Critical Notes

Colson Whitehead’s stellar return and more books coverage

By Carolyn Kellogg

At the Washington Post, Ron Charles reviews Colson Whitehead's new novel The Nickel Boys, writing that “it shreds our easy confidence in the triumph of goodness and leaves in its place a hard and bitter truth about the ongoing American experiment.” At the NY Times, Parul Sehgal, winner of the 2011 NBCC Balakian award, writes that the book is “a tense, nervy performance.” And at the L.A. Times, NBCC board member Carolyn Kellogg wrote about Whitehead and his inspiration for the novel — the Dozier School in Florida and Trump's election — as well as the time, as a teenager, he was mistakenly picked up by cops. 

Constance Grady, who covers books and culture at Vox, has recently written about: Fleishman is In Trouble by Taffy Brodesser-Akner; a new Jane Eyre ballet; Neal Stephenson's Fall; and Midnight Chicken by Ella Risbridger, “a cookbook that reads like a novel.”

Writing for the Associated Press — look for these reviews at a media outlet near you — Oline H. Cogdill reviewed the mystery novels Never Look Back by Alison Gaylin; Lock Every Door by Riley Sager and Paper Son by S.J. Rozan. Cogdill also reviewed Almost Midnight by Paul Doiron for the Sun-Sentinel.

Paul Wilner talked to Peter Orner about his short story collection Maggie Brown and Others at Zzzyva.

NBCC board member Lori Feathers reviewed Beyond Babylon by Igiaba Scego, translated from the Italian by Aaron Robertson, for On the Seawall.

Clea Simon rethought beach reads at NBC and reviewed The Ghost Clause by Howard Norman for the Boston Globe.

Jason Diamond talked to fighter-slash-writer Jaed Coffin about his memoir Roughhouse Friday for Inside Hook.

Jake Cline reviewed David Szalay's novel Turbulence at the Washington Post.

Martha Anne Toll reviewed Margarita Liberacki's Three Summers for NPR Books.

Maureen Corrigan reviewed the novel Copperhead by Alexi Zentner for NPR.

At The Maine Edge, Allen Adams reviewed The Porpoise by Mark Haddon and the nonfiction book Archeology from Space by Sarah Parcak, who he also talked to about the book.

Jessica Smith reviewed two poetry collections for Fence Digital: dark // thing by Ashley M. Jones (Pleiades, 2019) and I Can't Talk about the Trees without the Blood by Tiana Clark (Univ. of Pittsburgh Press, 2018). Smith also reviewed Homemade Poems by Lorine Niedecker (CUNY Center for the Humanities, 2012) for Quartlery West.

Lanie Tankard reviewed the short story collection Termination Shocks by Janice Margolis for Woven Tale Press.

Rachael Nevins wrote about Catherine Morland, the heroine of Jane Austen's Northanger Abbey, at Ploughshares.

Nicole Rudick reviewed Sophie Podolski: Le pays où tout est permis/The Country Where Everything Is Permitted for Art in America.


NBCC board member Kerri Arsenault has an essay about hunger in Maine at LitHub.

On his blog, Robert Birnbaum looks at the career and a traveling exhibit about musician and poet Leonard Cohen.

Cliff Garstang's novel The Shaman of Turtle Valley has been reviewed in Virginia Living Magazine, Peace Corps Worldwide and Amanda's Book Review.

Rayyan Al-Shawaf's novel When All Else Fails was reviewed by Popmatters and he appeard on Weam Namou's show to talk about the book.

Colson Whitehead. Photograph by Chris Close for Doubleday.