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Max Perkins: Editor of Genius

4.32  ·  Rating details ·  1,542 ratings  ·  272 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)
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Violet wells
Sep 02, 2016 rated it really liked it
I read this about twelve years ago when I was enamoured with Scott and Zelda and harboured ambitions myself of becoming an editor. Max Perkins discovered Scott Fitzgerald, Hemingway and Tom Wolfe, among others and was their editor and friend. This is a fabulous biography of a truly admirable man and editor and a wonderful period in American letters (lots of great anecdotes about Fitzgerald, Hemingway and Wolfe). Last night I watched the film Genius about Perkins' relationship with Thomas Wolfe a ...more
Feb 23, 2009 rated it really liked it
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
Michael Perkins
Jun 16, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"Perkins told one of his daughters, “The greatest feeling is to go to bed tired.” Bedtime had always been Perkins’s favorite time of day, those few minutes just before falling asleep when he could “steer his dreams.” In those final moments of wakefulness Maxwell Perkins recurringly transported himself back to Russia in 1812— the scene of his favorite book, War and Peace. Night after night his mind filled with visions of Napoleon’s army retreating from Moscow in the frost and early winter snow. O ...more
Nov 10, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 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 told to el
Mar 15, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
Jun 26, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016
Masterful. Everything a literary biography should be. Plenty of supported facts to provide a skeleton and just enough speculation to round out the bony frame without bloating it with wildly improbable and exploitative conjecture. It came as little surprise to learn that A. Scott Berg was a student of Carlos Baker.

It has taken me a long time to get around to learning about the man who was instrumental to the successful careers of Hemingway and Fitzgerald. He is quietly fascinating and I was very
Mahmoud Elnaeem
Oct 10, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Bibliography about thomas wolfe , who is genius inspired the works of many other authors and also inspired me in different way. he do incredible efforts in writing.
Unfortunately , this greatest man is not famous as deserve
Dec 20, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  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
Barry Hammond
Jan 17, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Max Perkins was the classic example of a fine book editor, discovering and developing such talents as F. Scott Fitgerald, Thomas Wolfe, Ernest Hemingway, Taylor Caldwell, Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, James Jones, and many others. Always putting the writer first, he deflected personal publicity in favour of working behind the scenes. His own life, however, was as distinctly fascinating as any of his authors and had secret sides to it. A. Scott Berg does a masterful job of peeling back the layers of ...more
Sharon Barrow Wilfong
Oct 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I accidentally stumbled upon a book of correspondence between Max Perkins and Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings on a "for sale" shelve at a local library. I wanted something to read during my lunch hour so I popped over to the public library and bought some of their books for a dime a piece. I was not much interested in the book "Dear Max, Dear Marjorie", but, heck, it was a nice, thick hard cover with an undamaged dust jacket for a dime.

Those occurrences are called "serendipity". It was a tremendous fin
Apr 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is the biography of Max Perkins, editor for Scribner's who worked with Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, Thomas Wolfe, Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings and many more authors in editing their classics. Berg does a wonderful job in writing this amazing tale of Perkin's life and his amazing relationships with some of the most influential writers of that time period. I had seen the movie this book was based on and wanted to learn more and I was not disappointed. Highly recommended - I did not want th ...more
Feb 14, 2016 rated it really liked it
For years, Maxwell Perkins has lived in my imagination as an almost mythic literary hero. The Scribners editor famously worked with F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, and Thomas Wolfe, among others, supporting them through their struggles and gently pushing them to produce work that continues to be read and studied today.

A. Scott Berg’s biography of the man is a remarkable achievement—an intimate, impressively researched work that brings to life not only the shy editor but a score of litera
Daniel Donatelli
Mar 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I found this book in the least-literary building of the least-literary city I've ever lived in. Seeing as how it was on the building's first-floor communal "it's yours if you want it" table, it had clearly been abandoned, along with some out-of-fashion skiing equipment and scraped-up kitchen kitsch. I had no idea who Max Perkins was, but I grabbed the book when I saw the names Fitzgerald, Hemingway, and Wolfe on the cover, and since I'd had my own preexisting curiosities concerning the editing t ...more
Mar 04, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: biography
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.
John Ruane
Aug 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing
If you are a fan of Thomas Wolfe, F. Scott Fitzgerald and/or Ernest Hemingway, you need to read this book for insight into each man, the times they lived in, their challenges and successes, their climb to fame, and relationship with this incredible editor who helped guide their words to greatness. Thank you so much for your effort to write this book A. Scott Berg. Really well done!
October 2016, update: Although the movie includes a Hemingway cameo and scenes with F Scott Fitzgerald, it centers too much on Thomas Wolfe. Nonetheless, this was a good, literate period piece about writing as well as book editing and publishing in the twenties, bringing the book to life. A Scott Berg, the author of the book, discusses the transformation from page to screen in an interesting special feature on the DVD.

April 2016, original comments:

A very-well written biography of Max Perkins,
May 26, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, biography
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
Nov 02, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
My main problem with this book is the fact that it was supposed to be a book about Max Perkins, and yet there is so little aboiut him in it.
This book is full of interesting stories and anectotes about the greatest wrters of that time - Fitzgerayld, Hemingway, Wolfe, Galsworthy. It's a fascnating book for every one who's a fan of said authors. Those stories overshadow everything else though, and you're left fith the feeling that now you know almost everything about Fitzgerald and Hemingway, and c
Ilene Harris
Dec 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Max Perkins Editor Of Genius.” An outstanding biography of Max Perkins, a celebrated editor of Charles Scribner Books, discovering the talents of such outstanding authors as F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, Thomas Wolfe, and numerous others. A great book to read to learn about the ins and outs of publishing and how Max Perkins nurtured these great authors to bring out the best in them. The book was so full of insight into all of their lives and how they lived. As such, Max Perkins deserved ...more
Sophfronia Scott
Haven't had a lot of reading time lately but I was determined to finish this excellent biography. Berg captures the humanity of the legendary editor Perkins as well as the legends he discovered: F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, Thomas Wolfe. The book is also provides an inside look at the publishing industry at the time. Some things have changed but much is interestingly the same.
May 06, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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.
Jun 28, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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.
Mar 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
This is very good and very inspiring about how to conduct yourself as a human being.

It contains material proof of a guy in power being very kind and encouraging to other people, when there is no one watching and no reason for him to be in lots of cases. It's like a portrait of generosity and character and decency of a person. He saw abilities in people that they were maybe blind to themselves and poured belief and confidence into them until they achieved what he knew they could. He made it clea
Jul 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is a book worth reading. You will learn about writing, being a generous and clear thinker, and loving art. Max Perkins is certainly under-admired, under feted, under talked about.

Perkins helped into publication and beauty the work of Thomas Wolfe, Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway. It doesn't matter what you think of those authors, you will know at the end that there is beauty, strong and bleak and true, that Perkins teased out in those works.

And he edited so many other writers! Marjori
May 21, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: re-reading
I read this book when it was first published and I reread it 42 years later! I still loved it. Max Perkins was a gifted editor who was acutely sensitive to brilliant writing and to young authors with no confidence. And who are we speaking of? Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Wolfe. . A trifecta of major 20th century writers whose work still is read.
Aug 24, 2018 rated it really liked it
A chronicle of Max Perkins's time as the book editor at Scribner, where he oversaw works by Thomas Wolfe, Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald and others.

A movie was made based on this book: Genious (2016). With Colin Firth, Jude Law, Nicole Kidman and directed by Michael Grandage
James Smith
Jun 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A portrait of the editor as culture-maker, and friend.
Mary-alice Frank
Nov 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
If you love literature, you will love the story of Max Perkins editor of Thomas Wolf, F Scott Fitzgerald,E. Hemingway and many other high profile authors. In addition to his authors of notoriety,Perkins also sheparded less known authors and was always available to meet with a budding author.
May 31, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A fascinating man.
I dnf. I'm not going to rate this book because the book is very well written. I had no interest in the subject matter. If you have interest it is well worth reading.
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