April Bernards new collection of poems, Swan Electric, was published in June (W.W. Norton & Company, $22). Here she chooses books which are not merely favorites, but which, upon consultation, recharge the writing impulse.
The Tax Inspector by Peter Carey (Vintage Books, $14). Incredibly funny and scary, this storyabout used-car dealers with big family secrets in rotten rural-suburban Sydneyis by our latter-day Dickens, minus the sentimentality.
Persuasion by Jane Austen (Signet, $5). In this, her last and sweetest novel, Austen affirms the possibility of second chances and the triumph of virtue over seeming virtue. Each sentence is hand-carved, turned, like a finial, perfectly.
Desire by Frank Bidart (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $11). The most important book of poems in English from the last 10 years. The long poem, The Second Hour of the Night, is astonishing for its bravery and intellectual sweep.
The Songlines by Bruce Chatwin (Penguin, $14). This haunting account of the authors encounter with the Australian aborigineswho sing the world and its history into being as they walk along the paths of the desertis also a book of radical and fond ambition, the writers, to redeem mankind from the slur of an accused aggressive nature and to posit the saving graces of altruism and harmony.
The Emigrants by W.G. Sebald (New Directions, $14). Nothing less than urgent reading for everyone who cares about the endless aftermath of the Holocaust, or love, or hope, or, for that matter, what it means to tell a storyand surely thats all of us.
Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë (Bantam Classics, $5). I continue to insist, like the Ancient Mariner who stoppeth one of three, that this is an essentially comic book, and was written from Brontës mordant laughter. If you take it seriously, you are lost.