Critical Notes

New Reviews and More From NBCC Members

By David Varno

photo of woman dressed as witch holding a book

Dear NBCC Friends,

Spooky season might be drawing to a close, but publishers haven’t stopped adding to an ever-growing glut of gothic novels and literary horror. So, if that’s your thing, there’s no reason to stop now. Among the most anticipated books to consider next year is Mariana Enriquez’s Our Share of Night, illustrated by Pablo Gerardo Camacho and translated by Megan McDowell, coming in February from Hogarth. It’s about a freaky vampiric family committed to eternal life.

Meanwhile, as your newsletter’s editor was busy binging on campy ’80s teen horror movies and listening to metal, some of our members found opportunities for seasonal bookish columns. Betsy Groban wrote about literary gravesites for the Boston Globe, and Rafael Castillo reflected on Malcolm Lowrey’s Under the Volcano for his piece on Día De Los Muertos for the San Antonio Express-News.

Before we get into the week’s reviews, a reminder that this is a great time to get involved with the NBCC or renew your membership, with Balakian Prize submissions open, the board election coming up, and more. Finally, we’re excited to announce an upcoming NBCC Craft Panel, with several critics discussing their various responses to Margo Jefferson’s Constructing a Nervous SystemMore info and registration info here.

In the Spotlight

Lynn Steger Strong’s third novel, Flight, brings a group of siblings together for Christmas after the death of their mother, but before they’ve managed to figure out what to do with the house. Jeffrey Ann Goudie credits Strong for untangling the nuances of grief in her review for the Boston Globe, and Hamilton Cain compares Strong’s “exacting observer[ations] of families” to the work of Anne Tyler and Jonathan Franzen in his review for the Washington Post.


Adam Hochschild reviewed two booksLegacy of Violence, by Caroline Elkins, and In the Forest of No Joy, by J. P. Daughton, for the New York Review of Books.

Kevin Brown wrote about Brother Robert: Growing Up with Robert Johnson by Annye C. Anderson with Preston Lauterbach, with a foreword by Elijah Wald; Up Jumped the Devil: The Real Life of Robert Johnson by Bruce Conforth and Gayle Dean Wardlow; Music: A Subversive History by Ted Gioia; and Looking to Get Lost: Adventures in Music and Writing by Peter Guralnick for Salmagundi.

Patricia Schultheis reviewed The Book of Goose by Yiyun Li for Washington Independent Review of Books.

Julia M. Klein reviewed John Lahr’s Arthur Miller: American Witness for the Boston Globe.

Diego Báez reviewed Landsmoder by Elena Salamanca for Harriet Books.

Edna Bonhomme wrote about seven books to help readers understand their grief for The Atlantic.

Jay Gabler reviewed Bob Dylan’s The Philosophy of Modern Song for the Duluth News Tribune and Maya Phillips’s Nerd: Adventures in Fandom From This Universe to the Multiverse for the Tangential.

Priscilla Gilman reviewed Novelist as a Vocation by Haruki Murakami for the Boston Globe.

Hamilton Cain reviewed Siddhartha Mukherjee’s The Song of the Cell for the Minneapolis Star Tribune. 

Frank Freeman reviewed Damion Searls’s translation of Trees: An Anthology of Writings and Paintings by Herman Hesse for Today’s American Catholic.

Ellen Prentiss Campbell recounts her reading of Swedish books in English translation for the Washington Independent Review of Books.

Wayne Catan reviewed Tess Gunty’s The Rabbit Hutch in the Harvard Review.

Jenny Shank reviewed Ryan Lee Wong’s Which Side are You On for the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

Diane Scharper reviewed The Grand Affair, John Singer Sargent in His World by Paul Fisher for the Washington Examiner.

Daniel Fraser reviewed Willem Styfhals’ No Spiritual Investment in the World for Radical Philosophy.


For their Book Cougars podcast, Chris Wolak and co-host, Emily Fine, interviewed Kelcey Ervick about her new graphic memoir The Keeper: Soccer, Me, and the Law That Changed Women’s Lives.

VP/Events Jane Ciabattari’s conversation with David Treuer for her Lit Hub column covered the republication of his first novel, Little, and his new role at Pantheon.

Meg Lemke profiled Riad Sattouf, whose new graphic novel is Esther’s Notebooks, for Publishers Weekly.

Erik Gleibermann interviewed Arinze Ifeakandu about his debut story collection God’s Children Are Little Broken Things for Full Stop.

Grant Faulkner interviewed Lan Samantha Chang as part of the Write-minded podcast’s craft series.

Mandana Chaffa interviewed Ross Gay about his new collection of essays, Inciting Joy (Algonquin Books), for Chicago Review of Books.

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Photo by Thirdman