Critical Notes / Announcements

Awards News and Member Reviews

By Mark Athitakis

We Need Your Help Selecting the Next Sandrof Award Honoree

Each year, the NBCC board selects a person or institution to win the Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award, and we’d love to have your help choosing the next winner.

The Sandrof Award, named after the first president of the NBCC, is given annually to a person or institution — a writer, publisher, critic, or editor, among others — who has, over time, made significant contributions to book culture. Past winners of the award have included Margaret Atwood, Toni Morrison, PEN American Center, Studs Terkel and Wendell Berry. The most recent honoree, Arte Público Press, received significant national media attention for their win, including articles in the Minneapolis Star Tribune, the San Antonio Express-News, Texas Monthly and NBC. They even received a special citation from Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner in honor of their victory.

Any institution or living person can be nominated for the award, and a list of previous winners is available on the NBCC website. If you know of a person or group who you think is deserving of the award, please send their name and a 1-3 paragraph nominating statement to Sandrof Award Committee Chair Michael Schaub at Nominations are open until Dec. 1, 2019. We’d love to hear from you!

The Nona Balakian Citation for Excellence in Reviewing

The NBCC awards the Nona Balakian Citation for Excellence in Reviewing each year to recognize outstanding work by a member of the NBCC. The citation is awarded in honor of Nona Balakian, a founding member of the National Book Critics Circle. Since 2012, the Balakian Citation has carried with it a $1,000 cash prize donated by board member Gregg Barrios. Nominees for the Balakian Award must be NBCC members in good standing, and may submit up to 5 book reviews for a total of 5,000 words.  The deadline is Monday, December 9. Compete guidelines are

NBCC Members’ Choice

Every year NBCC members are asked to nominate titles to be finalists for the book awards in fiction, nonfiction, biography, autobiography, poetry and criticism. Any title that receives 20 percent of the membership’s votes automatically becomes a finalist. Look for a SurveyMonkey nomination form in your email later this month.

NBCC Board Elections Are Approaching!

Every year the NBCC’s membership elects eight members to join its board of directors. If you are interested in running for the board, please send a bio and statement of intent (no more than 300 words) to VP Membership Anjali Enjeti by 5 p.m. ET Dec 1. Read our primer on the NBCC board’s work to learn more about what’s involved. (Hint: It’s not just the awards.)

Now, on to member news and reviews…

Jeffrey Ann Goudie reviewed Lindy West’s The Witches are Coming for the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

Balakian citation recipient Carlos Lozada reviewed Rich Lowry’s The Case for Nationalism for the Washington Post. 

Ryan Chapman interviewed Jonathan Lethem about the film adaptation of Motherless Brooklyn for InsideHook.

Eric Nguyen reviewed Monique Truong’s novel The Sweetest Fruits for diaCRITICS.

Clifford Garstang reviewed Daphne Kalotay’s novel Blue Hours for Consequence.

Jenny Shank reviewed Kevin Wilson’s novel Nothing to See Here for the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

Julia M. Klein reviewed Carmen Maria Machado’s memoir In the Dream House for the Boston Globe and Adam P. Frankel’s memoir The Survivors for the Forward.

Board member David Varno reviewed Maria Tumarkin’s Axiomatic for On the Seawall, discussing how the author’s “blended method of autobiography, criticism, and reportage both echoes and diverges from fellow genre bender Emmanuel Carrère.”

Cassandra Luca reviewed Ali Wong’s Dear Girls for the Harvard Crimson.

Jim Ruland interviewed Hanna Jameson about her dystopian thriller The Last for the Los Angeles Review of Books.

Danielle Trussoni‘s latest horror column for the New York Times covers books H.P. Lovecraft and more.

Tobias Carroll wrote about contrarian writing for InsideHook and reviewed Johannes Anyuru’s novel They Will Drown in Their Mothers’ Tears for

Bean Gilsdorf reviewed the anthology Burn It Down: Women Writing about Anger for the Los Angeles Review of Books.

Robert Allen Papinchak reviewed Bernadine Evaristo’s Booker-winning novel, Girl, Woman, Other, for the Washington Independent Review of Books and Kevin Wilson’s novel Nothing To See Here for the National Book Review.

Melanie Dragger reviewed Good Things Out of Nazareth: The Uncollected Letters of Flannery O’Connor and Friends and Texas Seafood: A Cookbook and Comprehensive Guide for the Literary South.

Ellen Prentiss Campbell‘s essay “Talking Walls,” on “how places turn up in my work and following the vapor trail of memory,” was published in Fiction Writers Review.

Michael J. McCann reviewed The Bellamy Trial by Frances Noyes Hart, a reissue by American Mystery Classics presented by Otto Penzler, for the New York Journal of Books.

Zack Graham reviewed The Complete Gary Lutz for Epiphany.

Grace Lichtenstein reviewed Gail Collins’ No Stopping Us Now and Patricia Marx and Roz Chast’s Why Don’t You Write My Eulogy Now So I Can Correct it? for NY City Woman.

Former NBCC president Jane Ciabattari‘s November BBC Culture column includes new work from Lydia Davis, Margaret Wilkerson Sexton, Carmen Maria Machado, Erin Morgenstern, and Shannon Pufahl.

Peggy Kurkowski reviewed T.H. Breen’s The Will of the People: The Revolutionary Birth of America for Open Letters Review.

Dana Wilde reviewed Agnes Bushell’s novel Asian Vespers for

Sam DiBella reviewed Shoshana Zuboff’s The Age of Surveillance Capitalism. for the LSE Review of Books.

Jean Huets interviewed clarinetist and composer Bryan A. Crumpler for the November issue of the Brooklyn Rail.

NBCC Treasurer Marion Winik reviewed Mary Gaitskill’s This Is Pleasure for the Washington Post, and wrote a column on titles and subtitles for Kirkus. Her latest book, The Big Book of the Dead was reviewed at Paperback Paris.

Priscilla Gilman also reviewed This Is Pleasure for the Boston Globe.

And in member news:  Kelsay Books has published member Erika Dreifus‘s first poetry collection, Birthright.

NBCC members: Send us your stuff! Your work may be highlighted in this roundup; please send links to new reviews, features and other literary pieces, or tell us about awards, honors or new and forthcoming books, by dropping a line to

Photo of Jonathan Lethem at the 2012 NBCC awards by David Shankbone, used under Creative Commons license.