Critical Mass, The Blog of the National Book Critics Circle

Roundup: Ta-Nehisi Coates, WikiLeaks, Ivan Doig, Lucia Berlin, and More

by Mark Athitakis | Aug-24-2015

Anjali Enjeti reviews Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Between the World and Me for the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.

Anne Payne reviews Neal Stephenson’s novel Seveneves, Kate Atkinson’s novel A God in Ruins, and Julia Pierpont’s novel Among the Ten Thousand Things for the Florida Times-Union.

Cynthia-Marie Marmo O’Brien reviews Maggie Messitt’s The Rainy Season: Three Lives in the New South Africa for the Literary Review.

David Nilsen reviews Jessica Hopper’s The First Collection of Criticism by a Living Female Rock Critic for Fourth & Sycamore.

Ellen Akins reviews Helen Phillips’ novel The Beautiful Bureaucrat for the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.

George de Stefano reviews The WikiLeaks Files: The World According to U.S. Empire for Popmatters.

Gregory J. Wilkin reviews Jill Morrow’s novel Newport for the New York Journal of Books.

Jane Ciabattari rounds up reviews of recent books by Ann Beattie, Amitav Ghosh, Gary Rivlin, and more at Lit Hub.

Jim Carmin reviews Ivan Doig’s final novel, Last Bus to Wisdom, for the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.

Jim Ewing reviews new books by Jeff Shaara, Kent Haruf, Marja Mills, Harper Lee, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Eudora Welty and Ross Macdonald, and Ernest Cline for the Jackson Clarion-Ledger.

Joanna Scutts reviews Kathleen Alcott’s novel Infinite Home for the Guardian and Miya Tokumitsu’s Do What You Love: And Other Lies About Success & Happiness for In These Times.

Julia M. Klein reviews Wolfgang Hilbig’s posthumous novel, I, and Bella DePaulo’s How We Live Now for the Boston Globe.

Karl Wolff reviews Andrew Wackerfuss’ Stormtrooper Families: Homosexuality and Community in the Early Nazi Movement for the New York Journal of Books and Kenji Yoshino’s Speak Now: Marriage Equality on Trial for the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography.

Katherine A. Powers reviews Alaa Al Aswany’s novel The Automobile Club of Egypt for the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.

Linda Simon reviews Susan Barker’s novel The Incarnations for the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.

Lori Feathers reviews Octave Mirbau’s novel Twenty-One Days of a Neurasthenic for Three Percent and revisits Shirley Ann Grau’s novel The Keepers of the House for Bookslut.

Marion Winik reviews Lucia Berlin’s posthumous story collection A Manual for Cleaning Women for Newsday.

Mark Athitakis reviews Eli Gottlieb’s novel Best Boy  for the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.

Matthew Jakubowski reviews Tove Jansson’s story collection The Woman Who Borrowed Memories in the Kenyon Review.

Maureen Corrigan reviews new thrillers by Linda Fairstein, Lisa Scottoline, and Sara Paretsky for the Washington Post.

Michael Berry revisits Frank Herbert’s Dune for Salon.

Michael Leong reviews Nathaniel Mackey’s poetry collection Blue Fasa for the Boston Review and Bernar Venet’s Apoétiques 1967-1998 for Hyperallergic.

Michael Lindgren reviews Lists of Note: An Eclectic Collection Deserving of a Wider Audience for the Washington Post.

Michael Magras reviews Dan-el Padilla Peralta’s memoir Undocumented for the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.

Michael Upchurch reviews Naomi J. Williams’ novel Landfalls and Christian Kracht’s novel Imperium for the Seattle Times; he also reviews Jonathan Franzen’s Purity and Adam Johnson’s story collection Fortune Smiles for the Oregonian.

Michelle Newby reviews Nayomi Munaweera’s novel Island of a Thousand Mirrors for Pank.

Morris Dickstein reviews Selected Letters of Langston Hughes for the Times Literary Supplement.

Piali Roy reviews Hasan Ali Toptas’ novel Reckless for the Toronto Star and Meg Waite Clayton’s novel The Race for Paris for Maclean’s.

Rayyan Al-Shawaf reviews Julia Pierpont’s novel Among the Ten Thousand Things for the Miami Herald, Alaa Al Aswany’s novel The Automobile Club of Egypt for the Boston Globe, and Jacqueline Rose’s Women in Dark Times for the Boston Globe.

Your reviews and recommendations help seed these roundups: If you’re an NBCC member with a review you’d like considered for inclusion, please email

Second Call for New “Second Thoughts” Series

by Daniel Akst | Aug-14-2015

Second call for “Second Thoughts!” There’s still time to contribute to our upcoming series of reappraisals. To recap: we’re inviting members, as well as NBCC award winners and finalists, to write us about books they’ve had reason to reassess over the years. And we hope you'll take the request personally.
We’d love to hear from you about a work that had a big impact on you long ago, and how it seemed when you re-encountered it later in life. You, no doubt, had changed. Had the book changed too? What was it like to revisit such a book after all you'd lived through since your first impressions?
We also want to hear about significant reconsiderations of books you’ve reviewed, and then had reason to change your opinion about. Did an author pull the wool over your eyes? Or did the scales later fall away, for some reason or another, to reveal a masterpiece you’d earlier missed?
We’re looking for responses of almost any length, but especially from 300 to 1,000 words, and we’ll post them here at Critical Mass in the months ahead. Everybody has second thoughts. Please tell us yours. Respond to, where I will gather them up, dust them off, and send them out into the world.

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Your reviews seed this roundup; please send items, including new about your new publications and recent honors, to Make sure to