Michael Schaub

Michael Schaub is a writer, book critic and regular contributor to NPR Books. His work has appeared in The Washington Post, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Portland Mercury and The Austin Chronicle, among other publications. A native of Texas, he now lives in Portland, Ore.

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7:03am

Mon December 17, 2012
Best Books Of 2012

True Originals: Biographies That Defy Expectations

Originally published on Fri December 28, 2012 6:26 pm

Nishant Choksi

It's probably not true that truth is stranger than fiction, but in the hands of a great biographer, it can be just as compelling. Novelists can create unique and unforgettable characters — there's never been anyone quite like Jane Eyre or Ignatius J. Reilly — but there's no shortage of fascinating literary protagonists who just happened to exist in real life.

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7:03am

Wed November 14, 2012
Book Reviews

'Brain On Fire' Details An Out-Of-Mind Experience

Originally published on Wed November 14, 2012 3:14 pm

Free Press

It's a cold March night in New York, and journalist Susannah Cahalan is watching PBS with her boyfriend, trying to relax after a difficult day at work. He falls asleep, and wakes up moments later to find her having a seizure straight out of The Exorcist. "My arms suddenly whipped straight out in front of me, like a mummy, as my eyes rolled back and my body stiffened," Cahalan writes. "I inhaled repeatedly, with no exhale. Blood and foam began to spurt out of my mouth through clenched teeth."

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7:03am

Thu November 1, 2012
Book Reviews

'Elsewhere' Has Beauty, But No Happy Ending

Originally published on Fri November 16, 2012 8:07 pm

Knopf

Richard Russo sits in his elderly mother's home, holding her hand. She's just been diagnosed with dementia, one more illness to add to the long list of ailments she's been battling for years. She wonders aloud whether she'll ever be able to read again, plainly scared at the prospect of a life without her favorite hobby. She takes a look around her small apartment, and tells her son that she hates it.

"I just wish you could be happy, Mom," he says, heartbroken. "I used to be," she responds. "I know you don't believe that, but I was."

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7:03am

Thu October 18, 2012
Book Reviews

Assaying The Legacy Of 'The Big Screen'

Originally published on Thu October 18, 2012 9:56 am

Courtesy of Farrar, Straus and Giroux

"The fact is I am quite happy in a movie, even a bad movie," admits Binx Bolling, the hero of Walker Percy's 1961 novel The Moviegoer. It's the same for a lot of us — cinema affects us in ways we don't always understand, and even the worst films appeal to our nostalgia and sense memories in manners that defy the normal rules of taste and logic. (Currently, on my DVR: La Dolce Vita, a classic I know I should see at some point, and Gymkata, a truly terrible 1985 martial-arts flick I've watched a dozen times.

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7:03am

Wed October 3, 2012
Book Reviews

Page And Screen Make Peace In 'Mr. Penumbra'

Farrar, Straus and Giroux

It's been five years since the Amazon Kindle started one of the most enduring literary controversies of recent times: the fight between e-books and printed books. If you're a devoted reader, you're probably already sick of the back and forth between the excitable technophiles and the stubborn Luddites. The proponents of e-books rave about the unexplored avenues, the hypertext, the entire world of literature accessible with just one click. The rest of us — well, we like the way books feel and smell, OK? It might seem sentimental, but that's falling in love for you.

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7:03am

Thu September 27, 2012
Book Reviews

'May We Be Forgiven' Blames The Online World

Courtesy of Viking Penguin

"I am guilty," admits Harold Silver, the protagonist of A.M. Homes' new novel, May We Be Forgiven. "I am guilty of even more than I realized I could be guilty of."

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7:03am

Tue September 4, 2012
Book Reviews

'Wilderness Of Error' Indicts U.S. Justice System

Army doctor Jeffrey McDonald, shown here in a 1995 photo, was convicted of murdering his pregnant wife and two daughters in the 1970s. He maintains that they were killed by a band of hippies.
Shane Young AP

On Feb. 17, 1970, physician Jeffrey MacDonald called the police to his Fort Bragg, N.C., home. He told the responding officers that he had been assaulted by a group of "hippie" intruders, who had also bludgeoned and stabbed his wife and two young daughters — ages 2 and 5 — to death. MacDonald suffered a concussion and collapsed lung but survived.

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7:03am

Wed August 8, 2012
Book Reviews

Divine Beings And Socially Awkward New Yorkers

Meet God, according to Simon Rich. He's a mostly nice dude — compassionate, though he gave up on listening to prayers and intervening in the lives of humans years ago. ("[H]e's really more of an ideas guy, you know?" explains an angel.) He loves golf and the music of Lynyrd Skynyrd, and he's not averse to enjoying a beer or two during the workday. He's easy to like, except for two things: He's planning to destroy all of humanity so he can focus on opening an Asian fusion restaurant in heaven; and even worse, he's a Yankees fan.

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7:03am

Wed July 18, 2012
Book Reviews

Inside America's 30-Year Conflict with Iran

Originally published on Wed July 18, 2012 11:27 am

David Crist's father, George (left), discusses operations against Iranian attack boats with Navy Lt. Paul Hillenbrand. George Crist, a Marine Corps general, was commander of CENTCOM from 1985-1988.
Courtesy of David Crist

Iran Says It Has Plan To Close Strait Of Hormuz. Iran Reports Long-Range Missile Launch Exercise. New Sanctions Targeting Iranian Oil. All these headlines appeared on NPR.org over the past month, but if they give you a sense of deja vu, there's a reason.

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7:03am

Tue June 26, 2012
Book Reviews

Aretha, Einstein And Knowing 'Too Much'

Express Newspapers Getty Images

America is a nation of fans. And though you might not know it by whichever forgettable pop singers are currently shooting up the Top 40 chart, we're serious about our music. "You can dispute folks' politics or theology and still drink with them," as Anthony Heilbut writes in his entertaining new essay collection, The Fan Who Knew Too Much. "But [tell me], for example ... that Bob Dylan's music is 'worthless' and, well, you're on your own." This is true.

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