Alan Cheuse dies at 75; author was longtime NPR book reviewer


Alan Cheuse, an author and longtime book commentator for NPR, died Friday of injuries he sustained in a car crash in California. He was 75.

His death was confirmed to NPR by his daughter Sonya Cheuse, the publicity director for Ecco, an imprint of HarperCollins. “He was the brightest light in our family. He will always remain in our hearts. We thank everyone for the outpouring of love and support,” his daughter told NPR.

Cheuse’s daughter Emma Cheuse also posted news of her father’s death on the website CaringBridge, writing, “In his honor tonight, please raise a glass of wine (or whatever you may be drinking), tell a joke, hug someone that you love, be kind, and read a great story.”


Cheuse was injured in a car crash on July 14 on Highway 17 while on his way from the Squaw Valley Writers Workshop in Nevada City to Santa Cruz. He was hospitalized with broken ribs and vertebrae. Three days later, he suffered a subdural hematoma, after which he entered a coma.

Born Jan. 23, 1940, in Perth Amboy, N.J., Cheuse graduated from Rutgers University and returned to earn his doctorate after traveling abroad.

The writer was a fixture on NPR for about 30 years and was recognized widely for his work on “All Things Considered.” He also was a professor of writing at George Mason University and the author of 12 books, most recently the novel “Prayers for the Living.”

Cheuse was known for championing the work of younger writers and independent publishers. His most recent piece for NPR was a review of Kim Stanley Robinson’s science fiction novel “Aurora.”

Robert Pinsky, the former U.S. poet laureate, had been friends with Cheuse since they were teenagers. Pinsky told NPR, “Alan embodied the spirit of ambitious, far-ranging writing that characterized modernist writing at the time.”

Cheuse’s students honored him after the car crash with the formation of the Alan Cheuse Literary Review, a literary journal. In a call for submissions on the project’s Facebook page, the editors wrote, “Alan Cheuse is our beloved teacher. While he’s making great progress, we want to share our love and warmth for him in the way he taught us best — through words on the page.”


Friends and admirers of Cheuse mourned his death on Twitter. Novelist Laila Lalami wrote, “I’m so sorry to hear that NPR’s Alan Cheuse has passed. He was a great critic, always fair in his criticism and generous with his praise.”

Author Luis Alberto Urrea and his wife, Cindy, tweeted, “RIP Alan Cheuse. A big soul. We will miss you, amigo. Prayers for your dear family.”

In addition to his daughters Emma and Sonya, Cheuse is survived by his son, Josh, and his wife, Kris O’Shee, NPR reported.