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
6:41 pm
Wed April 8, 2015

Love, Violence And Lou Reed, On Display In 'The Water Museum'

Emily Jan NPR

Originally published on Wed April 8, 2015 2:30 pm

There's a telling moment in one of the stories in Luis Alberto Urrea's The Water Museum, when two high school friends are talking about their mutual love for Velvet Underground. "You like Berlin?" asks one of the boys. "Lou Reed's best album, dude!" A lot of Reed's fans (including this one) would agree, but it's a controversial record — it's certainly one of the most depressing rock albums in history, heavily suffused with references to suicide, violence and drug abuse.

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Book Reviews
1:46 pm
Thu March 12, 2015

From The Gathering Of Juggalos To Farthest Australia In 'Timid Son'

Emily Jan NPR

Originally published on Tue March 10, 2015 11:41 am

"I am homesick most for the place I've never known," writes Kent Russell in his debut essay collection. He's referring specifically to Martins Ferry, Ohio, his father's childhood hometown — but it could be anywhere. The essays in I Am Sorry to Think I Have Raised a Timid Son find the young author miles away from his native Florida, at a music festival in Illinois, on a small island near Australia, and other out-of-the-way locales. He never seems to feel quite at home, or maybe he hasn't yet decided what home really is to him.

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Book Reviews
5:33 pm
Wed February 18, 2015

A Writer Expresses His 'Discontent' With Civilization

Originally published on Wed February 18, 2015 9:03 am

"The first requisite of civilization ... is that of justice," wrote Sigmund Freud in his 1930 book Civilization and Its Discontents. Ideally, this is true, but it often seems like some civilizations never got the message. Though maybe it depends on what you mean by justice, and how you define "civilization" — if you can at all. In his new book, novelist and essayist Mohsin Hamid expresses some doubts: "Civilizations are illusions, but these illusions are pervasive, dangerous, and powerful. They contribute to globalization's brutality. ...

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NPR Story
4:02 pm
Sat February 7, 2015

Don't Have A 'Cow,' Man

Originally published on Mon February 9, 2015 8:32 am

It's hard to know where to begin with Holy Cow, so let's just get this out of the way: It is sort of a children's book, and it was written by David Duchovny, star of The X-Files and Californication. It is about a cow named Elsie Bovary (get it?) who flees her farm with a pig and a turkey. They eventually end up in Jerusalem. This is possible because the turkey knows how to fly an airplane. The moral of the story, which is stated explicitly and repeatedly, is that people should be more conscious about the food they eat.

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Book Reviews
1:13 pm
Thu February 5, 2015

This 'Future Lover' Is A Library

Originally published on Thu February 5, 2015 9:03 am

"The more I visit libraries the more I find myself opening up to them," writes Ander Monson in his essay collection Letter to a Future Lover. It's not surprising that an author would be attracted to libraries; they are, after all, some of the last places in the world dedicated to the preservation and celebration of literature. They're also at risk of becoming endangered, casualties of budget cuts, increased Internet availability, and apathy.

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Book Reviews
3:02 pm
Tue January 13, 2015

'Girl On The Train' Pays Homage To Hitchcock

Originally published on Tue January 13, 2015 1:58 pm

"They are a perfect, golden couple," Rachel Watson thinks, regarding handsome Jason and his striking wife, Jess. "He is dark-haired and well built, strong, protective, kind. He has a great laugh. She is one of those tiny bird-women, a beauty, pale-skinned with blond hair cropped short." Rachel, the main narrator of Paula Hawkins' novel The Girl on the Train, is obsessed with the pair; they represent to her the perfect relationship that she once had, or seemed to, before it imploded spectacularly.

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Book Reviews
9:37 am
Wed January 7, 2015

Confident Tales Of 'Small Mammals,' Funny Videos And Childhood Ghosts

Originally published on Wed January 7, 2015 10:40 am

The first small mammal in Thomas Pierce's short story collection is Shirley Temple Three, "waist-high, with a pelt of dirty-blond fur that hangs in tangled draggles to the dirt." Shirley is a dwarf mammoth, a member of a species that hasn't been around for millennia, cloned for the sake of a television show called Back from Extinction.

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This Week's Must Read
5:00 pm
Fri October 24, 2014

For The Midterm Elections, A Book On 'What It Takes' To Win

Originally published on Fri October 24, 2014 5:59 pm

In less than two weeks, Americans will go to the polls to vote in the midterm elections. At least, some of them will — about 40% of eligible voters, if past elections are any indication. This year's races have already made stars — some rising, some falling — out of Americans hoping to represent their states and districts.

Some, like Kansas Senate hopeful Greg Orman and Georgia governor candidate Jason Carter, may pull off surprising victories. Others, like Wendy Davis in the Texas governor race have seen their once bright lights fade.

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This Week's Must Read
11:03 am
Sat August 2, 2014

Albert Camus And The Search For Meaning In The Midst Of Ebola

Originally published on Mon August 25, 2014 10:54 am

For months now the Ebola virus has been wreaking havoc in the West African countries of Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. More than 700 people have died, and it seems that doctors are near-powerless to help. With the threat of the disease tearing communities apart, it's hard not to think of a legendary novel from almost 70 years ago.

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4:09 pm
Fri July 18, 2014

A Thousand Stories, Brilliantly Collapsed In 'Bulletproof Vest'

Originally published on Thu June 19, 2014 10:44 am

Maria Venegas' memoir Bulletproof Vest opens with the story of her father's near death at the hands of would-be assassins in the Mexican state of Zacatecas. He's shot while returning home from a bar, collapses near his house, losing blood, dying, until a neighbor happens upon him during a walk. When Maria's sister calls to tell her the news, the young writer doesn't even look up from her lunch menu. "Oh. So, is he dead?" she asks.

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