Critical Notes

Vote! Vote again! And then read

By Laurie Hertzel

Do not forget to vote to choose our new board members. You should have received an email from Survey Monkey by now, with a ballot inside. The deadline for voting is just before midnight on Jan. 3. If you did not get a ballot it might be that you have opted out of hearing from Survey Monkey–in that case, do email us and we’ll get you fixed up.

And then vote again–this time for the Members’ Choice selection. All voting members of the NBCC are invited to vote for their top books of the year, in each of our six genres. Any title that receives 20 percent of members’ votes will be added to our finalist list in January.  The Survey Monkey ballot will be appearing in your email boxes soon, with a deadline of 5 p.m. EST on Jan. 1.

And now, on to your fine work:

Diane Scharper‘s review of St. Therese of Lisieux: Story of a Life by Guy Gaucher appeared in The Catholic Sentinel.

John McIntyre writes about NBCC member Grace Schulman and poet Marianne Moore at the Poetry Foundation.

Christoph Irmscher published “An Isadorable Unbound” in Raritan,  an essay about the remarkable dancer Lisa Duncan (1898-1976).  A working-class girl from Dresden, she was scooped up and “adopted” by the famous Isadora Duncan and enjoyed a fabulous career on stages in the U.S. and Europe, where she was celebrated for her muscularity and her weightless “airy leaps.”

Zack Graham’s final Epiphany column of the year is a list of the best short things he read in 2019.

Lanie Tankard reviewed Mimi Lok’s short-story collection, Last of Her Name, for The Woven Tale Press.

Sarah McCraw Crow reviewed Shannon Pufalh’s debut novel On Swift Horses for the November issue of BookPage.

Sarah Sarai reviewed Martha Collins’ tenth poetry collection, Because What Else Could I Do, in Heavy Feather Review.

John Domini reviewed the debut novel Reinhardt’s Garden, by Mark Haber, for the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.

Barbara J. King reviewed Almost Human: The Story of Julius, the Chimpanzee Caught Between Two Worlds for the TLS. She also published a personal essay on books, reading and dementia, on David Abram’s Quivering Pen website, in the “My First Time” feature, about the first time she published a book her mother didn’t read.

Philip Kopper reviewed A Fool’s Errand: Creating the National Museum of African American History and Culture in the age of Bush, Obama and Trump by Lonnie G. Bunch III for the Washington Times.

Celia Bland reviewed Spellbound: The Art of Teaching Poetry, edited by Matthew Burgess, for Jacket2.

Oline H Cogdill lists her favorite mysteries of 2019 for the Sun Sentinel.

Board Member David Varno, who recently became fiction reviews editor at Publishers Weekly, reviewed Tarjei Vesaas’s lyrical coming-of-age novel The Hills Reply for On The Seawall.

Board president Laurie Hertzel reviewed Noel Holston’s memoir of losing his hearing, Life After Deaf, for the Minneapolis Star Tribune, and also wrote her weekly Bookmark column about readers’ love of books + vacation.

Julia M. Klein writes about a few of the year’s memoirs for the Chicago Tribune.

Rachael Nevins wrote about truth and lies in Incidental Inventions by Elena Ferrante for the Ploughshares blog.

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

The photo above: Eleanor Roosevelt voting in 1936. Franklin D. Roosevelt Library/ Public Domain.

Laurie Hertzel is the senior editor for books at the Minneapolis Star Tribune and the president of the NBCC board.