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Ernest Hemingway's Literary Recommendations for Young Writers


April 27, 2015

The writer rewarded a young admirer with a reading list of 16 books.

To learn to write or develop the art of writing as best one can, the best thing to do, apart from writing, is to read. The symbiotic relationship between the two acts appears unquestionable. And in that sense one of the most generous gestures a writer can offer to one who wants to learn the art of letters is to make literary recommendations – those works that the writer considers could be of particular use to the apprentice writer.

In spring 1934, Arnold Samuelson read something in Cosmopolitan magazine that would change his life. At the age of 22 and recently graduated as a journalist, he came across ‘One Trip Across’, a story by Ernest Hemingway. The text impressed the young man so much that he decided to travel the 1,800 miles from his home in Minnesota to Key West, Florida, where Hemingway lived.

When he finally reached his destination, Samuelson quickly found the famous writer’s address. He knocked on the door and saw a large figure emerging from within. “What do you want?” Hemingway asked and, without hesitating, the young man responded: “I read your story ‘One Trip Across’ in Cosmopolitan and I liked it so much that I decided to come here and talk to you.” The author of For Whom The Bell Tolls asked him to come back the next day.

During their second encounter, Hemingway invited Samuelson in and, after treating him to a few pieces of advice, such as “never write too much at a time,” Hemingway said, tapping my arm with his finger. “Never pump yourself dry. Leave a little for the next day,” he wrote some literary recommendations that, we assume, he considered especially useful for the aspiring writer.

Following are the 14 books on the list:

  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
  16. The American, by Henry James

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