Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Max Perkins: Editor of Genius” as Want to Read:
Max Perkins: Editor of Genius
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Max Perkins: Editor of Genius

4.31 of 5 stars 4.31  ·  rating details  ·  539 ratings  ·  81 reviews

Winner of the National Book Award
and a National Bestseller...

MAX PERKINS: Editor of Genius by A. Scott Berg took the literary world by storm upon its publication in 1978, garnering rave reviews and winning the National Book Award. A meticulously-researched and engaging portrait of the man who introduced the public to the greatest writers of this century, Berg's biograph
Paperback, 512 pages
Published June 1st 1997 by Riverhead Trade (first published 1978)
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Max Perkins, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Max Perkins

The Devil Wears Prada by Lauren WeisbergerGirl Sleuth by Melanie RehakThe Professor and the Madman by Simon WinchesterThe Other Side of the Story by Marian KeyesHothouse by Boris Kachka
Books About Publishing
18th out of 43 books — 18 voters
Van Gogh by Steven NaifehThe Social Animal by David  BrooksAt Home by Bill BrysonZeitoun by Dave EggersThe Book Thief by Markus Zusak
2012--The intended Reading List
27th out of 69 books — 24 voters

More lists with this book...

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,391)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
I am definitely one of those people who can't not finish a book, no matter how distasteful I find it to be, if it is work of fiction. Nonfiction, on the other hand, I tend to find really fascinating but less engaging and I usually end up getting distracted by a new novel while attempting to read history, biography, philosophy or theory. A. Scott Berg's biography of Max Perkins, though, is such an insightful, lyrical, and just plain fun work that I found myself as deeply engrossed as I would be i ...more
A fascinating story that is about the authors of Max Perkins as much as it is a biography of Perkins himself. I think the book would be of interest to anyone who enjoys biography, but it's also important an important read for writers, editors, and students of writing and literature.

As for me, the nature of biography is to cover absurd amounts of information, and this biography's nature was especially complicated due to the fact that Perkins lived through his authors and so their stories must be
Mar 15, 2008 Ellen rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: writers, readers, and Berg fans
Shelves: to-re-read
This biography was incredible. Berg is my favorite biographer. He made the life of a bookish editor interesting, and he not only taught me about Perkin's life, but about how an editor can forge an intense relationship with a writer, taking that writer's talent and focusing it and nurturing his writing so that what emerges is a great American novel. Perkins did this for F. Scott Fitzgerald and The Great Gatsby, Thomas Wolf's You Can't Go Home Again, and many other classic American authors. After ...more
Dec 20, 2007 Kirk rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: biolovers
A great biography about one of the unsung heroes of modernist literature. Although Perkins is the most famous fiction editor in known history (sorry, Gordon Lish), little about his personal life and character was widely known before Berg's eminently readable bio. Perkins was a Victorian through and through, so he can come off as a little stodgy, but he was devoted to his writers. The famous trifecta of Hemingway, Fitzgerald, and Wolfe get a lot of attention, of course---though those familiar wit ...more
I read this years ago and loved it. Amazing, interesting book!
I am now watching Scott Berg (author of Max Perkins) on BookTV. He is talking about his new book: "38 Nooses, Lincoln, Little Crow and the Beginning of the Frontier's End" I am anxious to get to it.
Max Perkins was the Scribner's editor during the golden age of American Literature. His clients included Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Thomas Wolfe. This is an outstanding work, well-cited and researched. I just loved it.
Anyone who has ever spent any time writing or editing for publication should read this book. Max Perkins was, without a doubt, the best editor of American fiction in the 20th century. This book is entertaining and insightful.
This book was like candy to me, with its in depth look into both publishing and an era of American history that fascinates me, the pre WWII, Depression era and on. Not to mention the inside view of Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Thomas Wolfe and many other great American authors, how they worked, how they were edited, how their publisher literally supported them at times.

F. Scott Fitzgerald and his wife had an extravagant, wasteful lifestyle and money evaporated. He was always calling his editor, Max P
Anyone who loves books should read this one... for its anecdotes and behind-the-scenes glimpses of a man who is arguably the world's greatest lover of books. For insights into how some of the the 20th century's literary giants worked, how they squabbled like grade schoolers, and how ersatz father Perkins kept them all in line. For a portrait of a complex man with sharp corners who was capable of profound affection, one with misogynist tendencies who championed women authors, one with strong yank ...more
Excellent, sympathetic account of a gentle man and excellent editor. One thing I've wondered since reading this book is if anyone has taken Thomas Wolfe's brain tumors into account regarding his rift with Perkins shortly before his death. It just seems bizarre that Wolfe would turn on Perkins the way he did. It seems to me his many brain tumors—along with his attempts to self-medicate by drinking heavily—were the culprits of his behavior. In other words, I don't think he was responsible for the ...more
Perkins, most notably, was the editor who discovered, nurtured, protected and avidly supported Fitzgerald and Hemmingway (he also mediated their belles-lettres fights). This wonderful biography treats Perkins very sympathetically and focuses on the ways in which Perkins defined and re-defined the role of an editor. While Berg's account is based on letters and other first-hand material, the biography reads almost like a novel, simple and straightforward - all the citations are at the end. It is a ...more
A really interesting biography of Max Perkins, an editor most well-known now for discovering F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway and Thomas Wolfe—though he also edited many bestsellers of the 20s, 30s and 40s which are now forgotten. There are times when Berg's coyness in telling anonymous anecdotes, coupled with his seeming desire to excuse Perkins' sexism with sexism, makes for a slightly frustrating read. Perhaps it might also be more enjoyable for people who have an interest in Perkins' mo ...more
An essential book for anyone interested in how books were edited and published in the first half of the twentiety century, when publishing houses such as Scribners, Doubleday, Random House and Knopf were privately-owned and not merely extended tentacles of corporations only interest in the bottom line, and a handshake could literally seal the deal on a book. Perkins helped shape the books of authors ranging from Hemingway, Fitzgerald and Wolfe to Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, Marcia Davenport, and T ...more
I loved reading this book and found myself drawing it out over a period of weeks rather than tearing through like I usually do. It's such a great time-piece of this particular era of new york and publishing, I wonder what Max Perkins would be like today; if he'd be the same type of extremely devoted editor. aside from this lamentation,, I learned so much about Fitzgerald, Hemingway, and Thomas Wolfe, who was rather mad but had the desire to see everything he lived in prose. (I'm reading Look Hom ...more
I thought the book was fascinating. Max Perkins was the editor of Hemmingway, Fitzgerald, Thomas Wolf, and more. The book traces his relationships with these literary figures and basically tracks the writing and editing process of their bodies of work. I loved learning more about the writing/editing process; the authors; Max Perkins; the historical time in NYC. The writing is stiff and pretty bland. It's a biography, but I highly recommend it. I like it even more now that I've had time to think ...more
Anyone who cares about the literature of F. Scott Fitzgerald, Thomas Wolf, Ernest Hemingway, (and lots of other famous authors) should read this book! Max Perkins was the editor at Scribner's who worked intimately with so many unknowns and truly assisted them in publishing their works. The biography is researched thoroughly and includes tons of materials from letters these individuals wrote to each other, from their journals, from conversations, etc. It's fascinating. I gained a tremendous respe ...more
Richard Wheeler
This is my favorite book. I read it periodically. Max Perkins was the finest editor in American letters. Somehow, I associate with him, and wish I might have lived a life as accomplished as his. He nurtured the literary genius of a score of great writers, such as Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Wolfe, and Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings. I'm seventy-seven but wish I had been born a little earlier and had lived in this time, and edited books in the time when Perkins was stamping American literature with his insi ...more
I can't express enough my pleasure with having read this book. I'm very interested in the craft of editing and self-editing and this book is a master class in how it's done. It's done with heart, and obsession. It's a wonderful inside look into the golden age of American literature -- the other side of the desk that discovered Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Wolfe, and so many others. The good advice for writers comes intermittently and should not be overlooked. If you have any preconceived notions about ...more
Fascinating is an understatement.

While I was generally aware that writers, as artists, live passionate and interesting lives, I had no idea the level of madness involved conceiving and producing some of the greatest literary works of the 20th century. The reader will be surprised to learn about the force (Maxwell Perkins) that supported and encouraged authors such as Fitzgerald, Heminway, Wolfe, Jones, and many others.
Chris Rand
There's no better window into the authorial lives of Ernest Hemmingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Thomas Wolfe, and all of the Perkins geniuses. Every word in this book is like an entree at a five star restaurant. Berg's heavy studying of the editor's and authors' lives is clear in that their personalities shine right through the prose.

I think anyone remotely interested in books would love this biography.
Lynne Fort
This book is a lot more than a dry history of a man who worked with remarkable writers. It is a beautifully written book in itself. It details the psychological struggles of Fitzgerald, Hemingway and Wolfe as they attempted to deal with their own personal demons and to create. And it contains so many details of Perkins’ own style of helping authors that it could really be considered a guide of sorts. This book addresses mental illness, alcoholism, marital crises, financial struggles, politics, a ...more
If you are interested in the writing process or writers, this book is fascinating. Full of anecdotes about Hemingway, Fitgerald, Thomas WOlfe and others. Even these literary giants had feet of clay, meaning: they doubted themselves, they got lazy and distracted, they needed help shaping their writing, they wrote for money, etc. etc.
Einar Nielsen
This book was assigned for a creative writing project I'm working on this summer and it was not what I expected. I thought because the teacher assigned it that I was in for a book on writing but this is a straight up biography and as such it is great. Although it took me a while to except it for what it is. What I find most fascinating about this book is that it is really three separate biographies (Perkins, Fitzgerald, Wolfe and Hemingway) so there is a lot going on. I have to admit that I foun ...more
Not only is this fascinating read a thorough biography of Max Perkins, but it contains detailed biographical info about his writers, especially Hemingway, Fitzgerald, and Wolfe. I feel like I know all of them better than I did before.
The ultimate book on the editor-writer relationship played out in the land of Fitzgerald, Wolfe, and others but written from the editor's point of view. Every writer dreams of having an editor like Max Perkins.
I wonder if Wolfe, Fitzgerald, and Hemingway would have books in print without their close relationship with this legendary editor. This memorable biography offers advice to editors and authors.
Thom Kahler
If you want to get perspective on the superstar writers of the early 20th Century, don't miss this outstanding overview about the editor who worked with the top talents of the era.
Fiona Joseph
Jul 18, 2012 Fiona Joseph marked it as to-read
I want to read this because my good writing colleague Kathleen Dixon Donnelly has also published a book through Lulu on the great man. Look out for "Maxwell as Muse".
Marta Foster
Very important book for me. My favorite biography of all time. Validated me as an editor. Have read it twice. Makes me feel verrrrrrrryyyy smart.
Jan C
Thomas Wolfe, Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, Taylor Caldwell, and the start of James Jones are just the more well-known authors Max Perkins edited. His favorite dictum echoed that of Frederick Law Olmsted, less is more. The less the author wrote in a given scene the more the reader would be into it. Especially since the writers had a tendency to overwrite. There is no need for duplication. If the point was made, the author would not need to sum it up and repeat ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 46 47 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Editors on Editing: What Writers Need to Know About What Editors Do
  • Another Life: A Memoir of Other People
  • At Random: The Reminiscences of Bennett Cerf
  • The Subversive Copy Editor: Advice from Chicago (or, How to Negotiate Good Relationships with Your Writers, Your Colleagues, and Yourself)
  • Samuel Johnson
  • A Tragic Honesty: The Life and Work of Richard Yates
  • Reporting Vietnam: American Journalism 1959-1975
  • Cleopatra's Nose: Essays on the Unexpected
  • Voyagers to the West: A Passage in the Peopling of America on the Eve of the Revolution
  • Timebends: A Life
  • Exile's Return: A Literary Odyssey of the 1920s
  • The Artful Edit: On the Practice of Editing Yourself
  • Origins of the New South, 1877-1913
  • History of the United States of America During the Administrations of Thomas Jefferson
  • Norman Mailer: A Double Life
  • Been in the Storm So Long: The Aftermath of Slavery
  • Hothouse: The Art of Survival and the Survival of Art at America's Most Celebrated Publishing House, Farrar, Straus, and Giroux
  • Lapsing Into a Comma: A Curmudgeon's Guide to the Many Things That Can Go Wrong in Print--and How to Avoid Them
Kate Remembered Lindbergh Wilson Goldwyn Lindbergh/Marie Antoinette/Mark Twain (Reader's Digest World's Greatest Biographies)

Share This Book