Critical Notes

Reviews and More From NBCC Members

By Halima Elmajdoubi

Invitation to NBCC awards ceremony

Dear NBCC Friends,

The in-person NBCC awards ceremony is coming up next week! Register here if you haven’t already. Meanwhile, our 30 Books in 30 Days series is complete, with original reviews by our prize judges of the finalists. Catch up on all of them at LitHub.

This year’s AWP was an eventful one for the NBCC. ICYMI, here’s the video from our featured reading with Honoree Fanonne Jeffers and Namwali Serpell, moderated by Jane Ciabattari. Thanks to the members who took time to field questions at the AWP Bookfair: Nan Cohen, John Domini, Michele Filgate, Rob Foreman, Daphne Kolotay, Meg Lemke, Anne Peters, Amy Reardon, and Grace Talusan. 

In the Spotlight

One of the big novels so far this month is Eleanor Catton’s Birnam Wood (Farrar, Straus and Giroux), the writer’s first since her Booker-winning novel The Luminaries in 2013. The literary thriller follows a guerrilla garden collective, Birnam Wood, that becomes entangled with a mysterious and nefarious billionaire. In his review for The Guardian, Kevin Power labels the novel a political thriller “about the schemas and deadlocks of our contemporary politics.” Hamilton Cain likens Catton’s ability to traverse narrative territory to the work of Stephen Markley and Rebecca Makkai in his review for the StarTribune, and Lauren LeBlanc commends Birnam Wood “as “a book that grips you by the throat until it’s final paragraph” in her review for the Boston Globe.


For BookTrib, Linda Hitchcock reviewed Balli Kaur Jaswal’s Now You See Us.

Jeffrey Mannix reviewed Kwei Quartey’s Last Seen in Lapaz for his Murder Ink column in the Durango Telegraph.

For BookPage, Sarah McCraw Crow reviewed Colm Tóibín’s A Guest at the Feast, Jennifer Savran Kelly’s debut novel Endpapers, and Aanchal Malhotra’s The Book of Everlasting Things.

Scott Olsen reviewed four books for Frames Magazine: Stanley Greenberg’s Olmsted Trees; Margit Erb and Michael Parillo’s The Unseen Saul Leiter; Ave Pildas’ Star Struck; and Herman van den Boom’s 100 Movies: A Survey of American Drive-In Theaters / 1976.

For Salon, Nell Beram wrote an essay about the experience of grief in Prince Harry’s Spare in comparison to the grief presented in the Apple TV+ adaptation of Ann Napolitano’s Dear Edward.

Julia M. Klein reviewed Luiz Schwarcz’s The Absent Moon for the Forward.

Angela Ajayi reviewed Yevgenia Belorusets’ War Diary, translated from German by Greg Nissan, for the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

For the LA Times, Marc Weingarten reviewed Graham Coxon’s new memoir Verse, Chorus, Monster!

Jenny Shank reviewed Julian Rubinstein’s novel The Holly and the documentary film for the High Country News.

For the Washington Post, Carl Hoffman reviewed Reid Mittenbuler’s Wanderlust.

Heller McAlpin reviewed Idra Novey’s Take What You Need for the Wall Street Journal and Katherine May’s Enchantment for the CS Monitor.

For the Arts Fuse, Clea Simon reviewed Donna Leon’s So Shall You Reap.

Lauren LeBlanc reviewed Sabrina Orah Mark’s Happily for the New York Times.

For Kirkus, Eric Liebetrau wrote about five books that challenge ideas about gender.

Adam M. Lowenstein reviewed Mariana Mazzucato and Rosie Collington’s The Big Con for The American Prospect.

For On the Seawall, Natalia Holtzman reviewed Alba De Céspedes’ Forbidden Notebook, translated by Ann Goldstein.

Alexander Pyles reviewed Márcia Barbieri’s The Whore, translated by Adrian Minckley for LitReactor.

For the Gay & Lesbian Review, Charles Green reviewed Andrew Sean Greer’s Less is Lost.

Susan Coll reviewed Jenny Jackson’s Pineapple Street for the Washington Post.

For On the Seawall, Tara Cheesman reviewed Maylis De Kerangal’s Eastbound.

Carol Iaciofano Aucoin reviewed William Landay’s All That Is Mine I Carry With Me and Julie Carrick Dalton’s The Last Beekeeper for WBUR’s Arts & Culture.

For On the Seawall, Ron Slate reviewed two books: Pilar Quintana’s Abyss and Keiran Goddard’s Hourglass.

Nell Beram reviewed three books for Shelf Awareness: Helene Stapinski and Bonnie Siegler’s The American Way: A True Story of Nazi Escape, Superman, and Marilyn Monroe; John Higgs’ Love and Let Die: James Bond, The Beatles, and the British Psyche; and Katrine Engberg’s The Sanctuary.

Priscilla Gilman reviewed Cathleen Schine’s Kunstlers in Paradise for the Boston Globe.

For Central Maine, Dana Wilde reviewed Dave Morrison’s new collection of poems Another Good Day Begins.

Former NBCC Board member Mark Athitakis reviewed Rebecca Makkai’s I Have Some Questions for You for On the Seawall and Stephen Marche’s On Writing and Failure for the Washington Post.

Heather Hewett wrote about Miriam Toews’ Women Talking and the film adaptation of the novel for Inside Higher Ed.


For Literary Hub, Jane Ciabattari spoke with novelist, poet, and translator Idra Novey on her novel Take What You Need and characters who hear and mishear each other.

Martha Anne Toll spoke with Alice Robb about her new book Don’t Think Dear: On Loving and Leaving Ballet for Pointe.

For The Millions, Elaine Szewczyk talked to Kazuo Ishiguro about writing the script for the film Living, getting nominated for an Oscar, and working with Guillermo del Toro to adapt his novel The Buried Giant.

For the Frames Magazine podcast, Scott Olsen spoke with photographers Jessica Todd Harper, Jem Southam, Michael Morris, and Rob Hammer.

Kate Knibbs talked to Margaret Atwood about her new short story collection Old Babes in the Wood.

Member News

Nicholas Brins co-edited The Cambridge Companion to the Australian Novel, out from Cambridge University Press.

Kristin Dykstra’s new translation of Amanda Berenguer’s The Lady of Elche was just published by Veliz Books. This bilingual edition also contains an essay by Dykstra about Berenguer’s book, originally published in 1987.

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