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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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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Book Reviews
11:15 pm
Fri November 16, 2012

'Elsewhere' Has Beauty, But No Happy Ending

Knopf

Originally published on Fri November 16, 2012 7:07 pm

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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Book Reviews
12:12 pm
Thu November 15, 2012

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

Free Press

Originally published on Wed November 14, 2012 2:14 pm

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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Book Reviews
6:03 am
Wed June 20, 2012

A Question Unanswered: 'How Should A Person Be?'

Originally published on Wed June 20, 2012 9:36 am

The unexamined life isn't worth living, according to Socrates, and you'd be hard-pressed to find a writer who disagrees. Few, though, have taken it to the extreme that Toronto author Sheila Heti does with How Should a Person Be? The relentlessly introspective "novel from life" earned critical raves when it was released in Canada in 2010. The book chronicles Heti's struggle — sometimes hilarious, sometimes heartbreaking — to answer the seemingly simple questions: "What was the right way to react to people? Who was I to talk to at parties? How was I to be?"

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Books
6:03 am
Thu May 24, 2012

Literary Look Ahead: 13 Great Books On The Horizon

Harriet Russell

Originally published on Tue July 24, 2012 6:56 am

Despite what the book section of your local supermarket would have you believe, publishers don't really expect you to turn off your brain for the summer. Sure, every June brings a stampede of fluffy paperbacks with tired plots and hilariously unfortunate covers, but your summer reading experience doesn't have to be 50 shades of mediocre.

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Book Reviews
6:03 am
Wed May 23, 2012

'Bodies': 'Wolf Hall' Sequel Outshines Original

istockphoto.com

Divorced, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded, survived. If you grew up in England, or just had a world history teacher who was weirdly obsessed with Henry VIII, you've probably heard the rhyme explaining the fates of each of the king's wives. For centuries, novelists, playwrights and filmmakers have been mining the Tudor family for dramatic gold, and with good reason: It's hard not to tell an interesting story about the monarch's parade of severely dysfunctional families.

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