Columbia Faculty and Alumni Make the Grade on NPR's Best Books List

BY Rochelle Goldstein, December 20, 2019

Many Columbia alumni and faculty were among those recognized by NPR’s prestigious end of year list.


Alumna Tina Chang ’98 addresses her young, mixed-race son, Roman, in her third poetry collection Hybrida in a prophetic maternal voice that “summons the kind of love only the imagination can sustain,” according to one reviewer. In this collection, Chang works her word magic in mixed forms from ghazals, to fable poems, to ekphastrics.


Professor and alumna Rivka Galchen '06 forays into the world of young adult fiction in her acclaimed book, Rat Rule 79: An Adventure which chronicles 13-year-old Fred as she tries to find her mother in the illogical world beyond the magic lanterns. Galchen is a writer of short stories, novels, and journalism.


The latest of seven novels from professor Binnie Kirshenbaum, Rabbits for Food has been widely celebrated in the press. The story of a writer’s emotional breakdown and experience on a psych ward, the novel is Kirshenbaum’s first in 10 years, and has garnered many accolades, including being selected as one of the New York Times Notable Books of 2019.  


The perfectly pitched stories in Orange World and Other Stories from the original mind of Karen Russell ’06, author of the best seller Swamplandia! again showcases her talent in eight short stories that explore the intersection of the real and the supernatural. This latest collection caused one reviewer to declare Russell one of the “most literary brilliant minds of her generation.”


Make It Scream, Make It Burn, professor Leslie Jamison’s latest essay collection, offers her trademark wide-ranging and incisive exploration of contemporary life, on subjects that run the gamut from a lonely whale to the joys of childbirth. 


America, its trials and tribulations, is also the subject of the latest book from professor Brenda Wineapple, whose insightful and timely, The Impeachers: The Trial of Andrew Johnson and the Dream of a Just Nation provides much needed context for our vulnerable political moment. The book is also on the list of the New York Times Notable Books for 2019.


A debut novel from alumna Lauren Wilkinson ’13, American Spy, grew out of a prompt in class with Professor John Freeman, to write about suburbia in America. Set in the Cold War era, the result is a deeply nuanced spy thriller that engages far-ranging questions of competing political ideologies, moral compromise, race and gender. The book is also included on the New York Times Notable Books of the Year list.