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.


Book Reviews
5:34 pm
Wed June 25, 2014

'Gottland': A Short Book About Stalin's Long Shadow

Originally published on Wed May 28, 2014 1:03 pm

It was 50 feet high and 70 feet long, more than 37 million pounds of granite and concrete. It dominated Letná Park in Prague for the seven years it stood. But in 1962, the biggest monument to Josef Stalin in the world was destroyed, after the dictator fell out of ideological favor in Czechoslovakia.

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Book Reviews
3:16 pm
Sun June 15, 2014

The 'Wayward And Defiant' Life Of Journalist Rebecca West

Originally published on Sat May 17, 2014 10:38 am

"There is no such thing as conversation," wrote Rebecca West in her story "The Harsh Voice." "It is an illusion. There are intersecting monologues, that is all." The same could be said for books, as well — even the best histories and biographies are necessarily filtered through the sensibilities of the author and reader, and some of the best literature is the result of those monologues, those stories, intersecting.

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Book Reviews
6:29 pm
Thu April 24, 2014

Mitterrand's Taste For 'Intrigue' And Contradiction

Originally published on Thu April 24, 2014 6:03 am

It's probably a little too pat to say that all successful political careers are marked by contradiction and compromise, though you're not likely to hear many objections to that characterization. Politics is a game of survival, and with a few sadly notable exceptions, unyielding purists seldom make it to the top.

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Book Reviews
9:11 pm
Sat June 22, 2013

When Love Is 'In The House'

Wessel Du Plooy iStockphoto.com

Originally published on Thu June 20, 2013 6:03 am

"Love is not all," warned the poet Edna St. Vincent Millay. "It is not meat nor drink / Nor slumber nor a roof against the rain." She was right, of course, but if there were ever any advice destined to fall on stubbornly deaf ears, this is it. Love is not all, but it always feels like it is, whether you're happily partnered or bereft.

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Book Reviews
6:50 pm
Thu May 30, 2013

Sons, Guns And The Sins Of The Father In Meyer's Texas Epic

Cover of The Son

Originally published on Tue May 28, 2013 9:17 am

"Texas yesterday is unbelievable, but no more incredible than Texas today," wrote Edna Ferber, author of the iconic Lone Star State novel Giant. She continues, in what's as good a description of America's 28th state as you're likely to encounter, "Today's Texas is exhilarating, exasperating, violent, charming, horrible, delightful, alive." A huge contradiction of a place, Texas is as friendly as it can be frightening, with a history as vast and as variegated as the United States itself.

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Book Reviews
12:03 pm
Tue February 26, 2013

Echoes Of Orwell In 'The Office Of Mercy'

Originally published on Tue February 26, 2013 7:31 am

It was no less than the master of dystopian fiction, George Orwell, who noted in a 1946 essay that "political language has to consist largely of euphemism. ... Defenseless villages are bombarded from the air ...

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Book Reviews
9:39 am
Wed February 13, 2013

'Vampires' Isn't Sparkly — It's Magnificent

Originally published on Tue February 12, 2013 6:03 am

There's a popular misconception that literary fiction is supposed to be staid, boring, realistic to a fault. Like all stereotypes, it's deeply unfair, but it endures, perhaps because readers keep having traumatic flashbacks to novels, like Sister Carrie, that they were forced to read in high school.

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Book Reviews
10:25 am
Wed January 23, 2013

Here's To The Pleasures Of 'Drinking With Men'


Originally published on Wed January 23, 2013 6:03 am

"More than anywhere else," writes Rosie Schaap, "bars are where I've figured out how to relate to others and how to be myself." It's the same for a lot of us, though many won't admit it. Americans tend to have a weirdly puritanical view of drinking, and a lot of people see bars as nothing more than havens for lowlifes and alcoholics. But as Schaap points out in her new memoir, they're missing out. "You can drink at home. But a good bar? ... It's more like a community center, for people — men and women — who happen to drink."

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Book Reviews
11:27 am
Tue January 8, 2013

From George Saunders, A Dark 'December'

Flickr user Anja Jonsson

Originally published on Tue January 8, 2013 6:03 am

Since the publication of George Saunders' 1996 debut story collection, Civilwarland in Bad Decline, journalists and scholars have been trying to figure out how to describe his writing. Nobody has come very close. The short story writer and novelist has been repeatedly called "original," which is true as far as it goes — but it doesn't go nearly far enough. Saunders blends elements of science fiction, horror and humor writing into his trademark brand of literary fiction.

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Best Books Of 2012
5:26 pm
Fri December 28, 2012

True Originals: Biographies That Defy Expectations

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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