Critical Notes

Awards Updates, and Member News and Reviews

By Mark Athitakis

Photo of Nell Painter by Dwight Carter, via the MacDowell Colony

Earlier this month, we proudly announced the 30 finalists in six categories for our annual book awards. In the coming weeks, NBCC board members will be spotlighting each title on our website. In the meantime, please mark your calendars: On March 11 we’ll host an evening of readings from finalists, and on March 12 we’ll announce the award winners. After the awards ceremony, please come to our gala fundraiser, where you can mingle with friends and finalists while supporting the work the NBCC does throughout the year. Don’t wait: Buy your tickets today!

Now, on to our member reviews…

Lisa Peet interviewed Jen Beagin, author of Pretend I’m Dead and Vacuum in the Dark, for Bloom.

Fran Hawthorne reviewed Michal Ben-Naftali’s novel The Teacher for the New York Journal of Books.

Tom Zelman reviewed Ilan Stavans and Josh Lambert’s How Yiddish Changed America and How America Changed Yiddish for the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.

Tobias Carroll wrote about some recent books that explore questions of trauma and crime but don’t necessarily fit the “true crime” category for CrimeReads.

Anita Felicelli reviewed Charles Yu’s novel Interior Chinatown for the San Francisco Chronicle.

Daneet Steffens interviewed Alex Marwood for CrimeReads, and reviewed William Gibson’s novel Agency and Kate Weinberg’s novel The Truants for the Boston Globe.

Hamilton Cain covered new books from Michael Chabon and Ayelet Waldman, Rye Curtis, Emma Copley Eisenberg, Katrine Engberg, Scarlett Thomas, and Joshua Yaffa for O: The Oprah Magazine.

Jenny Shank reviewed Olaf Olaffson’s novel The Sacrament for America Magazine.

Jonathan Marks reviewed Yuval Levin’s A Time to Build for ArcDigital. 

K.L. Romo reviewed Serena Burdick’s historical novel The Girls With No Names for BookTrib; for The Big Thrill, she reviewed J.T. Ellison’s psychological thriller Good Girls Lie and Chris Hauty’s political thriller Deep State, and interviewed thriller author Jon Land.

Michael J. McCann reviewed Lars Kepler’s novel The Rabbit Hunter for the New York Journal of Books:

Martha Anne Toll reviewed Garth Greenwell’s novel Cleanness for NPR Books.

Dana Wilde reviewed Elizabeth Strout’s novel Olive, Again in his Off Radar column in the Central Maine Newspapers.

Kimberly King Parsons interviewed Gary Lutz for Southwest Review.

Jacob Appel reviewed Jeanine Cummins’ novel American Dirt for the New York Journal of Books.

J. Howard Rosier reviewed Danez Smith’s poetry collection Homie for 4Columns.

Peggy Kurkowski reviewed Buddy Levy’s Labyrinth of Ice: The Triumphant and Tragic Greely Polar Expedition for Open Letters Review.

Rachael Nevins wrote about three heroines of William Gibson’s novels for Ploughshares.

Chris Barsanti reviewed Anna Wiener’s memoir, Uncanny Valley, for PopMatters.

Sarah Neilson rounded up 11 of the most anticipated books by indigenous authors for the first half of 2020 for BookMarks, reviewed Danez Smith’s poetry collection Homie for Lambda Literary, and interviewed Emma Copley Eisenberg for an essay about The Third Rainbow Girl for On the Seawall.

Rachael Nevins reviewed Burhan Sönmez’s novel Labyrinth for Necessary Fiction.

David Nilsen reviewed Elizabeth Schmuhl’s poetry collection Premonitions for Southern Indiana Review.

Clea Simon reviewed Rita Woods’ debut novel, Remembrance, for the Boston Globe.

Oline Cogdill reviewed Tim Dorsey’s mystery Naked Came the Florida Man  and Charlaine Harris’ novel The Longer Fall for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel and Alex Marwood’s novel The Poison Garden for the Associated Press.

And in other news:

Nell Painter, whose book Old in Art School was an NBCC finalist in autobiography last year, has been appointed chair of the MacDowell Colony board of directors.

Member Joan Frank was interviewed by ForeWord Reviews about her new essay collection, Try to Get Lost, which won the River Teeth Nonfiction Book Award.

Member Connie Post‘s poetry collection Prime Meridian was released on January 3 by Glass Lyre Press.

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 Be sure to include the link to your work.