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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Book Reviews
10:19 am
Wed June 17, 2015

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

Courtesy of Liveright Publishing Corporation

Originally published on Wed June 17, 2015 10:15 am

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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Book Reviews
7:03 am
Wed June 10, 2015

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

Courtesy of Other Press

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

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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Book Reviews
7:03 am
Tue June 9, 2015

Coping With Calamity In Shimmering 'Cathedral'

Lydia Thompson NPR

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

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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Home Page Top Stories
10:03 am
Tue June 2, 2015

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

Emily Bogle NPR

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

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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Book Reviews
7:03 am
Wed May 13, 2015

Remembering A Troubled Brother In 'Lord Fear'

Emily Bogle NPR

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

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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