May, 2018

Ian MacKenzie, William Trevor, Sarah Winman & Flash Fiction

by Taylor Anhalt | May-21-2018

NBCC Vice President/Online Jane Ciabattari’s flash fiction, #BrooklynAftertheFall, was published in the flash anthology commissioned for Independent Bookstore Day on April 28, and in Lit Hub. Her new weekly Lit Hub column continues, with an exchange with Rumaan Alam on books mostly about motherhood (including novels by NBCC honored fiction writers Louise Erdrich and Jayne Anne Phillips).

For Literary Hub, Tobias Carroll wrote about the overlap of critical acclaim of horror stories with our current political moment. He reviewed Lucas Mann’s ‘Captive Audience’ for the Barnes & Noble Review, interviewed Stacy Horn about her new book ‘Damnation Island’ for Curbed, and Nicola Griffith about her novel ‘So Lucky’ for Hazlitt. He also posted the latest installment of his Watchlist column at Words Without Borders.

NBCC Emerging Critics’ Fellow Zack Graham interviewed debut novelist Rachel Lyon for the English Kills Review.

Wayne Catan reviewed Paula McLain’s ‘Love and Ruin’ for the Idaho Statesman.

Robert Allen Papinchak reviewed William Trevor’s ‘Last Stories’ for the Los Angeles Review.

Claude Peck reviewed ‘Tin Man’ by Sarah Winman in the Star Tribune.

Ron Slate reviewed Rebecca Kauffman’s novel ‘The Gunners’ (Counterpoint) for On the Seawall.

Heller McAlpin reviewed Caryl Phillip’s latest novel 'Empire at Sunset ‘for NPR.

Karl Wolff reviewed 'Harry Benson: Persons of Interest' by Harry Benson for the New York Journal of Books.

Former board member Karen R. Long reviewed Michael Pollan’s ‘How to Change Your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression, and Transcendence’ for Newsday.

Chris Barsanti wrote about Norman Mailer for The Millions. He also reviewed ‘Russian Roulette’ by Michael Isikoff and David Corn for PopMatters.

Sarah McCraw Crow reviewed Simon Winchester’s ‘The Perfectionists’, Leonard Mlodinow’s ‘Elastic’, and Daniel Stone’s ‘The Food Explorer’ for BookPage.

K.L. Romo reviewed Jennifer Haupt’s heartrending novel ‘In the Shadows of 10,000 Hills’ for Washington Independent Review of Books.

Andrew Ervin reviewed Ian MacKenzie’s novel ‘Feast Days’ for the New York Times.

Allen Adams reviewed ‘Like Brothers’ by Mark & Jay Duplass and Rachel Slade’s ‘Into the Raging Sea’ for The Main Edge.

Kevin O’Kelly reviewed Ryan McIlvain’s latest novel, ‘The Radicals’, for The Rumpus.

Dawn Raffel rounded up Memorial Day books for

Martha Anne Toll reviewed Alexander Chee’s ‘How to Write an Autobiographical Novel’ for NPR. She also reviewed Noémi Lefebvre’s ‘Blue Self-Portrait', Pasal Mercier’s “lea’, and Mathias Énard’s ‘Compass’ for The Millions.

Michael Magras reviewed ‘War on Peace’ by Ronan Farrow for the Houston Chronicle.

Jenny Bhatt interviewed Dr. Vera Tobin for PopMatters. They discussed her latest non-fiction book, ‘Elements of Surprise’, and how cognition, linguistics, and narrative techniques help with the “well-made surprise” in fiction – books and more. They also talked about how the same elements also feature in fake news, how “dumb-smart” stories work, and more.

Hamilton Cain reviewed Carys Davies’ ‘West’ in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, and Michael Ondaatje’s ‘Warlight’ for the June issue of O, the Oprah Magazine.

Rayyan Al-Shawaf also reviewed Michael Ondaatje’s ‘Warlight’ for the San Antonio Express-News, and David Adams Richard’s ‘Mary Cyr’ for the Toronto Star.

Sarah Johnson interviewed Susan Meissner and Mindy Tarquini about their novels set during the 1918 influenza pandemic for the Historical Novels Review.

Diane Scharper reviewed three books for the (February 9-22, 2018) issue of the National Catholic Reporter: ‘Barking to the Choir’ by Gregory Boyle S.J.; ‘St. Clare of Assisi’ by Bret Thomas; and ‘When the Past Begins’ by Amy Tan.

Nicholas Birns wrote the introduction to the new translation of Miklós Szentkuthy’s ‘Black Renaissance’.

NBCC members note: Your reviews seed this roundup; please send items, including news about your new publications and recent honors, to With reviews, please include title of book and author, as well as name of publication. Make sure to send links that do not require a subscription or username and password.​ We love dedicated URLs. We do not love hyperlinks.

NBCC at Book Expo America:  The Crisis in Book Reviewing: Disappearing Space, Disappearing Pay

by Jane Ciabattari | May-15-2018

The Crisis in Book Reviewing: Disappearing Space, Disappearing Pay

Date: May 30, 2018,  12:00 PM - 12:50 PM

Location: Book Expo America, Jacob Javits Center: 1E10

Over the past 10 years, book-review sections in many American newspapers have  gone on life support. At least one major newspaper that once spent close to $100,000 annually on book reviews now budgets zero for book reviews. One result is that the same review often runs in more papers than ever before.  Do newer digital ventures make up for the print decline in either space or pay?


Christopher Carduff, Books Editor, The Wall Street Journal

Gerald Howard, Vice-President and Executive Editor, Doubleday

Julia M. Klein, Cultural Critic

Kate Tuttle, President, National Book Critics Circle and columnist, The Boston Globe

Moderator: Carlin Romano, Critic-at-Large, The Chronicle of Higher Education, Vice President, NBCC, Author, America the Philosophical (Alfred A. Knopf)


NBCC members not already credentialed to attend Book Expo America will be able to do so on May 30th for this panel. We're working out what the procedure will be, and will let everyone know as soon as BEA decides how it wants to arrange that.

Critical Notes: NBCC members review Rachel Kushner, Michael Ondaatje and More

by Daisy Fried | May-14-2018

Rayyan Al-Shawa reviewed Audrey Schulman's Theory of Bastards in The Globe and Mail.

Here’s board member Kerri Arsenault on an early lesson in labor and loyalty: "How My Father’s Strike Nearly Broke Our Town in Two” on Lithub.

Jan Alexander interviewed Kurt Andersen about Fantasyland: How America Went Haywire, about America's long history of unshakable, socio-economically based beliefs, and how dangerous faith has become today. 

Jenny Bhatt reviewed Curtis Sittenfeld’s You Think It, I’ll Say It—her new collection of short stories--and Vera Tobin’s Elements of Surprise, about the connections between cognition, language, and narrative, for Pop Matters.

NBCC Vice President/Online Jane Ciabattari has launched a new column for The Literary Hub (beginning with an interview with Paul Theroux). Her BBC Culture column this month features new novels  from Blanche McCrary Boyd, Elizabeth Winthrop, Caryl Phillips and Rumaan Alam. She also wrote about the Bay Area Book Festival in Five Acts—a weekend-long  extravaganza of reading, writers and writing, imagination and ideas in downtown Berkeley—for Lit Hub.

Erika Dreifus wrote about Yossi Klein Halevi's Letters to My Palestinian Neighbor on the My Machberet blog.

Board member and VP of Membership Anjali Enjeti reviewed Weike Wang's Chemistry for the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

Board member Mary Ann Gwinn reviewed Michael Ondaatje’s Warlight for the Seattle Times

Past NBCC finalist in poetry, Terrance Hayes, whose new book American Sonnets For My Past and Future Assassin is just out, was interviewed by Jeffrey J Williams for the Iowa Review. 

NBCC board member and Star Tribune senior editor for books Laurie Hertzel reviewed The Electric Woman, a memoir by Tessa Fontaine in which Fontaine runs off to join the circus when her mother falls ill. 

Michael Lindgren reviewed Rachel Kushner’s novel The Mars Room  for The Millions.

Past Balakian winner Carlos Lozada reviewed Jon Meacham’s The Soul of America and James Fallows' and Deborah Fallows’ Our Towns ​for the Washington Post.

Michael Magras reviewed the novel Welcome to Lagos by Chibundu Onuzo for BookPage and the poetry collection Virgin by Analicia Sotelo for the Houston Chronicle.

Heller McAlpin reviewed Curtis Sittenfeld’s You Think It, I’ll Say It for San Francisco Chronicle and Stephen McCauley’s My Ex-Life for NPR.

Robert Allen Papinchak reviewed Elizabeth George's The Punishment She Deserves in the spring issue of Mystery Scene  and Michael Ondaatje's Warlight for the National Book Review.

Melissa Holbrook Pierson reviewed Joshua Wheeler’s Acid West for Barnes and Noble Review.

NBCC board member Katherine A. Powers writes about William Trevor’s Last Stories for the Wall Street Journal.

NBCC board member Michael Schaub reviewed Melanie Finn’s novel, The Underneath, for the Minnesota Star-Tribune.

Joan Silverman reviewed Richard Russo’s The Destiny Thief for the Press-Herald.

Ron Slate reviewed The Red Caddy: Into the Unknown with Edward Abbey for On The Seawall. 

Lanie Tankard reviewed The Library: A Catalogue of Wonders by Stuart Kells for the May "Eye on the Indies" column in The Woven Tale Press. 

NBCC board member David Varno talked with Edward St. Aubyn for Publishers Weekly about working with Benedict Cumberbatch on the adaptation of the Patrick Melrose novels. 

Paul Wilner reviewed The Luck of Friendship - The Letters of Tennessee Williams and James Laughlin for ZYZZYVA magazine.

Your reviews seed this roundup; please send items, including new about your new publications and recent honors, to Make sure to send links that do not require a subscription or username and password.

Daisy Fried is the author of three books of poetry, Women’s Poetry: Poems and Advice, My Brother is Getting Arrested Again and She Didn’t Mean to Do It. The recipient of Guggenheim, Hodder and Pew Fellowships for her poetry, she contributes book reviews to the New York Times, Poetry, Threepenny Review and elsewhere, and is a member of the faculty of the Warren Wilson College MFA Program for Writers.


by Jane Ciabattari | May-10-2018










Please join us for this year's
National Book Critics Circle 
General Membership meeting

Wednesday, May 30
10 a.m. - 11 a.m. 
To be held at 20 Cooper Square, 5th floor
RSVP by May 27th, please. Send your RSVP to
Coffee and bagels will be provided
Afterwards, please join us at an NBCC panel at Book Expo America,
Javits Center, from 12 - 1 p.m. 


Straight-ahead book reviews and backwards books

by Laurie Hertzel | May-07-2018

NBCC board member Laurie Hertzel wrote her weekly Star Tribune column on the strange and disturbing trend of shelving books spine-in.

Board member Lori Feathers highlights three recent translations in the May issue of World Literature Today for the publication's "What to Read Now" feature.

Former board member and Balakian finalist (and poet, and memoirist) David Biespiel sits down for a long interview about poetry, politics, criticism, and the roots of the imagination in the May/June issue of the AWP Chronicle.

Ellen Akins reviewed the 40th anniversary edition of Joy Williams's The Changeling with an introduction by Karen Russell, for the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

Michael Magras reviewed You Think It, I'll Say It by Curtis Sittenfeld for the Houston Chronicle.

Robert Allen Papinchak reviewed Brock Clarke's The Price of the Haircut for Washington Independent Review of Books. He also reviewed  reviewed Richard Russo's The Destiny Thief for the National Book Review.

Alexis Burling reviewed "Lion Cross Point" by Masatsugu Ono and "The Mars Room" by Rachel Kushner, both for the San Francisco Chronicle.

Joan Frank reviews Liam Callanan's "Paris By the Book" along with Jessica Levine's "Nothing Forgotten," for the San Francisco Chronicle:

Yvonne Garrett reviewed "The Indispensable Academic Librarian" by Michelle Reale, "No Time to Spare," by Ursula K. LeGuin, and "The Female Persuasion," by Meg Wolitzer, all for the Brooklyn Rail

Elizabeth Lund reviewed Tracy K. Smith, Kevin Young, Ha Jin and more for The Washington Post.

Chelsea Leu wrote about the power of storytelling and Madeline Miller's new novel, "Circe," for Electric Literature.

Laura Spence-Ash reviewed "A Lucky Man" by Jamel Brinkley for the Ploughshares blog.

Regina Marler reviewed Julia van Haaften’s "Berenice Abbott: A Life in Photography" (Norton) and "Berenice Abbott: Paris Portraits" (Steidl) for the New York Review of Books.

Rayyan Al-Shawaf reviewed Tom Rachman's new novel "The Italian Teacher" for the Toronto Star.

Jenny Bhatt wrote about the story collection, "Back Talk," by Danielle Lazarin, for Popmatters, examining the overall theme of desire and the two related sub-themes of broken families and broken relationships.

Ron Slate reviewed Yoko Tawada’s novel "The Emissary" for On The Seawall

Patti Jazanoski reviewed the newly-minted Pulitzer Prize winner, "Less," by Andrew Sean Greer, for Kenyon Review.

Julia M. Klein writes about Prof. John L. Campbell and his book, "American Discontent," for the Dartmouth Alumni Magazine, and reviews Todd S. Purdum's "Something Wonderful" for the Forward.

Paul Wilner reviews "Dictionary Stories: Short Fictions and Other Findings,'' by Jez Burrows, for the San Francisco Chronicle:

Jim Ruland reviews Brandon Hobson's novel "Where the Dead Sit Talking" for San Diego CityBeat. 

Lanie Tankard reviewed Dag Solstad's novel Armand V from New Directions in the May/June issue of World Literature Today.

NBCC members note: Your reviews seed this roundup; please send items, including news about your new publications and recent honors, to With reviews, please include title of book and author, as well as name of publication. Make sure to send links that do not require a subscription or username and password. We love dedicated URLs. We do not love hyperlinks

Laurie Hertzel serves on the board of the NBCC, where she is chairman of the autobiography committee. She is the senior editor for books at the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

Join the NBCC to Celebrate Books: A Call for New and Renewing Members

by Anjali Enjeti | May-03-2018

Criticism has never been a more vital and necessary force than it is today. And since its founding in April of 1974, the National Book Critics Circle has worked to uplift, support, and celebrate the voices of book critics.  

I am writing today to invite you to join the NBCC or to renew your membership. There’s never been a better time to be part of our organization! Our annual calendar is busier and more exciting than ever, and our members’ contributions and support have been key factors to our success.

In March, we hold our NBCC finalists’ reading and awards ceremony in NYC where we celebrate the previous year’s outstanding books and authors. Both events are free and open to the public. After the awards ceremony, we hold a reception for the finalists (our only fundraiser) where members get discounted tickets. Check out this year’s finalists and winners on our website!  

In the spring, we serve as a literary partner at the Association of Writers and Writing (AWP) Programs annual conference, where we present a featured reading by award winners or finalists, role models for new and established writers – MFA students and faculty – nationwide, followed by a conversation about the evolving art of writing moderated by an NBCC board member. Historically, our NBCC event is one of the most popular events at AWP, drawing thousands. In the recent past, we’ve presented Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Jeffrey Eugenides, Lorrie Moore, Marilynne Robinson, Dana Spiotta, Amy Tan, and Colson Whitehead. At our table at the AWP book fair, we meet and catch up with new and returning members.

In March, we accept applications for our new Emerging Critics Fellowship, which seeks to identify, nurture, and support the development of the next generation of book critics. (Ismail Muhammad, from our first class of Emerging Critics, has just joined the NBCC board, and Heather Scott Partington is an active member of the Online Committee.) Critics of all ages who seek to review and write about books for print and digital outlets are eligible for the fellowship. Over the course of the one-year fellowship, emerging critics will receive active mentorship from members of NBCC board and dues-free membership to the NBCC, admission to NBCC events, and the annual reception.

Our annual membership meeting takes place in May 30 at 10 20 Cooper Square, 5th floor, followed by an NBCC panel discussion about pertinent issues affecting the book review industry at Book Expo. We'll also announce the new class of Emerging Critics. Please join us (RSVP required; contact for details).

Fall is a busy time for members of the NBCC! Any regular voting NBCC member has the opportunity to nominate titles for the John Leonard Award, given to an author for an outstanding first book in any genre. Those members who wish may serve on the John Leonard committee to read the finalists and vote on a winner. Over the years, the committee has grown tremendously in size and we welcome as many members as possible to participate.

Regular voting members may also nominate writers for the Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award. Named after the first president of the NBCC, the award is given annually to a person or institution---a writer, publisher, critic, or editor, among others---who has, over time, made significant contributions to book culture.

The NBCC awards the Nona Balakian Citation for Excellence in Reviewing each year to recognize the outstanding work by a member of the NBCC. Members may nominate themselves in December for this award, which carries a $1,000 cash prize.

Our board elections round out the end of the calendar year. Each board term is three years, and we elect eight board members every year. All voting members are eligible to run for the board.

Critical Notes, the weekly roundup published on our website, is chock full of industry news, as well as our members’ latest book reviews, author interviews, and other accomplishments. Our members’ work is publicized on Twitter and Facebook. Members also are able to contribute to NBCC Reads and other literary series published on the website, and volunteer to help with social media for the Online Committee.

Our NBCC Newswire, which comes out quarterly, provides our members with the minutes to NBCC board meetings and ballots for voting, if you’re a full voting member.

A growing list of discounts for publications is available to our members, including Harper’s, Poets & Writers, Tin House, and Virginia Quarterly Review.  

We offer several different types of memberships to meet your needs. Regular voting membership ($50 for freelance critics, $85 for members with staff positions at institutions that support their membership and $70 for those at institutions that pay for multiple memberships) is open to professional book review editors and book reviewers. 

Friend of the NBCC membership ($30 a year) is available to others in the publishing field, including literary agents, editors and publishers, and to others who wish to support our work. In addition, students are welcome to obtain non-voting membership for $15; students who qualify may of course apply for regular voting membership at $50.

Finally, if it makes sense for you financially, we welcome you to support our work by becoming a Lifetime NBCC Voting Member for the one-time fee of $500. This tax-deductible contribution -- our treasurer will provide you with a donation letter for the IRS -- is not just a bargain in the long-term, but works right now to support the many critical projects and initiatives underway.

 If you have any questions or comments, please do not hesitate to contact me at

Anjali Enjeti

NBCC Vice President/ Membership

Photos of the 2017 NBCC Award winners (top) and the 2017 board (bottom) by John Midgley, photographed in March 2018.

Photo from 2018 Bay Area Book Festival features Jane Ciabattari, Lydia Kiesling, Ismail Muhammad, John McMurtrie, and Paul Laity.

Anjali Enjeti is NBCC Vice President/Membership. Her articles, essays, and book reviews have appeared in Al Jazeera, The Paris Review, The Georgia Review, The Atlantic, the Atlanta Journal Constitution, Minneapolis Star Tribune, and elsewhere. She teaches creative nonfiction in the MFA program at Reinhardt University, lives near Atlanta, and can be found on Twitter @anjalienjeti.

NBCC at the Bay Area Book Festival

by admin | May-01-2018

National Book Critics Circle members pop up at book festivals and events all over the country. Most recently, on a 10 a.m. panel at the Bay Area Book Festival in Berkeley April 28.Their topics: What makes for a good book review? How about a good book reviewer, for that matter? How are books chosen for review, and reviewers chosen for a particular book? How should a “bad” book be panned—or is it better to just not review it at all?  Panelists (from front left), Jane Ciabattari, reviewer for BBC Culture, and current NBCC vice president/online (and former president), Lydia Kiesling, editor of the literary website The Millions; and Ismail Muhammad, who was in the first class of NBCC emerging critics, and is now an NBCC board member,  reviewer for The Millions and contributor to Slate and the Paris Review. In the back, NBCC member John McMurtrie, books editor at the San Francisco Chronicle, and Paul Laity, nonfiction editor at The Guardian.



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About the Critical Mass Blog

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