Critical Notes

Reviews and More from NBCC Members

By David Varno

Person climbing on stacks of books

Dear NBCC Friends,

We’re trying out a new feature on exciting forthcoming titles. We’re talking three months out or longer, books within pitching distance. Stuff we’ve picked up at events or found on our doorsteps, or still on our wish lists. 

I’m kicking us off with a few, and submissions from NBCC members will follow. If you’d like to suggest titles, please join the NBCC or renew your membership.

Thank you!

David Varno, VP/Online

p.s. A reminder that the NBCC is hosting a fantastic virtual event tonight with a group of critics discussing their respective views on Constructing a Nervous System by Margo Jefferson. Register here, if you haven’t already, and tune in at 7:00pm ET. 

Galley Bag

I’m a sucker for New York stories, and Tyriek White’s debut novel We Are a Haunting (Astra House, Apr.), set in East New York, is at the top of my stack.

Also, didn’t know I had a hunger for boarding school novels until I read Rebecca Makkai’s forthcoming I Have Some Questions for You (Viking, Feb.), so I was extra stoked to snag a copy of Mrs. S by K Patrick (Europa, June), about an affair between an elite English school’s matron and the headmaster’s wife.

I’ll stop myself for now with a brief mention of Ordinary Notes by Christina Sharpe (FSG, Apr.), which comprises notes on art, literature, and daily life; in one, dedicated to Saidiya Hartman, Sharpe carries the flame of speculation about and appreciation for Black women’s histories that was so brilliantly chronicled in Hartman’s NBCC-winning Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments


In the November 14 issue of The New Yorker, Balakian winner Daniel Mendelsohn reviewed a new translation of Ovid’s Metamorphoses by Stephanie McCarter.

Carolyn Kellogg reviewed Cormac McCarthy’s novel The Passenger with a bit about his upcoming Stella Maris for the Los Angeles Times.

Emerging Critic Ella Fox-Martens wrote about HERmione by H.D. for the Baffler.

Former board member Mark Athitakis reviewed Darryl Pinckney’s memoir, Come Back in September, for On the Seawall.

Anne Charles reviewed Randal Kenan’s essay collection Black Folk Could Fly for the Gay and Lesbian Review.

Diego Báez reviewed Super Sad Black Girl by Diamond Sharp for Harriet Books.

Benjamin Woodard reviewed Seduced by Story: The Use and Abuse of Narrative by Peter Brooks for On the Seawall.

Heather Green reviewed Late Summer Ode by Olena Kalytiak Davis for Harriet Books.

Ron Slate reviewed Dawn, a novel by Sevgi Soysal & The Visible Unseen, nonfiction by Andrea Chapela for On The Seawall.

Robert Allen Papinchak reviewed Siobhan Phillips’s Benefit for World Literature Today.

Nichole LeFebvre reviewed Dorthe Nors’s A Line in the World for On the Seawall. 

Fran Hawthorne reviewed We All Want Impossible Things by Catherine Newman for The New York Journal of Books

Robert Allen Papinchak reviewed Alison Cochrun’s Kiss Her Once for Me, a romcom set in Portland, for The Oregonian.

Jeffrey Mannix reviewed I Am the Light of This World by Michael Parker for his Murder Ink column in the Durango Telegraph serving southwest Colorado.

Diane Scharper reviewed Faith of Our Fathers, A History of True England by Joseph Pearce for the National Catholic Reporter

Linda Hitchcock reviewed Women Holding Things by Maira Kalman for Booktrib.

Nell Beram reviewed Simply Vegan Baking: Taking the Fuss Out of Vegan Cakes, Cookies, Breads, and Desserts by Freya Cox and Shot! by Rock: The Photography of Mick Rock by Mick Rock, both for Shelf Awareness.

Karl Wolff reviewed The Rise and Reign of the Mammals: A New History from the Shadow of the Dinosaurs to US by Steve Brusatte for the New York Journal of Books.

Tobias Carroll reviewed Kwaku Osei-Afrifa’s The Surf and wrote up a rundown of indie press speculative fiction for, and looked at November books in translation for Words Without Borders.


Tom Beer spoke with author/illustrator Levi Pinfold about his new book, Paradise Sands, for Kirkus Reviews.

On “Across the Pond,” Board member Lori Feathers and co-host Sam Jordison dig into the Kingdom of Redonda and its literary legacy with Michael Hingston, author of Try Not to be Strange: The Curious History of the Kingdom of Redonda.

Costa B. Pappas interviewed Bill Waters on his EP “Colt Classic” for BOMB

Tobias Carroll interviewed Tariq Goddard for CrimeReads.

Partner Events

On November 16, at 5:30 pm CT, Rain Taxi welcomes legendary California poet Will Alexander to celebrate the publication of his newest book, Divine Blue Light (for John Coltrane), being published as Number 63 in the famed City Lights Pocket Poets Series. At this special publication day event, Alexander will be in conversation with poet and critic D.S. Marriott.

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Photo by Nothing Ahead