Hem’s 16 Essential Books for Reading

The most essential gift for a good writer is a built-in, shockproof, shit detector.
Ernest Hemingway

Hemingway was notoriously generous to young writers and fans seeking his input.  A.E. Hotchner who became a good confidante and friend met  Hem in the Spring of 1948 when he was dispatched to Cuba on assignment by Cosmopolitan magazine to get an article on Hem about The Future of Literature.  The magazine was putting out an issue about “the future” of everything: architecture, cars, art, etc. You get the idea.  So why not have the lion of literature give an interview on the future of literature.

Hotchner sent a note to Hem saying that he’d been sent down on “this ridiculous mission but did not want to disturb him, and if he could simply send me a few words of refusal it would be enormously helpful to the The Future of Hotchner.” A.E. Hotchner, Papa Hemingway. Page 4.

 Instead, Hem rang him the next day.

“This Hotchner?” he asked

“Yes.”

“Dr. Hemingway here. Got your note. Can’t let you abort your mission or you’ll lose face with the Hearst organization, which is about like getting bounced from a leper colony.  You want to have a drink around five? There’s a bar called La Florida. Just tell the taxi.”  A.E. Hotchner, Papa Hemingway, page 4.

. And thus began a beautiful friendship.

Hem, Mary, and AE Hotchner
Hem, Mary, and AE Hotchner
I recently read an article that detailed how  one Arnold Samuelson hitchhiked 2,000 miles, from Minnesota to Florida in 1934 to meet Hemingway. Samuelson was trying to make a go of it as a writer and was so impressed by the short stories that he traveled to get advice from his idol.
Samuelson wrote, “It seemed a damn fool thing to do, but a twenty-two-year-old tramp during the Great Depression didn’t have to have much reason for what he did.”

A Farewell to Arms
A Farewell to Arms
 Ultimately, Samuelson found Hemingway who provided him with insights, and soon hired him on as his assistant.  Hem gave him a list of 16 books essential to any complete education.  The list is interesting to consider.

Drum roll:  the list is:

1. “The Blue Hotel” by Stephen Crane
2. “The Open Boat” by Stephen Crane
3. “Madame Bovary” by Gustave Flaubert
4.”Dubliners” by James Joyce
5. The Red and the Black” by Stendhal
6.  “Of Human Bondage” by Somerset Maugham
7. “Anna Karenina” by Leo Tolstoy
8. “War and Peace” by Leo Tolstoy
9. “Buddenbrooks” by Thomas Mann
10. “Hail and Farewell” by George Moore
11.”The Brothers Karamazov” by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
12. “The Oxford Book of English Verse”
13.  “The Enormous Room” by E.E. Cummings
14.  “Wuthering Heights” by Emily Bronte
15.  “Far Away and Long Ago” by W.H. Hudson
164.  “The American” by Henry James
So what would make your list?  A few of the above escape me but most have stood the test of time.

The Old Man and The Sea
The Old Man and The Sea

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