Critical Notes

In midwinter, everybody is reading

By Laurie Hertzel

But first! The NBCC finalists announcement got some lovely coverage

The Washington Independent Review of Books

Hillel Italie's Associated Press report ran in newspapers from Seattle to Washington.

The Minneapolis Star Tribune

Shelf Awareness

Publishers Weekly

Publishers Lunch


New York Times


Tampa Bay


Reviews, essays and interviews

NBCC board member Mark Athitakis reviewed Theodor Kallifatides' memoir “Another Life” for On the Seawall and Sam Lipsyte's novel “Hark” for the Los Angeles Times.

NBCC board member Laurie Hertzel reviewed “Inheritance” by Dani Shapiro for the Star Tribune. She also wrote her weekly Bookmark column about the end of book reviews at the Dallas Morning News–and the salvation of reviews at the Portland Press Herald. She also wrote about the 100+ authors who will be coming to Minneapolis for the new book festival, Wordplay, in May.

Former NBCC board member and Balakian winner Ron Charles posted an episode of The Totally Hip Video Book Review about Jen Sincero's latest self-help bestseller, “You Are a Badass Every Day.” Charles is book critic for the Washington Post.

Lauren Sarazen reviewed “Paradise Rot” by Jenny Hval for The Stinging Fly, and also “Hollywood's Eve” by Lili Anolik for the L.A. Review of Books.

K.L. Romo reviewed Karen Odden’s novel “A Dangerous Duet” and Christina Dalcher's “Vox,” both for Washington Independent Review of Books. She also reviewed Ann Lineberger's satirical comedy, “Sunday Best,” for BookTrib.

In Sewanee Review, John Domini reviews “Black Leopard, Red Wolf,” by Marlon James. He also reviewed “Thirty Seven” by Peter Stenson for Vol. 1 Brooklyn.

Katharine Coldiron had a busy week, publishing six reviews: Of “Virtuoso,” by Yelena Moskovich, at the Times Literary Supplement; “Last Woman Standing,” by Amy Gentry, at BUST; “Last Night in Nuuk,” by Niviaq Korneliussen at L.A. Review of Books; “You Know You Want This,” by  Kristen Roupenian at Book & Film Globe; paired reviews of “Musalaheen,” by Jason Arment and Stranger in the Pen by Mohamed Asem at Sinkhole Magazine; and “World Domination: A History of Sub Pop Records,” by Gillian G. Gaar at Rock & Roll Globe. Whew!

Susan Froetschel reviewed “The Sustainable State” by Chandran Nair for YaleGlobal Online. 

Tobias Carroll has a new Watchlist column up at Words Without Borders.

Sheila McClear reviewed Karen Thompson Walker's novel “The Dreamers” for the Washington Post.

For the February issue of O, the Oprah Magazine Hamilton Cain wrote about Samanta Schweblin's “A Mouthful of Birds,” Novuyo Rosa Tshuma's “House of Stone” and “Elsey Come Home” by Susan Conley. Cain also reviewed David Treuer's “The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee” for the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

Joan Silverman reviewed “A Velocity of Being,” edited by Maria Popova, for The National Book Review.

Rachael Nevins published the essay “Don Quixote or the Dangers of Reading Badly” in Ploughshares.

Julia M. Klein reviewed Zachary Leader's “The Life of Saul Bellow: Love and Strife, 1965-2005,” for the Chicago Tribune.

Joan Frank reviewed Tessa Hadley's “Late in the Day” for the San Francisco Chronicle.

Heller McAlpin reviewed Katharine Smyth’s “All the Lives We Ever Lived” for the Wall Street Journal.

Beth Kanell reviewed “A Delicate Touch” by Stuart Woods and “The Killer Collective” by Barry Eisler, for the New York Journal of Books.

NBCC Emerging Critic Letitia Montgomery-Rodgers reviewed João Gilberto Noll’s “Lord,” translated by Edgar Garbelotto, and “Skull and Pestle: New Tales of Baba Yaga,” edited by Kate Wolford, for Foreword Reviews. 

Heller McAlpin reviewed Tessa Hadley’s “Late in the Day” for The Barnes & Noble Review and Dani Shapiro's “Inheritance” for NPR.

Elizabeth Lund spotlighted five books in her latest monthly column about poetry for The Washington Post: “Half-Hazard,” by Kristen Tracy; “Rewilding,” by January Gill O'Neil;  “How the End First Showed,” by D.M. Aderibigbe; “Monument,” by Natasha Trethewey; and “We Begin in Gladness,” by Craig Morgan Teicher.

Tara Cheesman reviewed “The Geography of Rebels Trilogy” for The Quarterly Conversation. 

Julian Lucas's essay “Curses and Blessings” on four new books by African women writers—“Kintu” by Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi, “She Would Be King” by Wayétu Moore, “Season of the Shadow” by Léonora Miano, and “The Barefoot Woman” by Scholastique Mukasonga—was recently the cover of the New York Times Book Review.

V. Joshua Adams reviewed Henri Cole's “Orphic Paris” for PopMatters.

Michael Lindgren reviewed “Being John Lennon: A Restless Life,” by Ray Connolly for the Washington Post.

NBCC Emerging Critic Chelsea Leu reviewed Leila Slimani's “Adèle” for the San Francisco Chronicle.

Jenny Shank interviewed Chris Candler for the Dallas Morning News about her new novel, “The Weight of a Piano.” And in light of the Dallas Morning News laying off its books editor, Michael Merschel, Shank wrote about the shrinking world of book reviewing for The Atlantic.

David Cooper reviewed “Muck” by Dror Burstein in New York Journal of Books.

Rayyan al-Shawaf reviewed Ian Williams's debut novel, “Reproduction,” for the Toronto Star.

Paul Wilner offers some notes on Salinger at the centennial mark for ZYZZYVA magazine.


In other news

NBCC Emerging Critic Letitia Montgomery-Rodgers was profiled for Lit Hub's “Secrets of the Book Critics” column.

Tim Riley was profiled for Lit Hub's “Secrets of the Book Critics” column.

Former emerging Zack Graham has been hired to be a monthly columnist for Epiphany Magazine, writing about new books, old books and everything in between. His first column is about Hernan Diaz.


And a very sad postscript

We end on a sad note, with the news that Marjorie Kehe, longtime book editor at the Christian Science Monitor, has died. NBCC members Randy Dotinga and Rebekah Denn offer this:

A Tribute to an Extraordinary Book Editor

An ideal editor is your advocate, your fan and your friend. Marjorie Kehe, longtime book editor at The Christian Science Monitor, was all these and more. Over 15+ years, Kehe gave reviewers the invaluable opportunity to write about a wide diversity of authors and genres. She valued and respected writers and readers, and always made us feel appreciated. She died of natural causes on Jan. 9 at the age of 61, and we miss her deeply. A memorial page has been set up at April Austin, a veteran Monitor editor and writer, is serving as the newspaper's acting book editor. 

— Randy Dotinga and Rebekah Denn


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 autobiography committee chair for the NBCC.