1 July 08 | Chad W. Post

Never in my life did I expect to see NPR do something like this:

National Public Radio has expanded the book coverage on its website, adding weekly book reviews, and has hired six new book reviewers—including a graphic novel reviewer—and added more features to an already existing lineup of author podcasts, critics’ lists and other book-focused content. Among the new slate of reviewers joining NPR.org are Jessa Crispin, founder of the literary blog Bookslut.com; John Freeman, book critic and a former president of the National Book Critics Circle; and Laurel Maury, freelance comics and graphic novel reviewer and a longtime contributor to PW Comics Week. (via PW)

Freeman, Jessa Crispin, Laurel Maury, and Lizzie Skurnick!! Sorry for the over-excitement, but holy shit—NPR actually went and hired three very smart, very discerning reviewers. I’m generally suspicious (and dismissive) of NPR’s just-to-the-left-of-center mediocrity, but in my opinion this is a huge coup that will add a lot to NPR’s website.

I know NPR is the sacred cow of liberal thinkers, but broadly speaking, its book coverage has always been pretty sub-par. I know people love Terry Gross (in my opinion, books are totally incidental to Fresh Air—what’s more important is the personality and backstory of the artist. Of course, Curtis White has put this in much more eloquent terms than I ever could), and Alan Cheuse tends to review odd, interesting books, but that’s about it. At least in my opinion.

This new initiative changes the game though. First off, assuming NPR doesn’t force these reviewers to write about the typical over-promoted drek (or force them to write in a NPRish style where every review begins, “yesterday, my daughter said something about Mexicans. Which got me thinking about racism in today’s world. So I picked up XXX’s book . . .” Sorry—it’s just so easy), the target audience age is going to drop by about a decade.

In terms of the greater cultural impact though, it’s very interesting that NPR is stepping up to fill in some of the void left by the decline in newspaper book coverage. Sort of a natural evolution though, since for a lot of people, Morning Edition has replaced the morning newspaper as the primary source for news. And with rumors constantly circulating about soon to be dismantled book review sections, its great to see someone step up and help fill in the developing void . . (A similar thing is going on with Bill Marx’s World Books page at PRI’s The World. PRI’s The World has OK books coverage on the actual show, but nothing even close to what Bill Marx is doing. There aren’t many places in general doing what Bill Marx is doing for international literature. Especially not on public radio.)

Of course, the RSS fee for the NPR books section is still a bit f’d up and finding these pages isn’t all that easy, but you know, it’ll get better, I’m sure.

In terms of links, here’s the general books page, here’s the Books We Like section, the Three Books feature, and the Book Tour section which currently features podcasts of readings at Politics & Prose, and supposedly will expand to readings at McNally Robinson in the near future.


Comments are disabled for this article.
....
Lost in Translation: An Illustrated Compendium of Untranslatable Words from Around the World
Lost in Translation: An Illustrated Compendium of Untranslatable Words from Around the World by Ella Frances Sanders
Reviewed by Kaija Straumanis

Hello and greetings in the 2017 holiday season!

For those of you still looking for something to gift a friend or family member this winter season, or if you’re on the lookout for something to gift in the. . .

Read More >

The Size of the World
The Size of the World by Branko Anđić
Reviewed by Jaimie Lau

Three generations of men—a storyteller, his father and his son—encompass this book’s world. . . . it is a world of historical confusion, illusion, and hope of three generations of Belgraders.

The first and last sentences of the first. . .

Read More >

Island of Point Nemo
Island of Point Nemo by Jean-Marie Blas de Roblès
Reviewed by Katherine Rucker

The Island of Point Nemo is a novel tour by plane, train, automobile, blimp, horse, and submarine through a world that I can only hope is what Jean-Marie Blas de Roblès’s psyche looks like, giant squids and all.

What. . .

Read More >

The Truce
The Truce by Mario Benedetti
Reviewed by Adrianne Aron

Mario Benedetti (1920-2009), Uruguay’s most beloved writer, was a man who loved to bend the rules. He gave his haikus as many syllables as fit his mood, and wrote a play divided into sections instead of acts. In his country,. . .

Read More >

I Am a Season That Does Not Exist in the World
I Am a Season That Does Not Exist in the World by Kim Kyung Ju
Reviewed by Jacob Rogers

Kim Kyung Ju’s I Am a Season That Does Not Exist in the World, translated from the Korean by Jake Levine, is a wonderful absurdist poetry collection. It’s a mix of verse and prose poems, or even poems in the. . .

Read More >

Kingdom Cons
Kingdom Cons by Yuri Herrera
Reviewed by Sarah Booker

Yuri Herrera is overwhelming in the way that he sucks readers into his worlds, transporting them to a borderland that is at once mythical in its construction and powerfully recognizable as a reflection of its modern-day counterpart. Kingdom Cons, originally. . .

Read More >

The Invented Part
The Invented Part by Rodrigo Fresán
Reviewed by Tiffany Nichols

Imagine reading a work that suddenly and very accurately calls out you, the reader, for not providing your full attention to the act of reading. Imagine how embarrassing it is when you, the reader, believe that you are engrossed in. . .

Read More >

A Simple Story: The Last Malambo
A Simple Story: The Last Malambo by Leila Guerriero
Reviewed by Emilee Brecht

Leila Guerriero’s A Simple Story: The Last Malambo chronicles the unique ferocity of a national dance competition in Argentina. The dance, called the malambo, pushes the physical and mental limits of male competitors striving to become champions of not only. . .

Read More >

The Little Buddhist Monk & The Proof
The Little Buddhist Monk & The Proof by Cesar Aira
Reviewed by Will Eells

Aira continues to surprise and delight in his latest release from New Directions, which collects two novellas: the first, The Little Buddhist Monk, a fairly recent work from 2005, and The Proof, an earlier work from 1989. There are a. . .

Read More >

Agnes
Agnes by Peter Stamm
Reviewed by Dorian Stuber

The narrator of Peter Stamm’s first novel, Agnes, originally published in 1998 and now available in the U.S. in an able translation by Michael Hofmann, is a young Swiss writer who has come to Chicago to research a book on. . .

Read More >

The next few events from our Translation Events Calendar: See More Events >