Critical Mass

Edmund White, Joan Acocella, and Morris Dickstein: Critical Libraries from the Vault

By Eric Banks

Over the last couple of years we've polled critics to ask them to name five books that reviewers should have in their libraries. Here are past postings from the recipient of this year's Nona Balakian Citation for Excellence in Reviewing, as well as two of this year's NBCC finalists:


Joan Acocella, the recipient of the 2009 Nona Balakian Citation for Excellence in Reviewing, hailed Dwight Macdonald's collection of parody, a genre she called “one of the higher forms of criticism, and a consolation to the critic in his/her dark hours.” Click here to read Acocella's Critical Library.


Morris Dickstein, a finalist in Criticism for Dancing in the Dark: A Cultural History of the Great Depression, called Erich Auerbach's Mimesis “perhaps the key critical book of the twentieth century.” Click here to read Dickstein's Critical LIbrary.

Edmund White, a finalist in Autobiography for City Boy: My Life in New York During the 1960s and '70s, wrote about the impact that reading Lolita had on him in the summer of 1960. Click here to read White's Critical Library (which, it should be noted, appeared before the recent film adaptation of A Single Man).