A modern take on Hemingway’s “list for a young writer”:

Hemingway's reading list  Photo credit: Open Culture
Hemingway’s reading list
Photo credit: Open Culture

Though I’m still very much a young reader and writer, this list was inspired by “Earnest Hemingway’s reading list for a young writer,” on Open Culture.

The list is rather indecipherable as Hemingway’s handwriting doesn’t exactly lend itself to the eyes of the reader, however, the author was kind enough to transcribe it, and I’ve posted it below.

  • “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

Now, most of these are on Collegeboard’s recommended reading list for prospective college students and included on the Goodreads “English Major Reading List” shelf.

But, what if you’re not an English major, or you find literature boring and outdated– what should you be reading?

 Fragile Things by Neil Gaiman

Photo credit: Creative Commons
Photo credit: Creative Commons

This marvelous collection of short stories keeps the reader constantly engaged from one tale to the next. I picked up this book on a whim and couldn’t put it down. Not only is each story bizarre, but the characters are endearing and their journeys will teach you more than you could possibly anticipate.

Not only are the stories enjoyable, but they possess literary themes and tropes found in the classics expressed in a fresh and unique way.

Favorites include “Other People,” “October in the Chair,” “Feeders and Eaters,” and “The Facts in the Case of the Departure of Miss Finch.”

 The Millennium Trilogy by Stieg Larsson

 The American release of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo film caused quite the kerfuffle back in 2011, spurring an increase in book sales for Stieg Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy.

The fast-paced, crime series follows the escapades of mysterious computer hacker Lisbeth Salander and ethically conflicted journalist Mikael Bloomkvist.

Photo credit: Creative Commons
Photo credit: Creative Commons

Because I’m only on the second book, The Girl who Played with Fire, my review of the series isn’t really “complete.” However, what I can say is this modern-day Jane Eyre figure embodied by Lisbeth Salander encapsulates the coming-of-age story as the character faces severe adversity even in her adult years. Bloomkvist plays the new tragic hero, a humbled do-gooder looking to redeem himself and better the world by exposing black-market back roads and unethical underground schemes.

Larsson’s use of language, pacing and description puts the reader in the action, making the visceral storyscape addicting and impossible to put down.

Be prepared for sleepless nights, as I’ve often found myself saying ,“just one more chapter,” until about 3 a.m. .

The Magicians by Lev Grossman

 Book one in a series by Lev Grossman, this crudely names

Photo credit: Creative Commons
Photo credit: Creative Commons

“adult Harry Potter series” follows Quentin Coldwater, an aspiring ivy-leaguer who finds himself tempted by a strange and mysterious opportunity to attend Brakebills Academy, a school for the magically inclined.

An enchanting saga from the male perspective, this raw, introspective narrative details the complexities of the mind and soul under the pressures of extreme mental and physical challenges.

The adventures are enticing and, at times, unpredictable. Hopefully, the following novels live up to first.

 It’s Fine by Me by Per Petterson

This Norwegian narrative, translated into English, details the life of Audun Stetten. We first meet the angsty adolescent on his first day of high school where he refuses to speak to

Photo credit: Creative Commons
Photo credit: Creative Commons

anyone or remove his sunglasses. His adamancy and stubborn charm immediately endears him to the reader, only to be complimented later by compatriot Arvid, and other characters along the way.

Petterson’s skillful use of flashback and non-liner plot structure harmonizes perfectly with the striking imagery of Oslo. Contrasted by the sharp dysfunction within the family and the characters themselves, this story is an alluring and enigmatic read.

“2 B R O 2 B” by Kurt Vonnegut

 This poignantly dark short story, pronounced “To be or not to be,” is a modern combination of Orwell’s 1984 and Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451.

Photo credit: Creative Commons
Photo credit: Creative Commons

Set in an entirely-possible future, the story is set in a future where aging has been cured, leaving individuals with indefinite lifespans.  The population of the United States is held constant at 40 million through a federal procedure where if one human to enters the world, another must die.

The story, however brief, addresses internal and external conflicts in the extreme. Bringing to mind questions of ethics, human decency, survival, love and greed, to only name a few, Vonnegut’s words bring the reader’s most intimate fears to light.

So, feel free to follow Hemingway’s list to the letter, but check out these titles too. You won’t be disappointed.


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