Critical Notes

New reviews and more from NBCC members

By Michael Schaub

In Memoriam

All of us at the NBCC are heartbroken at the loss of Valerie Boyd, who died on Feb. 12 in Atlanta at 58. Valerie served on the NBCC board from 2005 to 2008, and was the author of the critically acclaimed Wrapped in Rainbows: The Life of Zora Neale Hurston, and the editor of Gathering Blossoms Under Fire: The Journals of Alice Walker. At the time of her passing, she was at work on an anthology, Bigger Than Bravery: Black Resilience and Reclamation in a Time of Pandemic. She was a brilliant, kind, and inspiring colleague, and we’re going to miss her. We offer our condolences to her loved ones.

Member Reviews/Essays

Betsy Groban wrote about reading with her grandchildren for Publishers Weekly. You can find her previous columns about little Olympia and Ira here.

Rhoda Feng reviewed Amitav Ghosh’s The Nutmeg’s Curse for The White Review, Dipesh Chakrabarty’s The Climate of History in a Planetary Age for The Hedgehog Review, and Yūko Tsushima’s Woman Running in the Mountains, translated by Geraldine Harcourt, for the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

Bridget Quinn reviewed By Her Hand: Artemisia Gentileschi and Women Artists in Italy, 1500-1800, edited by Eve Straussman-Pflanzer and Oliver Tostmann, for Ron Slate’s On the Seawall.

Lynnell Edwards reviewed Julia Koets’ Pine for Good River Review.

Barbara J. King reviewed Dave Goulson’s Silent Earth: Averting the Insect Apocalypse for the TLS.

Adam Morgan reviewed Marlon James’ Moon Witch, Spider King for the AV Club.

Yvonne C. Garrett reviewed Ben Okri’s Every Leaf a Hallelujah and Mónica Ojeda’s Jawbone for The Brooklyn Rail.

Andru Okun reviewed Ben Rawlence’s The Treeline: The Last Forest and the Future of Life on Earth for Undark.

Allan Graubard reviewed Annalee Newitz’s Four Lost Cities for Leonardo.

Oline H. Cogdill reviewed Wahala by Nikki May, Notes on an Execution by Danya Kukafka, The Cage by Bonnie Kistler and The Eternal Lei by Naomi Hirahara, and A Thousand Steps by T. Jefferson Parker and A Game of Fear by Charles Todd for the Sun Sentinel. She also reviewed The Fields by Erin Young, The Other Family by Wendy Corsi Staub, and Shadows of Pecan Hollow by Caroline Frost for Shelf Awareness.

Former NBCC board member Mark Athitakis reviewed Hugh Howard’s Architects of an American Landscape: Henry Hobson Richardson, Frederick Law Olmsted, and the Reimagining of America’s Public and Private Spaces for Ron Slate’s On the Seawall.

Beth Kanell has expanded her reviews beyond the New York Journal of Books and, to the Historical Novels Review. She also has a short story, “Knit, Purl, Repeat,” in the current issue of Lilith magazine. 

Tara Cheesman reviewed Lan Samantha Chang’s The Family Chao, an ambitious adaptation of The Brothers Karamazov, for Ron Slate‘s On the Seawall.

Joan Silverman reviewed Ann Patchett’s These Precious Days for The National Book Review.

Lanie Tankard reviewed Pollak’s Arm by Hans von Trotha, translated by Elisabeth Lauffer, for Ron Slate‘s On the Seawall.

Alexander Pyles reviewed Elly Bangs’ Unity, Lincoln Michel’s The Body Scout, and Adrian Tchaikovsky’s Shards of Earth for Analog.

Jim Schley reviewed Matthew Olzmann’s Constellation Route for Seven Days.

Julia M. Klein reviewed Gal Beckerman’s The Quiet Before for the Forward.

Lindsey Anthony-Bacchione reviewed Getting to the Truth: The Craft and Practice of Creative Nonfiction by the editors of Hippocampus Magazine for Brevity’s Nonfiction Blog.

Hannah Joyner wrote about Maud Casey’s City of Incurable Women and the idea of the “trauma plot” for Ron Slate’s On the Seawall.

Member Interviews

Lisa Peet interviewed Sari Botton for Bloom.

Betsy Groban interviewed illustrator Jason Chin and author Andrea Wang, whose book Watercress won the 2022 Caldecott Medal.

Theodore Kinni interviewed Amishi Jha about her book Peak Mind for strategy+business.

NBCC board member Lori Feathers and her podcast co-host Sam Jordison talked to Saskia Vogel about her translation of The Bear Woman by Karolina Ramqvist, in which a writer explores the life of a 16th-century French noblewoman abandoned in the Gulf of Saint Lawrence.  

Member News

Shelley Frisch has two new translations from German: Jena 1800, by Peter Neumann, which was published by FSG last week, and The Aphorisms of Franz Kafka, edited by Reiner Stach, which will be published by Princeton University Press in April. 

Meg Waite Clayton‘s The Postmistress of Paris is a New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice.

Partner News

Our friends and partners at PEN America are holding their annual literary awards ceremony, hosted by Seth Meyers, on Monday, Feb. 28, at 8 pm Eastern, at the Town Hall in New York. You can find more information, and buy tickets, here.

Our friends and partners at Rain Taxi have two exciting virtual events this week. On Tuesday, Feb. 22, at 3 pm Central, Ben Okri will participate in an online event, and on Thursday, Feb. 24, at 3 pm Central, Judith Margolis and C.S. Giscombe will discuss their new book.

Photo by Jimmy Emerson, DVM, via Flickr / CC BY-NC-ND 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.