Wolfe's Reading List

I'm a huge fan of Nero Wolfe, and maintain a fan page dedicated especially to this character, Merely A Genius.... I got the idea for this separate page from Peter Roosen-Runge, who pointed out to me that it would be nice to assemble a list of Wolfe's reading material, and allow space for people to comment and/or ask questions. After all, who doesn't respect Stout's taste in literature? So I decided to make time for yet another web project.

Since then, I picked up William S. Baring-Gould's fun book on Wolfe Nero Wolfe of West 35th Street (1969), and was amused to discover a comprehensive list of Wolfe's reading material. This was, btw, on my extremely fun (though short) New York Nero Wolfe pilgrimage, when I visited the plaque commemorating Wolfe on West 35th street (very satisfying, though the neighbourhood is almost completely non-residential now), as well as three excellent New York mystery bookstores. The best was Black Orchids, and I say this not only because they named the store after Wolfe, feature images of Wolfe and Archie on the wall, and sold me the Baring-Gould which I'd been seeking for a long time. It had great atmosphere, and a pretty good selection. Second best: Mystery Ink -- good selection, good atmosphere; third best: Partners in Crime -- measly selection (of used books, that is -- for all of the above, I'm talking about the hard to find out of print stuff), good atmosphere. How did I get started on this digression?

Anyways, after some substantial help by Steve Timberlake, who e-mailed me a list in excel format of the books that Baring-Gould referenced, including "x" marks beside the ones I had yet to add to this page (!!!), I have now (Feb '01) added in the B-G material. B-G also notes that Wolfe buys his books from Murger's, which supplied Paul Chapin's books in The League of Frightened Men, and a set of all available years of Metropolitan Biographies in The Red Box.

Please feel free to help if you can! I should mention that it's not always clear to me whether a book actually exists or whether it's been invented for plot purposes (as in Plot it Yourself). If anyone notices that I've posted a fictional book, please feel free to make sarcastic remarks. ;)

Index of Wolfe's Authors/Titles

  • Henderson
  • Laura Hobson
  • Lancelot Hogben
  • Homer
  • Victor Hugo
  • Rudyard Kipling
  • Arthur Koestler
  • William Kunstler
  • Christopher La Farge
  • T. E. Lawrence
  • C.I. Lewis
  • Walter Lord
  • Merle Miller
  • Thomas More
  • Louis Nizer
  • Dorothy Osborne
  • Dan Rather & Gary Gates
  • Ole E. Rolvaag
  • Alfred Rossiter
  • A. L. Rouse
  • Walter Schneir & Miriam Schneir
  • William Shakespeare
  • William Shirer
  • Alexander Solzhenitsyn
  • Edmund Spenser
  • John Steinbeck
  • Turgenev
  • Mark Van Doren
  • Westermarck
  • P. G. Wodehouse


  • Letters of Dorothy Osborne to Sir William Temple (1652-54)
  • Lindenia
  • The Lotus and the Robot
  • Love From London
  • Mathematics for the Millions
  • The Minister and the Choir Singer.
  • Mirandola
  • My Life in Court
  • The Native's Return
  • An Outline of Human Nature
  • An Outline of Man's Knowledge of the Modern World
  • The Palace Guard
  • Party of One
  • Power and Policy
  • The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich
  • Science: The Glorious Entertainment
  • A Secret Understanding
  • Seven Pillars of Wisdom
  • The Shepheardes Calender
  • Silent Spring
  • The Sudden Guest
  • A Survey of Symbolic Logic
  • Travels With Charley
  • The Treasure of Our Tongue
  • Under Cover
  • United Yugoslavia
  • Utopia
  • Webster's New International Dictionary, Unabridged, Third Edition
  • William Shakespeare
  • World Peace Through World Law

  • Louis Adamic, The Native's Return. According to Baring-Gould and Steve Timberlake, Adamic's book is referenced in The League of Frightened Men.

    Robert Ardry, African Genesis. According to Shane, Wolfe reads this book in Gambit. According to M., this book received the gold strip bookmark - the highest accolade.

    Jane Austen, Emma. John Kavanagh tracked down a wonderful quotation about Stout's view of Austen, and transcribed it from the intro by McAleer to Death Times Three. (John McAleer wrote the official biography of Stout, which is very good reading once you get past 100 years of ancestors to Rex Stout's life!) Here's the excerpt:

    During the last years of Rex Stout's life, as his authorized biographer, I received numerous letters from well-wishers and, on occasion, not-such-well-wishers, offering me advice. "Is it true," one of the latter asked, "that Stout has a secretary who writes all his stuff for him?" I showed the letter to Rex, then in his eighty-ninth year. He scanned it and said, "Tell him the name is Jane Austen, but I haven't the address." ... Not long before that he had told me, " I used to think that men did everything better than women, but that was before I read Jane Austen. I don't think any man ever wrote better than Jane Austen."

    It was no coincidence that, when I asked after Wolfe a few days before Rex died, Rex confided, "he's rereading *Emma*." Rex ranked *Emma* as Jane Austen"s masterpiece. In the last weeks of his life he also reread it. That a book could be reread was to him solid proof of its worth. Thus it pleased him when P.G. Wodehouse, whom Rex admired, declared, at ninety-four, in a letter that he wrote to me, " he [Stout] passes the supreme test of being rereadable. I don't know how many times I have reread the Wolfe stories, but plenty. I know exactly what is coming and how it is all going to end, but it doesn't matter. That's *writing*."

    As John K. commented, it's nice to see one's favourite authors getting alone so well! But Wolfe's views were more ambivalent, as Paige E. pointed out to me: in The Mother Hunt, in chapter 12, Archie says, "Dol and Sally had been responsible, six years back, for my revision of my basic attitude toward female ops, and I held it against them, just as Wolfe held it against Jane Austen for forcing him to concede that a woman could write a good novel."

    Lincoln Barnett, The Treasure of Our Tongue. As Shane points out, this book received the coveted gold book mark in The Doorbell Rang.

    Jacques Barzun, Science: The Glorious Entertainment. Tim Coste wrote in: "Wolfe had just started reading it on page 94 of A Right to Die. Apparently he liked it, because he used it to launch discussion several times later."

    The Bible. According to Baring-Gould, Wolfe has five versions of the bible, in four different languages. They reside on the second shelf from the top near the left end.

    Georges Bizet, Carmen. Ok, it's an opera, not a book. But when I was working on my Wolfe Pastiches page the other day, I was amused to discover that when Lily christens Archie "Escamillo" in Some Buried Caesar, it's a reference to Bizet's opera Carmen. In that opera, according to Paul's post in rec.arts.sf.written, Carmen leaves the innocent man that she has corrupted for the dashing toreador Escamillo. Knowledge of this allusion adds new depth to my appreciation of Lily's quick decision-making in SBC. ;)

    Herbert Block, Here and Now. Judy Lauer writes in regarding "Christmas Party" murder: "Actually, Wolfe was not reading this book. He sends Archie to his (Archie's) room to get it but it is merely an excuse to have Archie find a pair of gloves." A memorable scene, as those who have read the story will recall ...

    Franz Boas. The anthropologist Franz Boas is, according to Steve T. & Baring-Gould, referenced in Too Many Cooks. "I have met Franz Boas," Wolfe apparently says, "and have his books autographed."

    Encyclopaedia Britannica. According to Baring-Gould, Wolfe has a complete EB, and frequently takes down a volume and reads an article at random.

    Lyman Bryson (Ed.), An Outline of Man's Knowledge of the Modern World. Judy Lauer noted that Wolfe reads this book in Too Many Cooks. However, Jan Latimer commented, "Your list says Wolfe read this book in TOO MANY COOKS, but he was reading it in TOO MANY CLIENTS, and I doubt that he read it in both books. I just finished rereading TOO MANY CLIENTS and I went back and checked. The book is mentioned by title in the last paragraph of chapter 5, but is referred to in chapter 2 and again in the first paragraph of chapter 3, when Stout writes that, 'Wolfe straightened up to reach to the desk for his bookmare, a thin strip of gold which he used only for books he considered worthy of a place on the shelves in the office.'" It's definitely in TM Clients; when I have a moment, I'll go through TM Cooks again and make sure about the two-book reference ...

    Albert Camus, The Fall. Judy Lauer describes Wolfe as reading this novel in the story "Fourth of July Picnic".

    John Carlson, Under Cover. Wolfe reads this book in "Booby Trap," as Harold Marchant wrote in.

    Rachel Carson, Silent Spring. Wolfe reads this book in The Mother Hunt, according to one anonymous source.

    Casanova, The Complete Memoirs of Jacques Casanova de Seingalt 1725-1798. Wolfe consults this book in Before Midnight, as Elena Deicu pointed out to me. It is online here in an 1894 translation by Arthur Machen [a Project Gutenberg e-book].

    Bruce Catton, Grant Takes Command. According to H.T.R., Wolfe is reading this book in Please Pass the Guilt. Wolfe also reads Catton's book The Coming Fury in "Murder is Corny", according to Baring-Gould.

    Grenville Clark, World Peace Through World Law. This book is read by Wolfe on page 89 of Champagne for One, as Shane points out.

    Barry Cornwall, Mirandola. In Plot It Yourself (1959), Wolfe quotes Barry Cornwall's line "Most writers steal a good thing when they can", and mentions Cornwall's 19th c. play, Mirandola. (p. 22)

    Fred Cook, The FBI Nobody Knows. I had actually left this book out of the original list, but as Tom Owens pointed out, it is central to the plot in The Doorbell Rang. The FBI Nobody Knows is a harsh critique of FBI methods & ethics under Hoover, and in TDR the client is trying to fend off FBI harassment incurred because she mails copies to 10000 people.

    Elmer Davis, But We Were Born Free. As Steve T. pointed out to me, according to Baring-Gould, this book is referenced in The Black Mountain.

    Simone de Beauvoir. In A Family Affair, as Cortne pointed out, Archie remarks to Wolfe, "She has three books by Simone de Beauvoir, who you have admitted can write" (p. 30).

    Michel de Montaigne, Essays. In Before Midnight, as Elena Deicu wrote to me, Wolfe is reading Essays in chapter 19. Elena comments, "I can understand, why Wolfe is reading this particular book in that particular situation, when a man has been killed in his own (Wolfe's) office, and the house is full of Inspector Cramer and his minions. _Encyclopedia Britannica_ backs me up: 'Montaigne [1533-1592] is essentially famous for one book, the _Essais_ (Essays), which gave the word essay its modern meaning and created it as a literary genre. The _Essais_ themselves are a series of 107 chapters on various subjects. After the earliest ones, which are mere strings of anecdotes drawn from classical authors and Renaissance compilers, Montaigne displays an openness of mind and a receptivity to the most audacious ideas, and he begins probing to the roots of accepted customs and values. At once deeply critical of his time and deeply involved in its preoccupations and its struggles, Montaigne chose to write about himself--"I am myself the matter of my book," he says in his opening address to the reader--in order to arrive at certain possible truths concerning man and the human condition, in a period of ideological strife and division when all possibility of truth seemed illusory and treacherous.'"

    Paul Dunbar. In A Right To Die and Too Many Cooks, Wolfe praises Dunbar extensively, as Richard Hadden pointed out to me. Hadden writes: "Paul Laurence Dunbar is an African-American poet. From Hirsch, E.D., Jr., et al. The Dictionary of Cultural Literacy Boston, Houghton Mifflin Co., 1993: American poet of the late nineteenth century, regarded as the premier African-American (what would Wolfe say of this term?) poet until the adaenty of Langston Hughes. From one of his poems came the title of Maya Angelou's book I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. In Too Many Cooks Wolfe cites his familiarity with Dunbar's work as evidence that he is not a barbarian. Paul Whipple, the black waiter in Too Many Cooks names his son Dunbar and reminds Wolfe in Right to Die of the conversation at the Kanawha Spa."

    Clifton Fadiman, Party of One. In Before Midnight, as H.T.R. wrote in, Wolfe is reading this book in his bedroom.

    Thomas Finletter, Power and Policy. According to Judy Lauer, Wolfe is borrowing this book from someone in the story "Immune to Murder" and thus bookmarks it with a slip of paper.

    Gilbert Gabriel, Love From London. Judy Lauer wrote in that Wolfe is reading this book in chapter 16 of Too Many Women.

    John Gunther. Wolfe is obviously a fan of Gunther's, since he's read at least two of the books: Inside Russia Today and Inside Europe. Wolfe was apparently reading the former in "Method Three for Murder," as Big Wally wrote in; Judy Lauer has Wolfe down as reading Inside Europe in Too Many Cooks.

    Edith Hamilton, The Greek Way. C. Douglas writes: "Wolfe never really read the book in DEATH OF A DUDE, however Archie recalled both Wolfe and Miss Rowan mentioning that they had done so at one time or another. Having nothing better to do at the time he decided to give it a go and see for himself what the fuss was all about."

    Oscar Hammerstein. As Steve T. pointed out to me, according to Baring-Gould, Hammerstein lyrics are quoted in Murder by the Book.

    Henderson, United Yugoslavia. In Over My Dead Body, as Bill Gross wrote in, this book is not only on Wolfe's shelf, but a crucial contributor to the plot ...

    Laura Hobson. In The Second Confession (1949), Wolfe puts down a book by Laura Hobson. Peter Roosen-Runge asks: which one is it? The landmark "Gentleman's Agreement" (1947) (made into a movie with Gregory Peck) ? or the less-well known and much earlier "The Trespassers" (1943) ?

    Lancelot Hogben, Mathematics for the Millions. As Darryl Palmer notes, Wolfe uses this book in the story "The Zero Clue" to solve the case...

    Homer, The Iliad. In A Family Affair, as Cortne pointed out, Wolfe apparently compares Fitzgerald's translation to others he owns (pp. 76-7).

    Victor Hugo. In Some Buried Caesar (1938), Wolfe remarks at one point, "Don't let's be childish about the depravity of lying. Victor Hugo wrote a whole book to prove that a lie can be sublime." (p. 157). That allusion went right over my head, I'm embarrassed to say ... But Matt Davies wrote in, "I think the reference to a lie being sublime might stem from Les Miserables when Valjean's housekeeper, a woman famed for her honesty, lies to the police to save his neck. Though she is mortified by the need for deception the conclusion is that lying can be necessary in pursuit of a greater good." Many thanks!

    Rudyard Kipling, The Jungle Book. As Steve T. and Baring-Gould reminded me, there is an extremely funny scene about the joys of reading Kipling in Death of a Doxy.

    Arthur Koestler, The Lotus and the Robot. Wolfe is reading this book in The Final Deduction, according to H.T.R., who writes: "The Lotus and the Robot is a nonfiction book about the author's travels to India and Japan. He is looking for a cure for Western civilization, but finds it neither in Indian nor Japanese philosophy. In fact, he returns feeling proud to be European. He makes the Japanese and Indian cultures seem rather disgusting and pathetic. The book was written in the 60's, so is very outdated, especially in its description of Japanese culture. However, I found the discussions of the Zen and Yogi religions very informative. I enjoyed the story, but I wouldn't have used a gold bookmark if I had had one."

    William Kunstler, The Minister and the Choir Singer. According to Judy Lauer, Wolfe is reading this book in A Right to Die.

    Christopher La Farge, Beauty for Ashes and The Sudden Guest. In Before Midnight, Wolfe reads Beauty for Ashes -- though as it was dogeared it can't have been one of his favourites. On a similarly ominous note, Archie comments that it was a novel in verse which he did not, himself, read. However, in Too Many Women, as Judy Lauer wrote in, Wolfe is reading another of La Farge's books, The Sudden Guest. It's interesting also because of the comment re Wolfe's reading habits:

    "Wolfe was reading three books at once. He had been doing that, off and on, all the years I had been with him, and it always annoyed me because it seemed ostentatious. The three current items were The Sudden Guest by Christopher La Farge, Love from London by Gilbert Gabriel, and A Survey of Symbolic Logic by C.I. Lewis. He would take turns with them, reading twenty or thirty pages in each at a time." (Chapter 16, Too Many Women). (And many thanks to Judy for the quotation!)

    T. E. Lawrence, Seven Pillars of Wisdom. In The Red Box, as Gregory Borgman wrote in, Wolfe is re-reading Lawrence's book Pillars of Wisdom for the third time. It is bookmarked, apparently, with a thin piece of ebony -- this must have been before he got the strip of gold. ;)

    C. I. Lewis, A Survey of Symbolic Logic. According to Judy Lauer, Wolfe was reading this book in chapter 16 of Too Many Women, but it was dog-eared.

    Lindenia. According to Baring-Gould and Steve T., Wolfe's library contains bound copies of Lindenia. I posted a plea for help identifying the author & nature of this book, & received replies from two sources. John Cowan wrote in: "It's a classic 19th century work on orchids, with lots of colored plates. I don't know whether Wolfe has the French ed. (probably) or the abridged English ed. Anyway, it would cost $10,000 to buy a copy today." Charles Peterson noted, "I took the time to hunt the internet for 'Lindenia' -- Library of Congress on-line catalog was no help (neither book no serials listings), but the invaluable Google came through like a champ with a good handful of listings. Turns out this was a French publication, subtitled (in translation): Iconography of Orchids. Published by J. Linden [aha!!], Ghent, 1888-1906 also an English-language edition, issued somewhat later, 13 volumes. Described as 'one of the great 19th century plate books' on orchids." Both writers pointed me to http://www.mcquerryorchidbooks.com/lindenia.html, where one can buy a $10k copy of the English edition, or a reprint -- for a mere $983!

    Walter Lord, The Incredible Victory. According to Ridgely Hunt, this was a gold standard book for Wolfe in The Father Hunt, and is "readily available on www.abe.com". I take it that's a recommendation!

    Merle Miller, A Secret Understanding. Wolfe is perusing this book, according to Judy Lauer, in Might as Well Be Dead.

    Thomas More, Utopia. Opal wrote in: "Actually, I believe Archie mentions in Death of a Doxy that Wolfe investigated whether Richard killed the princes in the tower and, once he has ascertained that Richard had been framed, he removed the works of Thomas More from his shelves because More framed Richard."

    Louis Nizer, My Life in Court. According to Baring-Gould and Steve T., this book is referenced in "Murder is Corny".

    Dorothy Osborne, Letters of Dorothy Osborne to Sir William Temple (1652-54). Elena Deicu pointed out to me that Wolfe consults (although he does not read) this book in Before Midnight. I found that the book is online, incidentally, here [a U Penn site]; it looks utterly fascinating. The intro gives a brief description of Osborne, Temple, and their relationship.

    Dan Rather and Gary Gates, The Palace Guard. As Cortne wrote in, Wolfe is reading this book in the opening pages of A Family Affair.

    Ole E. Rolvaag, Giants in the Earth. According to Phil Fischer, Wolfe cites Per Hansa, a character in Giants in the Earth, in chapter 1 of Over My Dead Body. Phil writes: "'Giants In The Earth' is the first book of a prarie trilogy about the settling of Minnesota, Iowa and the Dakotas."

    Alfred Rossiter, An Outline of Human Nature. According to Steve T. and Baring-Gould, this book is referenced in The League of Frightened Men.

    A. L. Rouse, William Shakespeare. As Judy Lauer notes, Wolfe spends a great deal of time reading Rouse's volume, in A Right to Die, and provokes the following exchange with Archie: "I spoke. 'You know, I don't think I have ever known you to take so long with a book.' He put it down. 'I'm reviewing his dating of Cymbeline. I think he's wrong.'"

    Chortle. See also Shakespeare, below.

    Walter Schneir & Miriam Schneir, Invitation to an Inquest. Two people have sent me e-mail reminding me that Wolfe read this book at some point -- but they couldn't remember when. Fortunately Shane fills in the gap: it's in Death of a Doxy.

    William Shakespeare. In Plot It Yourself (1959), we observe that Wolfe keeps a complete set of Shakespeare on the shelves in his office (p. 40). See also Rouse's book, above. But there's lots of evidence that Stout (like all right-minded people) is a fan of Shakespeare: e.g., as someone pointed out anonymously to me, the title And Be A Villain is drawn from Shakespeare's Hamlet: "For one may smile and smile and smile / And be a villain".

    More directly, Dan Augustine noted in a post to the Wolfe mailing list that in John McAleer's 1977 book, Rex Stout: a Biography (Boston: Little, Brown), McAleer states: "Between the ages of seven and twelve [Stout] read all Shakespeare's plays and memorized all the sonnets. At eighty-six he still could quote them, letter-perfect. Shakespeare's word sense overwhelmed him. He said that that fact influenced him prodigiously. In the Nero Wolfe tales Shakespeare is quoted far oftener than any other writer. Rex's library still has his father's twenty-volume Harvard edition of Shakespeare and ten-volume Bibliophile edition of Macaulay." (McAleer, p. 56) In the same post, Dan notes that McAleer writes that Stout was a frequent theater-goer, and that John Barrymore's performance in Hamlet in 1922 was Stout's favourite theater experience.

    William Shirer, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich. According to Baring-Gould and Steve T., this book is referenced in "Kill Now---Pay Later".

    Alexander Solzhenitsyn, The First Circle. Lija wrote in: "This was the book Wolfe had with him when he went paddling in a creek in Montana, so Archie doesn't note if it was bookmarked or not. I'd be very surprised if it was dogeared. I've read it: it's Solzhenitsyn writing about the Gulag system in the U.S.S.R., and it's brilliant but heart-rending. If I'd had a creek available while I was working through it, I'd have taken some time off to commune with nature, too."

    Edmund Spenser, The Shepheardes Calender. According to Steve T. and Baring-Gould, at some point in the opus Archie describes Wolfe's copy of Spenser's The Shepheardes Calender as dark blue, tooled, and bound "in this city by a Swedish boy who will probably starve to death during the coming winter". Paige Everhart, J. Benjamin, Edvige Bray, and Lija wrote in to identify the citation as The League of Frightened Men, while I idled around not updating the site for months (sorry!). Lija: "The Spenser reference is on pp. 31-2 in the original hardback edition. It comes in the middle of a long riff that Wolfe does (Archie calls it "babble") on Paul Chapin's writing while he's talking at Miss Hibbard. Archie sticks a verbal thumb in Wolfe's rib about the Spenser reference on p. 37." J.B. and E.B. both commented that Wolfe's purpose in talking about the Spenser volume is to use it as a diversion while Wolfe 'borrows' a list of the "League of Atonement" members from a file brought by Hibbard, and E. B. further specifies that the volume is stored on the "third shelf, at the right of the door" and the reason for the 'starving boy' reference is probably that "The book was published in the spring of 1935, and the consequences of the late financial crash were still very heavy (the same book gives a further example in chapter 4, with Del Bascom begging Wolfe not to deprive him of the job he's on)." The text is also, as Wolfang pointed out, online these days - e.g. I found one version here. (Thanks for the help, everyone!)

    John Steinbeck, Travels With Charley. According to Judy Lauer, Wolfe is reading this volume in The Mother Hunt.

    Turgenev. In Please Pass the Guilt, as H.T.R. points out, Wolfe is reading a collection of Turgenev's stories.

    Mark van Doren. In And Be a Villain, Wolfe is reading an unspecified collection of van Doren's poetry, as Judy Lauer notes.

    Westermarck, A History of Human Marriage. This book is mentioned in Please Pass the Guilt, according to H.T.R..

    P. G. Wodehouse. Todd Halladay wrote in: "This comment is not about a book that Archie mentioned Nero Wolfe reading, but rather an author that Rex Stout recommended and enjoyed.... I was excited to find a reference at the end or beginning (I can't remember which book) of a Nero Wolfe Mystery and found that the two authors had great mutual admiration for each other and personal enjoyment out of reading the other's books. It surprised me in one way because the types of stories they write are completely different (humor vs. mysteries) and in another way it didn't surprise me because they are both so good (in my opinion the best) at their style."

    And who could forget the scene in Gambit when Wolfe starts shredding Webster's New International Dictionary, Unabridged, Third Edition? Judy Lauer writes in this excerpt: "Actually, he isn't reading this - he is burning it page by page in the front room fireplace! Archie's description is great:

    "Mr. Wolfe is in the middle of the a fit. It's complicated. There's a fireplace in the front room, but it's never lit because he hates open fires. He says they stultify mental processes. But it's lit now because he's using it. He's seated in front of it, on a chair too small for him, tearing sheets out of a book and burning them. The book is the new edition, the third edition, of Webster's New International Dictionary, Unabridged, published by the G. & C. Merriam Company of Springfield, Massachusetts. He considers it subversive because it threatens the integrity of the English language...."

    At the end of the chapter (one), Archie says to Wolfe, "...You knew you were going to burn it when you bought it. Otherwise you would have ordered leather." [the cover was buckram]"

    Thanks Judy!

    Something to Add?

    Author/title of book Wolfe was reading:
    Story or book in which Wolfe reads it:
    Do you happen to remember whether he: Dogeared it? Used a bookmark? Used gold bookmark?

    Comments on the author/book, etc.:

    Your own name (optional):

    The Grading System

    I divide the books Nero Wolfe reads into four grades: A, B, C, and D. If, when he comes down to the office from the plant rooms at six o'clock, he picks up his current book and opens to his place before he rings for beer, and if his place was marked with a thin strip of gold, five inches long and an inch wide, which was presented to him some years ago by a grateful client, the book is an A. If he picks up the book before he rings, but his place was marked with a piece of paper, it is a B. If he rings and then picks up the book, and he had dog-eared a page to mark his place, it is a C. If he waits until Fritz has brought the beer and he has poured to pick up the book, and his place was dog-eared, it's a D. I haven't kept score, but I would say that of the two hundred or so books he reads in a year not more than five or six get an A.

    -- From Plot It Yourself (1959), p. 1.

    Elena Deicu wrote me this perceptive comment, however: "It seems to me that Archie's classification of A, B, C, and D grades is rather incomplete, as right there [in Before Midnight, ch 19] he says something like, 'This book was from _selected several dozens that he kept in his bedroom_ (italics mine - E.D.), so he didn't take anything from the office and couldn't be accused of interfering with justice.'" This distinction between the office collection and Wolfe's upstairs books had not previously occurred to me - but of course if Wolfe is like most of us his favourite books are in his bedroom bookcases! Here's a new challenge for the hardcore Wolfe reader - identify not just Wolfe's reading list, but the bookshelves on which various books are kept .... ;)

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