Another year is quickly winding to a close, and the Internet has become awash with “Top Ten” compilations that are liable to drive you insane. I’ve seen list after list pile up, and have experienced my own difficulty in trying to keep up with the flood of books I should be purchasing. For me, 2013 was spent reading some pretty powerful books, more than could be whittled down to ten, and I have been trying to solve the problem of expressing the “essential” books I think people should read in the coming year. So, in order to ease the pain of selecting my Top 10 books, I have decided to provide a reading list of books that I think are worth your time. This will hopefully supply you with a little more breadth and choice in the upcoming year. I wanted to give a decent choice of my favorite books, as well as publishers I think are worth mentioning. Have a happy holidays, and, more importantly, happy reading!

"Read thee well, my friends."
“Read thee well, my friends.”

My List:


  • All Charles Wright – A good place to start are his collections: Country Music: Selected Early Poems, The World of the Ten Thousand Things: Poems 1980-1990, Negative Blue: Selected Later Poems, Bye-And-Bye: Selected Late Poems
  • Skin, Inc. by Thomas Sayers Ellis
  • Dear Darkness by Kevin Young
  • The Light The Dead See: Selected Poems by Frank Stanford
  • The Battlefield Where The Moon Says I Love You by Frank Stanford
  • A Coast of Trees by A. R. Ammons
  • James Wright: Selected Poems by James Wright
  • Incarnadine by Mary Szybist (Winner of the National Book Award)
  • The Collected Poems by Lucille Clifton, Forward by Toni Morrison
  • Migrations by W. S. Merwin
  • The Complete Poetry: César Vallejo by César Vallejo


  • Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
  • Beloved by Toni Morrison
  • Child of God by Cormac McCarthy
  • Wise Blood by Flannery O’Connor
  • Tell Me How Long The Train’s Been Gone by James Baldwin

Nonfiction / Essay:

  • Detroit: An American Autopsy by Charlie LeDuff
  • Bluets by Maggie Nelson
  • Another Bullshit Night in Suck City by Nick Flynn
  • Happy: A Memoir by Alex Lemon
  • Mourning Diary by Roland Barthes
  • My Heart is an Idiot by Davy Rothbart
  • The Grey Album: On The Blackness of Blackness by Kevin Young (Winner of the 2013 PEN Open Award)
  • The Death of Adam by Marilynne Robinson
  • Dust Tracks on a Road by Zora Neale Hurston
  • Slouching Toward Bethlehem by Joan Didion
  • My Bright Abyss by Christian Wiman
  • The Wild Marsh by Rick Bass
  • The Wilderness Essays of John Muir by John Muir
  • Salvation on Sand Mountain by Dennis Covington

Noteworthy Publishers: 

  • New Directions: I have been a fan of almost everything New Directions has done, and cannot think of a single book they’ve released that I have disliked. From brilliant authors to beautiful book designs, New Directions seems to strive for the best, continuously publishing beautiful work.
  • Wave Poetry: I have recently gotten really into Wave’s books, especially after I read Bluets by Maggie Nelson. Wave is really pushing the boundaries of literature, publishing great poetry and nonfiction, along with beautifully distinct book designs.
  • Graywolf: Already well-established in the world of literature, due to the breadth of great work they have published, Graywolf stands out as one of the premier publishers in America. Almost everything I’ve read from them has been truly amazing, and they have a pretty stout lineup for the coming year.
  • Farrar, Straus, and Giroux: Although they need no help from me, I want to speak specifically to the poetry and nonfiction I’ve read from FSG in the past year. Whether it is Charles Wright, Frank Bidart, Robert Lowell, or Christian Wiman, the work that FSG publishes has not faltered in their storied history.

Submitted by Trip Starkey.

To see Trip Starkey’s favorite books from last year, click here.