F. Scott Fitzgerald Creates a List of 22 Essential Books (1936)

In 1936 — per­haps the dark­est year of his life — F. Scott Fitzger­ald was con­va­lesc­ing in a hotel in Asheville, North Car­oli­na, when he offered his nurse a list of 22 books he thought were essen­tial read­ing. The list, above, is writ­ten in the nurse’s hand.

Fitzger­ald had moved into Asheville’s Grove Park Inn that April after trans­fer­ring his wife Zel­da, a psy­chi­atric patient, to near­by High­land Hos­pi­tal. It was the same month that Esquire pub­lished his essay “The Crack Up”, in which he con­fessed to a grow­ing aware­ness that “my life had been a draw­ing on resources that I did not pos­sess, that I had been mort­gag­ing myself phys­i­cal­ly and spir­i­tu­al­ly up to the hilt.”

Fitzger­ald’s finan­cial and drink­ing prob­lems had reached a crit­i­cal stage. That sum­mer he frac­tured his shoul­der while div­ing into the hotel swim­ming pool, and some­time lat­er, accord­ing to Michael Cody at the Uni­ver­si­ty of South Car­oli­na’s Fitzger­ald Web site, “he fired a revolver in a sui­cide threat, after which the hotel refused to let him stay with­out a nurse. He was attend­ed there­after by Dorothy Richard­son, whose chief duties were to pro­vide him com­pa­ny and try to keep him from drink­ing too much. In typ­i­cal Fitzger­ald fash­ion, he devel­oped a friend­ship with Miss Richard­son and attempt­ed to edu­cate her by pro­vid­ing her with a read­ing list.”

It’s a curi­ous list. Shake­speare is omit­ted. So is James Joyce. But Nor­man Dou­glas and Arnold Ben­nett make the cut. Fitzger­ald appears to have restrict­ed his selec­tions to books that were avail­able at that time in Mod­ern Library edi­tions. At the top of the page, Richard­son writes “These are books that Scott thought should be required read­ing.”

via The Uni­ver­si­ty of South Car­oli­na

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Ernest Hem­ing­way Cre­ates a Read­ing List for a Young Writer, 1934

Sev­en Tips From F. Scott Fitzger­ald on How to Write Fic­tion

Rare Footage of Scott and Zel­da Fitzger­ald From the 1920s

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