From the National Book Critics Circle blog, Critical Mass, the top five books all book critics should read:

1. Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Biographia Literaria (1817)

2. Ludwig Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations (1947) and Culture and Value (1980)

3. Ezra Pound, Literary Essays (1954) and ABC of Reading (1934)

4. Walter Benjamin, Illuminations (1968) and Reflections (1986), better yet the four volumes of Selected Writings (1996-2003)

5. Susan Howe, My Emily Dickinson (1995)

I'm surprised Edmund Wilson didn't make the cut. Personally, some of my early inspirations were Howard Bloom, Vladimir Nabokov, and most of all, J.R.R. Tolkien's essay on Beowulf, "The Monsters and the Critics."