5 Books by St. Louis Writers to Help You Celebrate National Book Month

By Amanda McCubbins
In Culture

Fall is finally here, and that means it’s time for cozy sweaters, toasty fires, and a steaming hot mug of cider. What better way to spend your fall afternoons than snuggled up with a good book? October is National Book Month, and to get in the spirit, ALIVE is bringing you five exceptional reads from a few of the best writers to come out of this fair city.

Martha Gellhorn and Ernest Hemingway wiht General Yu Hanmou in Chungking, China (1941). Via Wikimedia Commons

Martha Gellhorn and Ernest Hemingway with General Yu Hanmou in Chungking, China (1941). Via Wikimedia Commons

“Point of No Return,” by Martha Gellhorn (1948)

Martha Gellhorn was not only one of the first female war correspondents in history, but she was also one of the 20th century’s best. Drawn from her own experiences during World War II and the liberation of the Dachau concentration camp, “Point of No Return” is the fictional story of Jacob Levy, a Jewish soldier from St. Louis who takes part in the liberation of Dachau. His heartbreaking experiences are the backdrop for a philosophical battle over moral responsibility that remains relevant today.

“Naked Lunch,” by William S. Burroughs (1959)

Touted by The Guardian as “required reading for literary hipsters,” William S. Burroughs’ “Naked Lunch” was a breakthrough piece of literature when it was released, and remains a controversially wild, drug-addled, sex-fueled classic today. The novel lacks a central plot and is instead a series of loosely-connected vignettes narrated by nomadic junkie, William Lee, as he traverses the world and the depths of his psyche. “Naked Lunch” is simultaneously a vicious critique and devastating ridicule of American life in aftermath of World War II with no aspect of culture or national psyche left unscathed. It is not for the faint of heart, but “Naked Lunch” earns its place among the greatest American literature of the twentieth century.

“Papa Hemingway,” by A.E. Hotchner (1966)

Ernest Hemingway had adventures of which many of us can only dream. St. Louisan A.E. Hotchner did one better and traveled alongside Hemingway on his excursions and adventures from 1948 until Hemingway’s death in 1961. He chronicled their talks and adventures in his memoir, “Papa Hemingway.” One part captivating romp through the U.S., France, and Spain, and one part intimate portrait of one of America’s most beloved authors, “Papa Hemingway” illuminates the man behind the stories in mesmerizing detail.

“Complete Poems,” by Marianne Moore (1994)

Modernist poet and Kirkwood native Marianne Moore guides readers on a warm and inviting journey through the world as she saw it, taking ordinary scenes and painting them in a reflective and deeply personal hue. Moore’s poems are delightfully sensitive, whimsically intelligent, and beautifully written. Throughout her career, she gained acclaim from fellow poets including T.S. Eliot and W.H. Auden, who praised her works as “art in the way it should be.”  “Complete Poems” contains nearly six decades of Moore’s poetry, complete with her own notes and revisions that bring the reader into the mind of the artist.

“The Corrections,” by Jonathan Franzen (2001)

Jonathan Franzen, who grew up in Webster Groves, has a talent for creating some of the most engaging and relatable characters in modern fiction. His novel, “The Corrections,” is no different: It centers on the Lamberts, a Midwestern family torn apart as their three children—plagued with misfortune and bad judgment—flee from their family home to the East Coast. As life gets complicated for the Lambert family, Franzen deftly unpacks the anxieties and struggles of the modern American, finding a piece of all of us struggling to make sense of our lives and world.

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