Heller McAlpin

Heller McAlpin is a New York-based critic who reviews books regularly for NPR.org, The Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, The Christian Science Monitor, The San Francisco Chronicle and other publications.

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10:15am

Wed June 17, 2015
Book Reviews

Too Much 'Word,' Not Enough 'Nerd' In This Scrabble Story

Courtesy of Liveright Publishing Corporation

Here's one way to attract readers: Spell out your title in Scrabble tiles. It worked for Stefan Fatsis's Word Freak in 2001, though that's not all that worked for that wonderful book, which remains the best about the game of Scrabble and its obsessed competitors.

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7:03am

Wed June 10, 2015
Book Reviews

Mama's Still Alive Today: 'Meursault' Investigates A Literary Murder

Originally published on Wed June 10, 2015 12:25 pm

Courtesy of Other Press

Some ideas are so clever it's a wonder no one has thought of them before. Case in point: Algerian writer Kamel Daoud's The Meursault Investigation, a response to Albert Camus' The Stranger, written from the point of view of the brother of the nameless Arab murdered by Camus' antihero Meursault.

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7:03am

Tue June 9, 2015
Book Reviews

Coping With Calamity In Shimmering 'Cathedral'

Originally published on Tue June 9, 2015 11:08 am

Lydia Thompson NPR

Back when I was losing sleep over various scenarios that could befall my aging parents, a friend would try to calm me with assurances that at most one of those things would happen, so they weren't worth worrying about in advance.

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10:03am

Tue June 2, 2015
Home Page Top Stories

You'll Be Caught Fast By This Delightful 'Fly Trap'

Originally published on Tue June 2, 2015 2:57 pm

Emily Bogle NPR

Write brilliantly and readers will follow you anywhere — even into a swarm of hoverflies. That's one takeaway from The Fly Trap, a charming, off-the-beaten track, humorously self-deprecating memoir by Fredrik Sjöberg, a biologist who muses and amuses about his baffling passion for hoverflies. "No sensible person is interested in flies, or anyway, no woman," he writes. His book may change that: It is a paean to some of the tiniest wonders of the natural world, but even more to the benefits of intense focus.

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7:03am

Wed May 13, 2015
Book Reviews

Remembering A Troubled Brother In 'Lord Fear'

Originally published on Wed May 13, 2015 1:05 pm

Emily Bogle NPR

Lucas Mann's genre-bending first book, Class A: Baseball in the Middle of Everywhere, was about an Iowa farm team, a dying Midwestern factory town, and his own anxieties about success, and it heralded an impressive new talent in narrative nonfiction. Mann's second book, Lord Fear, reaffirms that talent. A memoir about his much older half-brother, Josh, who died of a heroin overdose when Mann was 13, it's a less alluring, more difficult book — but clearly one that Mann needed to write.

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7:03am

Mon May 4, 2015
Book Reviews

'I Take You' Is Madcap Marital Mayhem

Originally published on Mon May 4, 2015 2:00 pm

Are some people "constitutionally unsuited" to marriage? That's the question the free-spirited narrator of Eliza Kennedy's saucy first novel, I Take You, keeps asking herself between drinks, seductions and a mess of complications during the frenetic week leading up to her Key West wedding.

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7:03am

Tue April 28, 2015
Book Reviews

What Luck! 'Early Warning' Continues Smiley's Farm Family Saga

Originally published on Tue April 28, 2015 3:43 pm

It's a good thing we only had to wait six months for Early Warning, the second volume of Jane Smiley's ambitious Last Hundred Years trilogy. Why? Because we were eager to follow up on the members of the Iowa farm family she introduced in Some Luck — while we still remembered all of them.

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7:30am

Wed April 8, 2015
Book Reviews

Memoir, Perfectly Punctuated In 'Between You & Me'

Originally published on Wed April 8, 2015 11:22 am

iStockphoto.com

Mary Norris has spent the past 20 years working as "a page OK'er" at The New Yorker, a position she says is unique to the magazine. Essentially, she's a highly specialized proofreader and copy editor on the publication's elaborate author-to-print assembly line. Alternate job descriptions include "prose goddess" and "comma queen."

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7:03am

Wed March 11, 2015
Book Reviews

'B & Me' Is Intelligent, Immoderate, And A Bit Belabored

Originally published on Wed March 11, 2015 5:18 pm

Emily Jan NPR

J.C. Hallman's audacious B & Me: A True Story of Literary Arousal, is a textbook example of "creative criticism" — a highly personal form of literary response that involves "writers depicting their minds, their consciousnesses, as they think about literature." Hallman, who has championed creative criticism in two anthologies, has written a wildly intelligent, deeply personal, immoderate — and somewhat belabored — exploration of Nicholson Baker's entire oeuvre, reading in general, and the state of modern literature.

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7:03am

Tue March 3, 2015
Book Reviews

A Life Examined — And Examined And Examined In 'Ongoingness'

Originally published on Tue March 3, 2015 8:09 pm

Ever since Michel de Montaigne hit on the winning mix of frankly personal and broader philosophical reflections in his 16th century Essays, the personal essay has attracted those for whom the unexamined life is — well, unthinkable. In recent years, we've seen a spate of auto-pathologies — minutely observed meditations on the tolls of often strange ailments. A newer trend is the meta-diary — short autobiographical entries that frequently explore the writer's relationship with time, memory and identity.

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