Required Reading List: Jay Gatsby


With Baz Luhrmann’s splashy adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Great American Novel contender hitting theaters Friday, Flavorwire is devoting this week to all things Great Gatsby. Click here to follow our coverage.

“I cannot remember the books I’ve read any more than the meals I have eaten,” Ralph Waldo Emerson famously quipped, “even so, they have made me.” In this bi-weekly series, Flavorwire plays professor to some of our favorite pop culture characters, assigning reading lists tailored to their temperaments or — in some cases — designed to make them into slightly better people. After all, even fictional characters can have their lives changed by books. Or so we imagine. This week, we recommend a reading list for the man of the moment, one Jay Gatsby.

Gatsby, Gatsby, Gatsby. Fitzgerald’s leading man has become the archetype for the American self-starter setting his sights on high society. He’s all glamor and shady underpinnings, all reinvention and that shiny, doomed car. And really, it’s all for a girl. So, what books might have set Gatsby on a better path (or at least entertained him during the long lonely evenings)? Flavorwire’s hand-picked syllabus for Gatz 2.0 — with, admittedly, no attention to temporal plausibility — is below.

Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand

“My philosophy, in essence, is the concept of man as a heroic being, with his own happiness as the moral purpose of his life, with productive achievement as his noblest activity, and reason as his only absolute.” Well, Rand isn’t for everyone. But Gatsby would have probably taken some comfort in Objectivism — not that it would have helped him any.

The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, Benjamin Franklin

Ben Franklin was the original self-made man, and is chock full of wisdom on the subject of life, love, and how to be a gentleman. Perhaps Gatsby would, after reading, be more inclined to lend his time and talents to inventing useful stuff like bifocals rather than party planning. If Franklin’s life is any indication, that makes the ladies come a-running.

The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien

Look, Gatsby just needs to get out of his own head a little. Perhaps he could try some pipe-weed.

The Bonfire of the Vanities, Tom Wolfe

If Jay Gatsby lived a few decades later, he’d be smack in the middle of Wolfe’s New York City, dingy, corrupt and savage, mad for status, mad for women, mad for money. Think of this as a crystal ball for seeing the future, Gatz — it may help.

American Psycho, Bret Easton Ellis

This is a warning.