Critical Notes

New reviews and more from NBCC members

By Michael Schaub

Friends of the NBCC, just a reminder that if you missed last Sunday’s literary celebration, you can find a link to watch it here, and you can read the list of the finalists for the 2020 NBCC Awards here. You definitely won’t want to miss Katy Waldman’s remarks on winning the Nona Balakian Citation for Excellence in Reviewing—you can read the text of her speech here. Remember to mark your calendars for our 2020 NBCC Awards ceremony, which will take place on March 25 at 7 p.m. Eastern, and as always, thanks for reading!

Member Reviews/Essays

Joanna Scutts reviewed Janice P. Nimura’s The Doctors Blackwell for The New York Times Book Review.

Former NBCC board member Kerri Arsenault, a finalist for this year’s NBCC John Leonard Prize, reviewed David Hardin’s Standpipe: Delivering Water in Flint for The Washington Post.

Former NBCC President Tom Beer wrote about Ta-Nehisi Coates’ The Beautiful Struggle (Adapted for Young Adults) and other young readers’ editions for Kirkus Reviews.

Charles Green reviewed Richard Bradford’s Devils, Lusts and Strange Desires: The Life of Patricia Highsmith for Lambda Literary Review and Hermione Lee’s Tom Stoppard: A Life for DC Metro Theater Arts.

Grace Lichtenstein reviewed Melissa Broder’s Milk Fed for BookPage.

Michelle Newby Lancaster reviewed Justin Deabler’s Lone Stars for Lone Star Literary Life.

Ellen Wayland-Smith reviewed Elizabeth Catte’s Pure America: Eugenics and the Making of Modern Virginia for the Boston Review.

Eric Liebetrau reviewed Simon Winchester’s latest book, Land, for The Boston Globe. And for Kirkus Reviews, Eric celebrated the evergreen appeal of Joan Didion, and looked at two recent standout books about Black culture in America.

Hamilton Cain reviewed Joan Didion’s Let Me Tell You What I Mean for O, the Oprah Magazine.

Chris Barsanti reviewed Yang Jisheng’s The World Turned Upside Down for PopMatters.

Melanie Dragger reviewed Robert Chaney’s The Grizzly in the Driveway for The Literary West Review.

Fran Hawthorne reviewed Eman Quotah’s Bride of the Sea for the New York Journal of Books.

NBCC Vice President/Online Michael Schaub reviewed Thomas Healy’s Soul City: Race, Equality, and the Lost Dream of an American Utopia for NPR.

Member Interviews

Heather Scott Partington interviewed Ben Ehrenreich and Roberto Lovato for Alta.

NBCC Vice President/Awards and Events Jane Ciabattari talked to Ben Hopkins, author of Cathedral, about telling a story in a 90-minute film versus a 600-page novel for Literary Hub.

Eric Liebetrau interviewed Gabriel Byrne about his new book, which is decidedly not your typical celebrity memoir, and David Katz, former photographer for Barack Obama, for Kirkus Reviews.

Julia M. Klein interviewed Carl L. Hart about Drug Use for Grownups for Columbia Alumni Magazine, and Suleika Jaouad about her memoir, Between Two Kingdoms, for Princeton Alumni Weekly.

Elizabeth Lund interviewed poet and translator David Ferry for NewTV.

Member News, Etc.

NBCC Vice President/Secretary Colette Bancroft won the Mystery Writers of America’s Robert L. Fish Memorial Award for her short story “The Bite,” published in Tampa Bay Noir, which she edited. Colette talked to the Tampa Bay Times, where she’s the newspaper’s book critic, about her story and the anthology.

Deborah Bacharach’s new book of poetry, Shake & Tremor, is now available. Her guest post, “My Year of Writing Poetry Book Reviews,” is on Trish Hopkins’ blog.

Photo of the New York Public Library by Vincent Desjardins 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.