On Reading lists

Last week while I was in San Francisco, I was (ironically) nearly internet-less. In the end this was almost a self-imposed condition – it turns out my hotel had internet that they were charging me for without my knowledge – but knowing that, and being too focussed on my new job during the day to abuse the internet at work, I fell behind in my feeds. While catching up, I read Jamie’s post about his grandfather’s bookshelf, and how Jamie has used that as a springboard whenever he needs a break from his regular staple of books.

English: Hemingway posing for a dust jacket ph...This morning, I find myself reading an article about another luminary, Ernest Hemingway, and his list of books for young writers (along with a real gem of a suggestion for the writing process itself.

“The most important thing I’ve learned about writing is 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. The main thing is to know when to stop. Don’t wait till you’ve written yourself out. When you’re still going good and you come to an interesting place and you know what’s going to happen next, that’s the time to stop. Then leave it alone and don’t think about it; let your subconscious mind do the work. The next morning, when you’ve had a good sleep and you’re feeling fresh, rewrite what you wrote the day before. When you come to the interesting place and you know what is going to happen next, go on from there and stop at another high point of interest. That way, when you get through, your stuff is full of interesting places and when you write a novel you never get stuck and you make it interesting as you go along.”

Following this discussion was the list of books and stories that Hemingway felt every young writer should read. Lists like Hemingway and Rubin’s are interesting to me because they remind us that there is so much more out there. There are hundreds of books published each month in the SF/F/H genres, more than the average person could hope to read or keep up with.  Despite all that, its good to be reminded that there are books outside all of that can really open our horizons too.

Here’s Hemingway’s list:

  • “The Blue Hotel” by Stephen Crane
  • “The Open Boat” by Stephen Crane
  • Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert
  • Dubliners by James Joyce
  • The Red and the Black by Stendhal
  • Of Human Bondage by Somerset Maugham
  • Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
  • War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
  • Buddenbrooks by Thomas Mann
  • Hail and Farewell by George Moore
  • The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
  • The Oxford Book of English Verse
  • The Enormous Room by E.E. Cummings
  • Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
  • Far Away and Long Ago by W.H. Hudson
  • The American by Henry James

via Ernest Hemingway’s reading list for a young writer, 1934 | Dangerous Minds.

I sometimes toy with the idea of taking a break from all of the SF/F/H I read and just spend a few months enjoying myself in the older tomes. These two lists seem like a nice place to start.



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