[Editor's note: John Freeman is president of the National Book Critics Circle. Look for more about the "Most Recommended" list on this blog in the days ahead, including comments from NBCC voters about the titles they chose.]
What if a bestseller list was made up of books people read, rather than what they bought? And what if the recommenders of this book weren't cash registers, but award winning poets, novelists, biographers and critics?
These are the utopian ideas which prompted the National Book Critics Circle to create a monthly Best Recommended List. Polling our 800 members, and the former finalists and winners of our book prizew, we asked: what have you read of 2007 books that you loved? We got quite a few responses.
Nearly 500 voters responded, everyone from John Updike to Robert Hass, Carolyn Forche, Anne Tyler and Cynthia Ozick, too. Starting in 2008, we plan to do this every month. For now, here are the lists they came up with, in order of votes received:
2) Denis Johnson, Tree of Smoke
4) Philip Roth, Exit Ghost
5) Per Petterson, Out Stealing Horses
1) Edwidge Danticat, Brother, I’m Dying
3) Naomi Klein, The Shock Doctrine
4) David Michaelis, Schulz and Peanuts
5) Tim Weiner, Legacy of Ashes
1) Robert Hass, Time and Materials: Poems 1997-2005*
2) Zbigniew Herbert, Collected Poems: 1956-1998*
3) Robert Pinsky, Gulf Music*
4) Rae Armantrout, Next Life
5) Mary Jo Bang, Elegy
*there was a three-way tie for first in poetry.
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NBCC Finalist and Winning Voters:
Monica Ali, Julia Alvarez, Debby Applegate, Mary Jo Bang, Allen Barra, Sissela Bok, Kevin Boyle, David Bromwich, John Casey, Ron Charles, Michael Collier, Jim Crace, Frederick Crews, Hal Crowther, Edwidge Danticat, Arthur C. Danto, Morris Dickstein, Mark Doty, Paul Elie, Leslie Epstein, James Fallows, Eric Foner, Carolyn Forche, Elizabeth Frank, Brigitte Frase, Daisy Fried, Mary Gaitskill, Laurie Garrett, Dagoberto Gilb, Jack Gilbert, Michael Gorra, Marilyn Hacker, David Hajdu, Kathryn Harrison, Robert Hass, Adam Hochschild, John Hollander, Amy Gerstler, Francine Du Plessix Gray, Aleksandar Hemon, Tony Hoagland, Maureen Howard, Walter Isaacson, Gish Jen, Terri Jentz, Charles Johnson, Joyce Johnson, Troy Jollimore, Steven G. Kellman, Ross King, Dorianne Laux, David Leavitt, Adrian Nicole LeBlanc, Jonathan Lethem, William Logan, James Marcus, Wyatt Mason, Maureen McLane, James McPherson, Adrian Nicole LeBlanc, Brad Leithauser, Davis McCombs, Scott McLemee, Sue Miller, Caroline Moorehead, David Nasaw, Lynn Nicholas, David Orr, Cynthia Ozick, Steven Pinker, Robert Polito, Katha Pollitt, D.A. Powell, Katherine A. Powers, Lia Purpura, Jonathan Raban, James Richardson, Jason Roberts, Graham Robb, Mark Rudman, Norman Rush, Jonathan Schell, Craig Seligman, Alan Shapiro, Adam Sisman, Ron Slate, Jane Smiley, Gerald Stern, Susan Stewart, Anne Tyler, Judith Thurman, John Updike, Ellen Bryant Voigt, Edmund White, C.K. Williams, Simon Winchester, Tobias Wolff.
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John Freeman is president of the National Book Critics Circle. His reviews, essays, and interviews appear in more than 175 newspapers and magazines around the world, including The Guardian, the Sydney Morning Herald, and the Wall Street Journal. He is working on a book about the tyranny of email for Scribner.
Books mentioned in this post