I often find myself wondering what my favourite authors read in their spare time. Do writers read? I’m not published, but I write and I love to read so I can only assume that even those churning out novels themselves, find some time to read the works of others.
F. Scott Fitzgerald is probably considered one of the most influential writers of the 20th century and today, a list of his recommended reading has come to light.
It’s well known that Fitzgerald was an alcoholic, a curse that seems to strike many writers, and this alcoholism affected his health. In 1936, while convalescing in a North Carolina hotel, Fitzgerald dictated a list of recommended books to his nurse, Dorothy Richardson, whose main job was to prevent him from drinking too much.
In was said that Fitzgerald was a friendly fellow, and his attempt to educate and improve a nurse once he had befriended her will surprise no one. However, the list of books may surprise you, I myself haven’t heard of many of them. Here they are:
- Sister Carrie: Theodore Dreiser
- The Life of Jesus: Ernest Renan
- A Doll’s House: Henrik Ibsen
- Winesburg, Ohio: Sherwood Anderson
- The Old Wives’ Tale: Arnold Bennett
- The Maltese Falcon: Dashiel Hammett
- The Red and the Black: Stendahl
- The Short Stories of Guy De Maupassant
- An Outline of Abnormal Psychology: edited by Gardner Murphy
- The Stories of Anton Chekhov
- The Best American Humorous Short Stories
- Victory: Joseph Conrad
- The Revolt of the Angels: Anatole France
- The Plays of Oscar Wilde
- Sanctuary: William Faulkner
- Within a Budding Grove: Marcel Proust
- The Guermantes Way: Marcel Proust
- Swann’s Way: Marcel Proust
- South Wind: Norman Douglas
- The Garden Party: Katherine Mansfield
- War and Peace: Leo Tolstoy
- John Keats and Percy Bysshe Shelley: Complete Poetical Works
Interestingly, if you ask my for my favourite list of books, you’re likely to get an answer based on my mood and current state of mind. At different times in your life, different books will appeal, and it could be that Fitzgerald may well have chosen a different list had he not been incapacitated, had his wife not just been admitted to a psychiatric hospital and had he not been living through such a dark, personal time.
What would be on your essential reading list, and does it change regularly?