Philip Seymour Hoffman’s Reading List

This week the world lost a immense talent in Philip Seymour Hoffman. The loss felt by those of us who loved his art in no way compares to the loss felt by those who knew the man not simply as a performer but as a father, a husband, and a friend. Nevertheless, when an incredible artist dies we undergo a strange, collective mourning process, perhaps better deemed a period of ‘tribute.’ For me, this has involved re-watching two of my favorite PSH films, Capote and Synechdoche New York, and reading interviews with the man himself. And so I came across this fantastic interview with Philip Seymour Hoffman in The Believer — and it’s all about books(!) I’ve compiled a reading list from texts mentioned in the interview, because reading the books someone has loved is one way of being just a touch closer to them, especially when there are no other ways left. Also, unsurprisingly, the books mentioned are excellent. Philip Seymour Hoffman was a great artist and, from the accounts I’ve read, a kind man. I for one am going to pick up some Capote, and he’ll be who I’m thinking of when I crack the spine. Rest in peace, PSH.

A Prayer for Owen Meaney by John Irving

Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates

“If you do any great art you’re somehow exposing a part of you. Like Richard Yates, Jesus Christ, that book, you almost don’t want to meet him. I kept feeling for the characters as if they existed. I kept saying, “Poor April. Poor April Wheeler,” for days afterwards.”

Swann’s Way by Marcel Proust

The Stranger by Albert Camus

The Great Train Robbery by Michael Crichton

In Cold Blood by Truman Capote

 Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote

Hoffman as Capote

The O. Henry Prize Stories

Easter Parade by Richard Yates

“You gotta read Easter Parade. It basically starts off saying here are these two characters and their lives are miserable and I’m going to tell you why. It’s uncompromising. He’s not interested in entertaining you at all. He’s just trying to get at it.”

Into the Wild by John Krakauer

A Thousand Acres by Jane Smiley

The Human Stain by Philip Roth (blogger’s note: this book has haunted me, too)

You Are Not a Stranger Here by Adam Haslett

Pastoralia by George Saunders

The Short Stories of Anton Chekhov

The Talented Mr Ripley by Patricia Highsmith

The Prince of Tides by Pat Conroy

The Sportswriter by Richard Ford

“I love Richard Ford. The Sportswriter is one of my favorite books. What he says at the end of The Sportswriter about walking in the veil and how you think that it might not ever get lifted again …”

Early in the interview, Hoffman — discussing his love of independent bookstores — says,

“I like the Strand but I get lost in there. It’s frustrating for me. I end up walking out with like six books under my arm that I know I’m not going to be able to read anytime soon. It’s kind of that fantasy of what life will be like when I get older. All I’ll have time for is reading all the books that I’ve collected through my life.”

I wish he could’ve had that time.

About Jenn Schaffer

Writer, fighter, humanities kid through & through. Cubs fan, Andover grad, believer in Good Hard Work. Currently completing my honours thesis on Bruce Chatwin's first, unpublished manuscript The Nomadic Alternative. Someday I hope to adopt a Rottweiler.
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