Out of the Shadows by Walt Odets: 2019 Nonfiction finalist

Out of the Shadows: Reimagining Gay Men’s Lives by Walt Odets (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

In a foreword to his sprawling, insightful examination of the challenges faced by three generations of gay men in the U.S., Odets writes that aside from his primary intended audience—gay men—he considered the interests of two other groups: women, whose “insight and compassion” they contribute to gay men’s lives “cannot be overstated”; and fellow psychotherapists.

As a straight man, I would like Odets to know how valuable this book was to me as well. His critique of the “socially constructed ‘male’ identity,” which, he writes, has “long baffled women,” should invite any interested reader to consider how they have been shaped or otherwise impacted by male gender constructs, which can lead men toward inauthentic overcompensation or emotional repression, thus failing to realize their true selves and express themselves to others. He writes about the various ways that gay men have been socialized in a “heterosexist” society, absorbing shame or simply by understanding themselves in limited terms as a “homosexual,” rather than fully explore their “an entire internal life of feeling” as a gay man. Here, the straight male reader gains an opportunity to measure his own ability to relate to gay sensibility and see the value. “Some heterosexual men are able to read the sensibility of gay men and appreciate it… and their freedom from the familiar, constricted male identities.”

Much of the book draws from Odets’s experience as a therapist, and includes extended case studies from men that represent a “tripartite community” of gay men whose lives were primarily shaped by one of three pivotal years: 1969, 1981, and 1996. In working with these men, Odets found commonalities in the stigma they faced in early life and the traumas they’ve carried since, and traces the various ways they have been healed, often late in life. Make no mistake; despite this description, Out of the Shadows is no self-help book. Odets is not selling himself or any particular bill of goods. This is a rigorous study full of incredible stories, incisive commentary, and deep empathy.

— David Varno

L.E.L.: The Lost Life … by Lucasta Miller: 2019 Biography finalist

L.E.L.: The Lost Life and Scandalous Death of Letitia Elizabeth Landon, the Celebrated ‘Female Byron’ by Lucasta Miller (Knopf)

Having reclaimed the three Bronte sisters from 150 years of reinvention and misconception in the superb “The Bronte Myth” (2001), Lucasta Miller now retrieves L.E.L., the once celebrated poet, Letitia Elizabeth Landon, from her present obscurity and reveals a woman whom neither we nor most of her contemporaries knew. Born in 1802 to a genteel, impoverished family, she was, at her mother’s and her own connivance, taken up by the married William Jerdan, powerful editor of the Literary Gazette. This man, whom Carlyle called the “satyr-cannibal Literary Gazetteer,” dubbed her L.E.L., promoted her literary career, and fathered three children upon her—all sent away, their existence known to only a few.

Landon’s poetry, ambiguous, allusive, and titillating, was immensely popular during the 1820s, gaining her the sobriquet, “the Female Byron.” But as public feeling became increasingly moralistic, her work lost favor and her reputation worsened as her affair with Jerdan leaked out. Miller, no hagiographer, exposes Landon as a relentless flatterer, flirt, and self-promoter; but she also shows us a desperate artist, deplored as a fallen woman and thought vulgar for writing for money—much of which Jerdan kept for himself even as he moved on to younger prey.

Landon’s friends sought a husband for her, first in the person of John Forster (later Charles Dickens’s friend and biographer) who broke it off in horror after learning of her scandalous past. Next came George Maclean, recently returned to England from his station as governor of Cape Coast Castle (in present-day Ghana). Soon, however, he too learned of her sullied reputation and unsuccessfully attempted to get out of the match. In the end, Landon, age 36, accompanied Maclean back to Africa as his wife. There she died two months later of a drug overdose — intentional, accidental, or possibly murder.

Miller is magnificent in her use of Landon’s work to cast light on her life, and of her life to interpret her work. In this outstanding biography, she also examines the transformation of British sensibility from Romanticism and Regency worldliness to Victorian moralism, one casualty of which was Letitia Elizabeth Landon, a scorned, despairing victim of her times.

— Katherine A. Powers

Dunce by Mary Ruefle: 2019 Poetry finalist

Dunce by Mary Ruefle (Wave Books)

Mary Ruefle’s book of poems, Dunce, like all of her books, is like no other. I carry around her book of prose, Madness, Rack, and Honey as if it were a Bible, handing it to anyone (writer or not) who will listen. Her poems are an extension of her prose, but both have a magical power of sheer lexical and intellectual delight and surprise. 

The poem, “The Good Fortune of Material Existence,” begins: “Without bringing any more people/into the planning loop, I have decided/to have breakfast. I have made cautious/inquiries, and finally learned it is/Thursday.” Ruefle’s poems have the structure of jokes. Once Ruefle has our attention through humor and strategically planted aperçu and aphorism, she engages us with the language of the lyric: “Oh blank and hopeless days!/Oh long sleepless nights!/They are forgotten now/as I turn on the cold clear water of the stream./All the rivers of the world convene in me.” This beautiful writing gains power because of the change in tone from the previous lines. 

So little contemporary poetry exhibits humor, but Ruefle isn’t afraid to wag her finger at convention. Even when she is writing about heavier subjects such as death (there’s a lot of death in this book), Ruefle can’t resist lightening the tone, as if humor isn’t merely a defense mechanism, but a way of survival, of living. “What a beautiful day for a wedding!” she writes in the poem, “A Morning Person,” immediately followed by: “It was raining when we buried my mum,/she loved lilacs and here they are,/the lilac lilacs like pendulous/large breasts dripping with dew….” Ruefle’s poems restore the magic of how a child’s unsullied mind might move and shift, unafraid and unsoiled by societal manners and postures. 

 We see how a mind might have a quick thought about a wedding that for some inexplicable reason reminds the speaker of her dead mother and the weather, then the mother’s favorite flower. A different kind of poet might follow that thread and needle through the fabric of deep emotion, but not Ruefle. She returns to her signature humor and play with language: “the lilac lilacs like pendulous/large breasts dripping with dew.” The diction and syntax of the line itself hangs like a dripping wet shirt so that when we say it, the words mimic in the most askew way, how heavy a mother’s death might be. 

Ruefle makes her style of writing look easy. The easiest appearing writing is often the hardest to write. No one today is writing like Ruefle: her body of work in poetry and prose pricks like a needle that slightly catches the muscle—both painful and immensely delightfully awakening. 

— Victoria Chang

Good Talk by Mira Jacob: 2019 Autobiography finalist

Good Talk: A Memoir in Conversations by Mira Jacob (One World/Random House)

It may seem hard to believe, but drawing was once only a hobby for Mira Jacob. Her art didn’t take center stage in her creative life until she began working on her second book and first graphic memoir, Good Talk: A Memoir in Conversations. Which is surprising because Jacob’s illustrations in Good Talk are revelatory. Here, she peoples her world with characters whose static expressions achieve an astounding range of nuance and dimension. The result is an incisive narrative that reveals the complexities of human nature within everyday interactions. Each panel serves as a searing testimony on racism, sexism, motherhood, interracial marriage, colorism, and a nation brimming with suspicion toward brown people after 9/11.

Jacob is a fierce, honest, and scrupulous observer. When she recounts the routine passive-aggression she encounters as an Indian American woman, we are asked — no, we are challenged — to sit with the discomfort of our own complicity. Good Talk is no prescriptive or didactic telling. It is a study of subtlety, of both the spoken and unspoken, of the awkward silences and blank gazes that embody bias and collusion.

For Jacob, being a brown woman is to be both derided and desired. In India, her relatives deem her skin color too dark for a “good” marriage, while in the U.S., white America regards her as both an exotic foreigner and a potential terrorist. Jacob navigates these unsparing judgments with wit and cynicism, and yet, her pain is palpable. And when her in-laws declare their loyalty to Trump, she keenly captures the contradictions of love in the context of white supremacy.

This is not a book for those thirsting for a traditional narrative arc, and thank goodness for that. For Good Talk avoids spoon-feeding moral lessons and is neither offering nor selling redemption. And we, her readers, are richer and far better for it. 

Anjali Enjeti


The 2019 NBCC finalists up close

To count down to our awards ceremony in March, members of the NBCC board of directors write tributes to our 30 finalists — 5 books each in 6 categories. Check back here daily for links the latest addition.

The latest: Manual for Survival: A Chernobyl Guide to the Future by Kate Brown (Norton)

Autobiography finalists:
Five Days Gone: The Mystery of My Mother’s Disappearance as a Child by Laura Cumming (Scribner)

Catch and Kill: Lies, Spies, and a Conspiracy to Protect Predators by Ronan Farrow (Little, Brown)

Sounds Like Titanic: A Memoir by Jessica Chiccehitto Hindman (W.W. Norton)

Good Talk: A Memoir in Conversations by Mira Jacob (One World/Random House)

Know My Name: A Memoir by Chanel Miller (Viking)

Biography finalists:

Gods of the Upper Air: How a Circle of Renegade Anthropologists Reinvented Race, Sex, and Gender in the Twentieth Century by Charles King (Doubleday)

The Queen: The Forgotten Life behind an American Myth by Josh Levin (Little, Brown)

L.E.L.: The Lost Life and Scandalous Death of Letitia Elizabeth Landon, the Celebrated ‘Female Byron’  by Lucasta Miller (Knopf) 

Our Man: Richard Holbrooke and the End of the American Century by George Packer (Knopf)

A Woman of No Importance: The Untold Story of the American Spy Who Helped Win World War II by Sonia Purnell (Viking)

Criticism finalists:

Go Ahead in the Rain: Notes to A Tribe Called Quest by Hanif Abdurraqib. (University of Texas Press)

Essays One by Lydia Davis (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments: Intimate Histories of Social Upheaval by Saidiya Hartman (W.W. Norton)

Hot, Cold, Heavy, Light, 100 Art Writings 1988-2018 by Peter Schjeldahl (Abrams)

Axiomatic by Maria Tumarkin (Transit Books)

Fiction finalists:

Everything Inside: Stories by Edwidge Danticat (Knopf)

Feast Your Eyes by Myla Goldberg (Scribner)

The Topeka School by Ben Lerner (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

Lost Children Archive by Valeria Luiselli (Knopf)

The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead (Doubleday)

Nonfiction finalists:

Manual for Survival: A Chernobyl Guide to the Future by Kate Brown (Norton)

The Buried: An Archaeology of the Egyptian Revolution by Peter Hessler (Penguin Press)

Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland by Patrick Radden Keefe (Doubleday)

Out of the Shadows: Reimagining Gay Men’s Lives by Walt Odets (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

No Visible Bruises: What We Don’t Know About Domestic Violence Can Kill Us by Rachel Louise Snyder (Bloomsbury)

Poetry finalists:

The Tradition by Jericho Brown (Copper Canyon Press) 

Deaf Republic by Ilya Kaminsky (Graywolf)

Magical Negro by Morgan Parker (Tin House Books)

Dunce by Mary Ruefle (Wave Books)

Doomstead Days by Brian Teare (Nighboat Books)

The National Book Critics Circle Awards will be held March 12 in New York City. The awards are free and open to the public; friends and supporters of the NBCC are encouraged to join us for a reception afterwards, which serves as a fundraiser for the organization. We dress up and have drinks and snacks. Tickets are available now.


New reviews and more from the NBCC

NBCC friends and members: Now is the time to order your tickets for the post-awards celebration! It’s March 12 in New York City directly after our awards ceremony, and is our annual fundraiser. With drinks and snacks!

NBCC board member Lori Feathers interviewed Scarlett Thomas about her new novel, Oligarchy, for LitHub.

Kathleen Rooney reviewed Michael Zapata’s The Lost Book of Adana Moreau for the Chicago Tribune.

Roxana Robinson wrote about Virginia Woolf for The New Yorker.

Kamil Ahsan reviewed Lidia Yuknavitch’s short story collection Verge for NPR.

Priscilla Gilman reviewed Weather by Jenny Offill for the Boston Globe.

Julia M. Klein reviewed Eilene Zimmerman’s Smacked for the Boston Globe.

Clea Simon reviewed Daniel Kehlmann’s Tyll for the Boston Globe.

Pat Hagen reviewed The Professor and the Parson by Adam Sisman for the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.

Claude Peck reviewed The Scientist and the Spy by Mara Hvistendahl for the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.

Scott McLemee wrote a remembrance of critic George Steiner at Inside Higher Ed.

Joe Peschel reviewed Paul Yoon’s Run Me To Earth for the Brooklyn Rail.

Laurie Stone reviewed Hannah Sullivan’s Three Poems in The Women’s Review of Books.

Oline H Cogdill reviewed The Good Killer by Harry Dolan for the Associated Press and The Other Mrs. by Mary Kubica for the Sun-Sentinel.

Sarah Neilson spoke with poet Danez Smith about their latest collection, Homie, for Adroit Journal. At Seattle Times, she reviewed Melissa Anne Peterson’s Vera Violet and Emma Copley Eisenberg’s The Third Rainbow Girl.

Paul Wilner reviewed Conversations with William T. Vollmann, edited
by Daniel Lukes for ZYZZYVA.

Jeffrey Mannix reviewed Perfect Little Children by Sophie Hannah for the Durango Telegraph.

K.L. Romo reviewed Sophie Hannah’s Perfect Little Children for the  Washington Independent Review of Books and reviewed two books for The Big Thrill Magazine,  Within Plain Sight by Bruce Robert Coffin and Last Day by Luanne Rice.

Robert Allen Papinchak reviewed Clare Beams’s The Illness Lesson for the Washington Independent Review of Books.

Michelle Newby Lancaster reviewed We, the Wildflowers by L.B. Simmons for Lone Star Literary Life.

Fran Hawthorne reviewed The Light after the War by Anita Abriel for the New York Journal of Books.

Michael J. McCann reviewed Sanctuary by Luca D’Andrea for the New York Journal of Books.

Laura Wetherington reviewed Experiments in Joy by Gabrielle Civil for Full Stop.

Jessica Smith reviewed Emily Jungmin Yoon’s A Cruelty Special to Our Species from 2018 for FENCE Digital/Constant Critic.


Smith’s own poetry collection, How to Know the Flowers, was reviewed in The Rumpus.

Wetherington’s second book of poetry, Parallel Resting Places, was selected by Peter Gizzi for the New Measure Poetry Prize.

Terese Svoboda’s poem “Shame Helps” appears in the February issue of Poetry magazine.

Katharine Coldiron’s debut novella, Ceremonials is out now from Kernpunkt Press.

Joan Frank discussed her book Where You’re All Going: Four Novellas with the podcast A Novel Idea, which airs on KRCB-FM Radio.

Christoph Irmscher wrote about the photography of Mark Roemisch in Od Review.

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 NBCCcritics@gmail.com. Be sure to include the link to your work.

Image: from Our Living World, 1885, one of 150,000 botanical illustration images in the public domain made available online by the Biodiversity Heritage Library.

Critical Notes: February 3, 2020

It’s February and 2020 is in full effect, with this week’s batch of book reviews from members. Also, don’t forget to order your tickets for the NBCC Gala Fundraiser, following the awards ceremony on March 12.  And if you’re heading to San Antonio for AWP, make sure to check out these NBCC events.


NBCC online VP Carolyn Kellogg reviewed Paul Yoon’s Run Me to Earth for the Los Angeles Times, saying it “inverts and reinvents the American war story.” Also this week, Kellogg reviewed Charles Yu’s “Interior Chinatown” for the Washington Post.

Benjamin Woodard interviewed Abby Frucht about her new poetry collection, Maids, for the Rumpus.

William O’Rourke reviewed Our Man: Richard Holbrooke and The End of the American Century by George Packer for the National Catholic Reporter.

Clea Simon explains why she opted out of reviewing American Dirt for the Boston Globe.

Board member Mark Athitakis reviewed Phillipa K. Chong’s study of book reviewers, Inside the Critics Circle, for On the Seawall. He also spoke with Five Books about the autobiography finalists for this year’s NBCC awards.

Speaking of five books, Moment magazine asked Erika Dreifus for a list of what to read to be an educated Jew.

Peggy Kurkowski reviewed The Reality Game: How the Next Wave of Technology Will Break the Truth, by Samuel Woolley, for Open Letters Review. Kurkowski also reviewed The Sacrament by Olaf Olafsson for the BookBrowse Review.

Julia M. Klein reviewed Emuna Elon’s House on Endless Waters for the Forward.

Joe Peschel writes about E. B. White’s essay collection, On Democracy, in the Portland Press Herald.

Karl Wolff reviewed How to Get Rid of a President: History’s Guide to Removing Unpopular, Unable, or Unfit Chief Executives by David Preiss for the New York Journal of Books.

Ron Slate reviewed Scratching the Head of Chairman Mao, stories by Jonathan Tel, for On The Seawall.

Jim Ruland talks to Michael Chabon about making the jump to showrunner for Star Trek: Picard in the Los Angeles Times, and reviewed Cristina Rivera Garza’s The Taiga Syndrome in Message from the Underworld.

Hamilton Cain reviewed Carola Saavedra’s Blue Flowers for Ploughshares:

Michael Adam Carroll reviewed Children of the Land by Marcelo Hernandez Castillo for Ploughshares and The Criminal Child by Jean Genet for Ploughshares 

Cassandra Luca reviewed Anna Wiener’s Uncanny Valley for the Harvard Crimson.

Fran Hawthorne reviewed To the Edge of Sorrow by Ahron Appelfeld for the New York Journal of Books.

Member news

Recipients of the inaugural Big Other Literary Citizenship Award for outstanding efforts toward supporting the work of innovative writers and adventurous presses, through reviewing, editing, publishing, and/or promoting books, as well as encouraging, building, and sustaining a robust literary culture include NBCC members Tobias Carroll (who has a new column up at Words Without Borders), Jane Ciabattari, and Gabino Iglesias.

Member Parul Kapur Hinzen’s short story “Raus!”, set in 1990s Germany, appears in the Winter 2020 issue of Pleiades.

Critical Notes: Awards Updates, and Member News and Reviews

Photo of Nell Painter by Dwight Carter, via the MacDowell Colony

Earlier this month, we proudly announced the 30 finalists in six categories for our annual book awards. In the coming weeks, NBCC board members will be spotlighting each title on our website. In the meantime, please mark your calendars: On March 11 we’ll host an evening of readings from finalists, and on March 12 we’ll announce the award winners. After the awards ceremony, please come to our gala fundraiser, where you can mingle with friends and finalists while supporting the work the NBCC does throughout the year. Don’t wait: Buy your tickets today!

Now, on to our member reviews…

Lisa Peet interviewed Jen Beagin, author of Pretend I’m Dead and Vacuum in the Dark, for Bloom.

Fran Hawthorne reviewed Michal Ben-Naftali’s novel The Teacher for the New York Journal of Books.

Tom Zelman reviewed Ilan Stavans and Josh Lambert’s How Yiddish Changed America and How America Changed Yiddish for the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.

Tobias Carroll wrote about some recent books that explore questions of trauma and crime but don’t necessarily fit the “true crime” category for CrimeReads.

Anita Felicelli reviewed Charles Yu’s novel Interior Chinatown for the San Francisco Chronicle.

Daneet Steffens interviewed Alex Marwood for CrimeReads, and reviewed William Gibson’s novel Agency and Kate Weinberg’s novel The Truants for the Boston Globe.

Hamilton Cain covered new books from Michael Chabon and Ayelet Waldman, Rye Curtis, Emma Copley Eisenberg, Katrine Engberg, Scarlett Thomas, and Joshua Yaffa for O: The Oprah Magazine.

Jenny Shank reviewed Olaf Olaffson’s novel The Sacrament for America Magazine.

Jonathan Marks reviewed Yuval Levin’s A Time to Build for ArcDigital. 

K.L. Romo reviewed Serena Burdick’s historical novel The Girls With No Names for BookTrib; for The Big Thrill, she reviewed J.T. Ellison’s psychological thriller Good Girls Lie and Chris Hauty’s political thriller Deep State, and interviewed thriller author Jon Land.

Michael J. McCann reviewed Lars Kepler’s novel The Rabbit Hunter for the New York Journal of Books:

Martha Anne Toll reviewed Garth Greenwell’s novel Cleanness for NPR Books.

Dana Wilde reviewed Elizabeth Strout’s novel Olive, Again in his Off Radar column in the Central Maine Newspapers.

Kimberly King Parsons interviewed Gary Lutz for Southwest Review.

Jacob Appel reviewed Jeanine Cummins’ novel American Dirt for the New York Journal of Books.

J. Howard Rosier reviewed Danez Smith’s poetry collection Homie for 4Columns.

Peggy Kurkowski reviewed Buddy Levy’s Labyrinth of Ice: The Triumphant and Tragic Greely Polar Expedition for Open Letters Review.

Rachael Nevins wrote about three heroines of William Gibson’s novels for Ploughshares.

Chris Barsanti reviewed Anna Wiener’s memoir, Uncanny Valley, for PopMatters.

Sarah Neilson rounded up 11 of the most anticipated books by indigenous authors for the first half of 2020 for BookMarks, reviewed Danez Smith’s poetry collection Homie for Lambda Literary, and interviewed Emma Copley Eisenberg for an essay about The Third Rainbow Girl for On the Seawall.

Rachael Nevins reviewed Burhan Sönmez’s novel Labyrinth for Necessary Fiction.

David Nilsen reviewed Elizabeth Schmuhl’s poetry collection Premonitions for Southern Indiana Review.

Clea Simon reviewed Rita Woods’ debut novel, Remembrance, for the Boston Globe.

Oline Cogdill reviewed Tim Dorsey’s mystery Naked Came the Florida Man  and Charlaine Harris’ novel The Longer Fall for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel and Alex Marwood’s novel The Poison Garden for the Associated Press.

And in other news:

Nell Painter, whose book Old in Art School was an NBCC finalist in autobiography last year, has been appointed chair of the MacDowell Colony board of directors.

Member Joan Frank was interviewed by ForeWord Reviews about her new essay collection, Try to Get Lost, which won the River Teeth Nonfiction Book Award.

Member Connie Post‘s poetry collection Prime Meridian was released on January 3 by Glass Lyre Press.

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 NBCCcritics@gmail.com. Be sure to include the link to your work.

New reviews and more book stories from the NBCC

A bookstore in Lima, Peru. Credit txmx 2 via Flickr.
A bookstore in Lima, Peru. Credit txmx 2 via Flickr.

Addicted to reading? Join us for our NBCC Awards on March 12 in New York City, for free. Buy your tickets for the fundraising reception following the awards ceremony that night to help support book critics.

And now, for the latest member reviews and more:

Julia M. Klein reviewed Diana Wichtel’s Driving to Treblinka for the Forward.

Ron Slate reviewed Jonathan Buckley’s novel The Great Concert of the Night for On The Seawall.

Robert Allen Papinchak reviewed Philippe Lancon’s Disturbance: Surviving Charlie Hebdo for On the Seawall.

Tobias Carroll talked with Jack L. Goldsmith about his new book In Hoffa’s Shadow for InsideHook.

Eric Nguyen reviewed The Factory by Hiroko Oyamada, translated by David Boyd, for Spectrum Culture.

For Lit Hub/Book Marks, former NBCC president Jane Ciabattari  interviewed Crissy Van Meter, author of Creatures, and also talked to Cesare author Jerome Charyn.

Hamilton Cain reviewed Liz Moore’s Long Bright River for the January issue of O, the Oprah Magazine.

Caroline Tew reviewed Topics of Conversation by Miranda Popkey for The Harvard Crimson.

Lanie Tankard reviewed Include Me Out by María Sonia Cristoff for The Woven Tale Press.

Hélène Cardona reviewed Vacant Possession by Anne Fitzgerald in Pratik: A Magazine of Contemporary Writing.

W. Scott Olsen reviewed Echo Mask, a new photobook by Jonathan Levitt, for LensCulture.com.

James H. Scott reviewed Neil deGrasse Tyson’s Astrophysics for People in a Hurry and Letters from an Astrophysicist for Wellington Square Books.

Debby Bacharach reviewed Ilya Kaminsky’s Deaf Republic for Sugar House.

More member news:

Also, Debby Bacharach received a 2020 Pushcart honorable mention for poetry.

Natalie Bakopoulos’ second novel, Scorpionfish, will be published in July 2020 by Tin House.

NBCC VP of Communications Kerri Arsenault’s book Mill Town: Reckoning with What Remains, coming from St. Martin’s in September, was included as one of the most anticipated books of 2020 at LitHub (where she is a contributing editor).

Rafael Castillo wrote an OpEd for the San Antonio Express-News saying 2020 will be the year of the independent author.

Clea Simon’s new mystery An Incantation of Cats is out now from Polis Books.

Matthew Jakubowski’s speculative short story, “Little Brother,“ was published by the U.K. literary magazine Lunate.

Jean Huets talked about her book With Walt Whitman, Himself, on Blue Ridge PBS’ Write around the Corner, a series featuring authors writing about, or who are from, Virginia.

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 NBCCcritics@gmail.com. Be sure to include the link to your work.

Awards Finalists, Reviews from NBCC Members

The finalists for the 2019 NBCC awards were announced this past Saturday at Bo’s in New York, along with the winners of the John Leonard Prize, the Balakian, and the Sandrof. Find all the details here, and  buy your tickets for the reception following the awards ceremony on March 12.

NBCC Member Reviews

Kamil Ahsan reviewed Garth Greenwell’s second book, Cleanness, for the A.V. Club, noting how the author’s work “reclaim(s) the ‘filthy’ spaces of queer longing.”

Carlos Lozada reviewed Donald Trump Jr.’s book, Triggered, for the Washington Post, comparing it (un)favorably to his father’s Art of the Deal.

Julia M. Klein reviewed Adam Kay’s memoir, This Is Going to Hurt, for the Boston Globe.

Eric Liebetrau reviewed Jodie Kirshner Adam’s Broke for the Winter 2019-2020 issue of Columbia Magazine.

Lanie Tankard reviewed They Will Drown in Their Mothers’ Tears by Swedish author Johannes Anyuru for the winter issue of World Literature Today.

Lydia Pyne reviewed Elizabeth Hennessy’s On The Backs Of Tortoises for the Los Angeles Review of Books.

Oline H. Cogdill’s review of Liz Moore’s Long Bright River for the Associated Press was picked up by the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

Heller McAlpin reviewed Miranda Popkey’s Topics of Conversation for NPR.

Robin Kaiser-Schatzlein reviewed Divested: Inequality In The Age Of Finance by Ken-Hou Lin and Megan Tobias Neely for the New Republic.

Tayla Burney interviewed Crissy Van Meter for Kirkus about her debut novel, Creatures.

Bridget Quinn reviewed Stefano Bloch’s gritty and scholarly memoir, Going All City: Struggle and Survival in LA’s Graffiti Subculture from University of Chicago Press for Hyperallergic.

Lisa R Spaar reviewed Andrew Zawacki’s latest collection Unsun: f/11 for Ron Slate’s On the Seawall.

Eric Nguyen reviewed Pain by Zeruya Shalev, translated by Sondra Silverstone for Necessary Fiction.

Alison Buckholtz reviewed Cinderella Liberator by Rebecca Solnit for the Florida Times-Union.

Former NBCC president Jane Ciabattari’s “Books to Read in 2020” for BBC Culture includes new novels from NBCC fiction award winners Louise Erdrich and Hilary Mantel.

Hamilton Cain reviewed Steve Inskeep’s Imperfect Union, which will run in this Sunday’s Minneapolis Star-Tribune.