NPR’s List of Essential Poetry Books

A reading list can come from anywhere and can be given to anyone.

Yesterday, Annex Books in Toronto closed its doors for the last time; however, before it went, it gifted me with a short reading list. Albeit an informal reading list, the books that ended up in my white plastic bag would not have ended up on my shelves had I not walked into that store on that particular day.

Book buyers, the ones who stock the shelves at your local bookstore, are the quiet list makers, tempting you with books you never knew were available. Their tastes inevitably shape the stock of the store, and your shelves. At the end of the year, newspapers and journals are bursting with end of year lists; however, a reading list tailored specifically for you will be the one you keep for years.

When I was twenty years old and a student at the University of Windsor, my American Literature professor noticed that I would read any book he mentioned in class. One day, before class began, he gave me a reading list. The list was comprised of names that while familiar to most were new to me. Years later, I still have the list and many of the books have become dog-eared favorites.

Although my professor passed away last year, his tastes have not. The good books he recommended remain good books, and, together, they make up a small slice of his literary history, which in turn, became mine.

So, take a few minutes and read through the list, which contains titles suggested by readers, writers and publishers, both Canadian and American. Inherit someone else’s library, or at least one title from it. While this list was not tailored for any one in particular, I hope you’ll consider picking up even one of the titles, especially if it is by a writer you have never heard of.

And if you want more suggestions, use the contributor list as your next reading list, many of whom have published worthy titles of their own. Better yet, ask a friend with an enviable book collection to make a list for you.

As for my pick, I’d like to suggest Now You Care, by Di Brandt. Now go on, get reading.