“Bestseller lists just capture what people are buying, not reading. My hope was to create a list to show what people are recommending to each other—saying, ‘you must read this’—which is how books really travel,” said John Freeman, president of the National Book Critics Circle, which, today, launched its Most Recommended List, a monthly list of book recommendations compiled from votes cast by NBCC members as well as famous writers and critics, including John Updike and Cynthia Ozick. Every month, the NBCC plans to poll its membership, as well as many other well-known writers and critics, for their recommendations in fiction, nonfiction and poetry, listing the top five books with the most votes.

The first list, which is posted in full below, includes many of the usual suspects—such as Philip Roth, Junot Diaz, and NBA winners and finalists Denis Johnson, Edwidge Danticat, Tim Wiener, and Robert Hass—but also a few surprises, like indie press success Out Stealing Horses by novelist Per Petterson, and Next Life by experimental poet Rae Armantrout.

As far as how the word about the list will get out, according to Freeman, most of the publicity will be online. Powells.com and Amazon.com have agreed to post the list on their blogs, the Academy of American Poets and the Poetry Foundation will post it on their sites, and, said Freeman, “several dozen newspapers will run it," including Star Tribune in Minneapolis, Harford Courant, the Las Vegas Weekly, the Seattle Times, the Alibi in New Mexico, and the Sacramento News & Review. Also, "some independent bookstores are passing it among their buyers and a few will post it on their sites, and it will appear on blogs of individual NBCC members."

Here is the first installment of the list:


1) Junot Diaz, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (Riverhead)
2) Denis Johnson, Tree of Smoke (Farrar, Straus & Giroux)
3) Michael Chabon, The Yiddish Policeman’s Union (HarperCollins)
4) Philip Roth, Exit Ghost (Houghton Mifflin)
5) Per Petterson, Out Stealing Horses (Graywolf)


1)Edwidge Danticat, Brother, I’m Dying (Knopf)
2)Alan Weisman, The World Without Us (St. Martin’s)
3)Noami Klein, The Shock Doctrine (Metropolitan)
4)David Michaelis, Schulz and the Peanuts (HarperCollins)
5)Tim Weiner, Legacy of Ashes (Doubleday)


1) Robert Hass, Time and Materials: Poems 1997-2005*
2) Zbigniew Herbert, Collected Poems: 1956-1998 (Ecco)*
3) Robert Pinsky, Gulf Music (Farrar Straus & Giroux)*
4) Rae Armantrout, Next Life (Wesleyan)
5) Mary Jo Bang, Elegy (Graywolf)

*These three titles tied for first place in the poetry category.