member Gregg Barrios, is December 10. (You can join or renew your membership by that date to be eligible.) 


Rayyan Al-Shawaf reviewed “The Monarchy of Fear: A Philosopher Looks at Our Political Crisis” by Martha C. Nussbaum for Truthdig.

Julian Lucas reviewed Mathias Énard’s novel “Tell Them of Battles, Kings, and Elephants” in the New Yorker.

NBCC Treasurer Marion Winik reviewed new books by Lucia Berlin and Michelle Obama in Newsday. Also, thinking back on Cheryl Strayed's “Wild” and “Love of My Life,” the essay that preceded it, as a guest on Michael Steinberg’s blog.

David Nilsen reviewed Diane Seuss's poetry collection “Still Life with Two Dead Peacocks and a Girl” for Southern Indiana Review. 

Pamela Erens wrote a critical essay, “Old Ideas,” on the novels of Leonard Cohen for the Fall 2018 issue of Virginia Quarterly Review.

Robert Birnbaum wrote about six great books on football for the Washington Post. He wrote about a commonplace book, which “is a personal record of those thoughts and sayings that we come across that resonate”, listed a couple of books he found most important for the calendar year, and interviewed Alma Guillermoprieto for Our Man in Boston.

For her weekly Lit Hub column, NBCC VP/Online Jane Ciabattari talks to Andrew Delbanco, author of “The War Before the War,” about five American classics he enjoys teaching.

For O Magazine's Favorite Books of 2018, Hamilton Cain covered titles from Jonathan Lethem, Tommy Orange, Richard Powers, Gary Shteyngart, and Tara Westover.

Diane Scharper reviewed three memoirs, “Born with Wings,” “Crux,” and “The Girl Who Smiled Beads” for the National Catholic Reporter. The review also appeared in the online edition of NCR.

Lauren Sarazen reviewed Karina Longworth’s “Seduction” for the Washington Post. She also reviewed Olivia Laing’s “Crudo” for the L.A. Review of Books.

Michael Lindgren reviewed Stephen Markley’s debut novel “Ohio.”

Kimberly King Parsons reviewed “Pretend We Live Here” by Genevieve Hudson for Adroit Journal.


Member News

Kimberly King Parsons received a Sustainable Arts Foundation award for a short story from her forthcoming collection “Black Light” (Vintage, August 13, 2019).

NBCC member Jason Berry’s book “City of a Million Dreams” was reviewed in the Wall Street Journal and the Houston Chronicle.

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.