Hemingway’s recommended reading

In reading By-Line: Ernest Hemingway, I have been struck several times over, now, by his graciously recommending books that I should be reading. I have compiled them here for you in case you are as interested as I am:

Anna Karenina, Tolstoy
Far Away and Long Ago, W.H. Hudson
Buddenbrooks, Thomas Mann
Wuthering Heights, Bronte
Madame Bovary, Flaubert
War and Peace, Tolstoy
A Sportsman’s Sketches, Turgenev
The Brothers Karamazov, Dostoevsky
Hail and Farewell, George Moore
Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain
Winesburg, Ohio, Sherwood Anderson
La Reine Margot, Dumas
La Maison Tellier, De Maupassant
Le Rouge et le Noir, Stendhal
La Chartreuse de Parme, Stendhal
Dubliners, James Joyce
Yeats’s Autobiographies
Midshipman Easy, Marryat
Frank Mildmay, Marryat
Peter Simple, Marryat
L’Education Sentimentale, Flaubert
Portrait of the Artist, James Joyce
Ulysses, James Joyce
Tom Jones, Henry Fielding
Joseph Andrews, Henry Fielding
The Open Boat, Stephen Crane
The Blue Hotel, Stephen Crane

…as well as “all the good De Maupassant, all the good Kipling, all of Turgenev… Henry James’s short stories, especially Madame de Mauves, and The Turn of the Screw, The Portrait of a Lady, The American -” here he is interrupted by the young writer to whom he has been dictating. (The young man says he can’t possibly write all these down, and Hemingway promises to give him more the next day; “there are about three times that many.”)

The list I’ve compiled here for you comes from two different articles. In the first, he’s basically discussing boredom, not having the opportunity to hunt or fish, and having already read for the first time all “the best of the books”; he says he “would rather read again for the first time [these books] and a few others than have an assured income of a million dollars a year.” In the second story, Hemingway portrays himself as pestered by a young struggling writer who has traveled to Key West to beg for his advice and help. Hemingway employs the young man and is tortured (it would seem) by having these advice-giving sessions, in one of which he gives a slightly different list of books that it is “necessary” a writer have read. I have bolded for you the ones that appear in both of his lists.

So how do we feel about this? Well, first of all I feel shamed, because I have read exactly THREE of these books. Dear, dear! I’m not exquisitely well-read but I generally feel I’m above-average. (Don’t ask me what the average is, that’s a whole new subject. I am especially above it if the “average” is those kids on Jersey Shore. They write books too, you know.) I have read Wuthering Heights, Madame Bovary, and of course The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, all three of which I absolutely agree are outstanding and timeless books. So do I need to follow Hemingway’s advice? Well, as I’ve said before, I consider myself awfully a fan of his. I am inclined to want to read the books he considered “best” and “necessary.” These generally sound like solid pillars of a person’s education who wants to call herself well-read. I shall put them on The List but you know how that goes. The List is pages and pages long.

What about you? What do you think? Are you inclined to take advice from Papa? (Perhaps you despise Papa. Some people do. It’s allowed.) Or what about your favorite author – would you feel strongly about reading the books he or she described as “best” and “necessary”? How about the fact that there is only one book on his list by a woman? How bothered are you by this? I’d love to hear your feelings! Thanks and have a happy Tuesday!

6 Responses

  1. […] Ohio on my shelf because Hemingway recommended it. It turned out to be one of the easier ones from his list of recommended reading for me to get: my mother read the list when I originally posted it, and passed on Winesburg along […]

  2. […] came to this book through Hemingway’s recommendation (and was finally motivated to get it off the bookshelf for the Where Are You Reading? […]

  3. […] but he also appears in an article years after the publication of The Torrents of Spring as Hemingway’s recommended reading, which is a little odd. But then, Hemingway did make a habit of pushing-and-pulling at his literary […]

  4. […] picked up a short read I’d been meaning to get to: the short stories of Guy de Maupassant. [Recommended by Hemingway.] This review contains spoilers. Set in the Franco-Prussian war, this story sees a group of ten […]

  5. Thanks for compiling this list. I am listening to By Line and was about to go back and make a list of the books he recommended in his articles. So you just saved me at least a half-hour.

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