My friends Ben and Tyler prompted me to make a list of my favorite books, so I did. Of course, I’ve probably left some out or included some that I’ll go back and be like WUZZZZZZZZZZZZ? With the poetry, these books are ones that I revisit often for inspiration and lessons and/or I totally think shred. With the fiction, sorry I didn’t divide novels and story collections, I usually judge on enjoyment and/or sweet language/sentences. The Non-fiction are ones that made me think about my own storytelling (usually in person/socially) more deeply and/or had a huge impact on my human empathy. The Criticism (I’m not sure if this is a good title for this section) are books that made me look at writing and reading in a totally different way and/or significantly added to my knowledge of writing. I’ve included some sentences about each book. Really, the order is unimportant.
Poetry! Poetry! Poetry! By Peter Davis: My parents loved seeing Peter read from this book, and if that’s not a positive thing, then I don’t know what is.
The Duino Elegies by Rainer Maria Rilke: I read these aloud to Sara as we were driving through Utah last summer, and I don’t know if my voice has ever felt better.
High Water Mark by David Shumate: Prose poems are weird, but this dude writes them in a way that is okay-weird-awesome.
The Available World by Ander Monson: One of my favorite overall writers; I think I said Woo or Woah after 75% of these poems.
Leaves Of Grass by Walt Whitman: When I want to feel more like a human being, I reread this book.
Selected Odes of Pablo Neruda: Being emotional about and interested in things is cool.
Collected Poems of William Carlos Williams: Volume I: I’m still recovering from reading Spring and All, it’s beautiful connection of images and wildness.
A Coney Island of the Mind by Lawrence Ferlinghetti: I have a Ferlinghetti bio in my to-read stack. This book is in my reread stack and will probably get re-read first.
Strike Anywhere by Dean Young: WHY DON’T I OWN THIS YET? My favorite Dean Young poem is in here, Frottage. This book gave me permission to be energetic.
The Drunk Sonnets by Daniel Bailey: I’ve read this five times, probably more than any book of poems. A small press book that reminds me it’s okay to have feelings and love to drink.
Donkey Gospel by Tony Hoagland: The first book of poems that I remember cherishing.
Cemetery Nights by Stephen Dobyns: Yikes. The humor and the images are a catastrophically killer collision here.
Another Republic: 17 European and South American Writers edited by Charles Simic and Mark Strand:
My real introduction into translated poetry. Just a superb collection.
The Collected Poems of Allen Ginsberg: “Howl” is the first poem I remember caring about reading, and I know I’m not alone, and that’s comforting.
Lunch Poems by Frank O’Hara: I’ve written so many bad “O’Hara” poems.
Jesus’ Son by Denis Johnson: For years, people were like YOU GOTTA READ THIS BOOK. I was an idiot for waiting so long.
Scorch Atlas by Blake Butler: I’m gonna steal Christopher Newgent’s single sentence review from Vouched: You will drown in this book, you will not survive it.
The Collected Stories of Amy Hempel: When people tell me they like fiction, I say HAVE YOU READ AMY HEMPEL?
The Collectors by Matt Bell: I go to this for reminders how to use language and images, more than any other book.
Flash Fiction edited by James Thomas, Denise Thomas, and Tom Hazuka, and Flash Fiction Forward edited by Robert Shapard and James Thomas: I love passing these books around. My dad liked them. Again, a good sign, I think.
The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien: Reading this book changed the way I look at wars and soldiers and history. I’m pretty sure that’s a good feat for fiction.
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald: The first novel I was like HEY WOAH I LIKE READING. I still don’t know what the green light at the end of the dock “means.”
A book by Dave Eggers: Velocity jumbled my understanding of what a story was, I love the short fiction in both How We Are Hungry and How The Water Feels To The Fishes, and What Is The What was just emotion wrenching. I’m not sure a single one of these books belongs on this list, but maybe as some kind of nod to Eggers’ impact on my sense of storytelling, they do?
The Anchor Book of New American Short Stories edited by Ben Marcus: I was sick of short stories until I read this book.
Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut: This was the book that made me “get” Vonnegut. Really got me stoked about his writing. I even did a painting based on a scene in this book. You can have it if you want.
A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers: Maybe, this book is enough to say my point about Eggers. I’ve never read anything that sucked me out of my selfish hole and made me be interested in others’ stories.
Halls of Fame by John D’Agata: Proves that nonfiction doesn’t have to be boring and full of narcissism.
A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again by David Foster Wallace: I’ve never had so much fun having words crammed into my head. This isn’t a new statement: DFW was something special and it’s awful he didn’t get to reach his full potential.
The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan: The writing skill in this book is surprisingly fantastic. Like so many people I know, this book has completely changed the way I look at food.
Letters To A Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke: I crave for someone to write me letters like this.
Can I Keep My Jersey?: Eleven Teams, Six Years, Five Countries, and My So-called Career as a Professional Basketball Player by Paul Shirley: I don’t remember if the writing was awe-inspiring, but no book has ever been this intriguing to me solely based on the story. I remember just being like DANG THIS STORY IS GOOD after reading it.
Making Stuff and Doing Things by Kyle Bravo: This book should be called, COME ON TYLER GOBBLE.
The Art of Recklessness by Dean Young: Talking about poetry is cool. Talking about poetry and being kickass fun is even better.
Vanishing Point by Ander Monson: That one fancy award put this book under criticism, so I will follow. So much goes on within these pages, it’s just a rad tutorial on doing stuff with words.
Poetry and the Age by Randall Jarrell: I’ve never read anything this smart about poetry.
Rose Metal Press Field Guide to Flash Fiction edited by Tara Masih: I am curious about the Prose Poetry Field Guide (remember: prose poems are weird). This book might rule more because it’s so fresh, so first. It’s great and fun and useful.
Poet’s Bookshelf edited by Peter Davis: THANK YOU PETER DAVIS FOR GIVING ME INSIGHT INTO MY FAVORITE POET’S BOOKS.