Critical Notes / Announcements

New reviews and more from NBCC members

By Michael Schaub

We hope you’re all having a good fall so far! Our members have been keeping busy over the past week, reviewing books by Alice Hoffman, Alex Ross, Mia Couto, Marilynne Robinson, and much more, and interviewing authors like Tiffany McDaniel, Jacqueline Woodson, Rumaan Alam, and Jane Smiley. Please keep sending us links to your work at for inclusion in future editions of Critical Notes, and stay safe out there!

Member Reviews/Essays

In celebration of Banned Books Week, Ron Charles read the 10 Most Challenged Books

Kathleen Rooney wrote an essay about Ruth Stone for the Poetry Foundation.

Tom Beer wrote about essay collections by Zadie Smith, Laila Lalami, and Helen Macdonald for Kirkus Reviews.

Jeffrey Ann Goudie reviewed Alice Hoffman’s Magic Lessons for The Boston Globe.

NBCC board member Lori Feathers wrote about Jack and Marilynne Robinson’s other novels for her “In Context” essay series at Literary Hub.

Kevin O’Kelly reviewed Jacob Goldstein’s Money: The True Story of a Made-Up Thing for The Christian Science Monitor.

Hamilton Cain reviewed Red Comet, Heather Clark’s biography of Sylvia Plath, for the November issue of O, the Oprah Magazine.

Jenny Bhatt wrote a personal manifesto for literary criticism for Poets & Writers.

Former NBCC board member Steven G. Kellman, a winner of the Nona Balakian Citation for Excellence in Reviewing, reviewed Alex Ross’s Wagnerism: Art and Politics in the Shadow of Music for The American Scholar.

Tara Cheesman reviewed Japanese honkaku and shin honkaku mysteries for CrimeReads.

Michelle Newby Lancaster reviewed Rudy Ruiz’s The Resurrection of Fulgencio Ramirez for Lone Star Literary Life.

Lanie Tankard reviewed The Sword and the Spear by Mia Couto for World Literature Today.

NBCC Vice President/Online Michael Schaub reviewed Jonathan Alter’s His Very Best: Jimmy Carter, A Life for NPR.

Paul Gleason reviewed Marilynne Robinson’s Jack for The National Book Review.

Lisa Von Drasek wrote a profile of Louise Seaman Bechtel for Children and Libraries.

Ellen Prentiss Campbell reviewed Marilynne Robinson’s Jack for the Washington Independent Review of Books.

Jeffrey Mannix reviewed Before She Knew Him by Peter Swanson for his Murder Ink column in the Durango Telegraph, covering Colorado and the Four Corners of the Southwest.

Dana Wilde reviewed Jim Nichols’ Blue Summer in his Off Radar column for the Central Maine Newspapers.

Member Interviews

Carissa Chesanek interviewed Tiffany McDaniel about her new book, Betty, for Guernica.

Jenny Bhatt was interviewed at The Rumpus by Madhushree Ghosh, at The Southeast Review by Aram Mrjoian, and at PEN America by Jared Jackson. She was also on the Asian America podcast with Ken Fong.

Grant Faulkner interviewed Jacqueline Woodson for his Write-minded podcast.

Tom Beer interviewed Rumaan Alam about his novel Leave the World Behind for Kirkus Reviews.

Elaine Szewczyk profiled author Jane Smiley for Publishers Weekly.

Member News

Sarah McCraw Crow’s debut novel, The Wrong Kind of Woman, will be published Oct. 6 by MIRA Books/HarperCollins..

The book launch for former NBCC board member David Biespiel’s memoir, A Place of Exodus: Home, Memory, and Texas—described as a “poignantly eloquent memoir” (Kirkus Reviews, Starred Review); “breathtaking prose” (Jewish Week) a “surprising, heartbreaking and inspiring story” by former US Poet Laureate Robert Pinsky; and as a book that those “who’ve questioned their faith will find much to contemplate”—will be live-streamed at Powell’s Books in Portland on Thursday, Oct. 8, 6 p.m. Pacific, with Biespiel in conversation with “Between the Covers” podcast host David Naimon.

Kevin Blankinship’s 2019 Los Angeles Review of Books essay “Rushdie’s Deal With the Devil” is featured in a new LARB anthology commemorating Banned Books Week, available as a digital download with a donation of $1 or more.

Based on the first four chapters of her unpublished mystery, The Bones of Two, Patricia Schultheis is a finalist for the Novel Slices Award. 

Susan Henderson, a lifetime member of the NBCC, judged the 2020 High Plains Book Award for Fiction. The winner: Joe Wilkins’ Fall Back Down When I Die.

Photo of The George Peabody Library in Baltimore, Md., by Patrick Gillespie via Flickr / CC BY 2.0.

SEND US YOUR STUFF: 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.