Wednesday, the 18th of August, and time for Shelf Control once again! Shelf Control is a weekly feature hosted by Lisa at Bookshelf Fantasies, and celebrates the books waiting to be read on your TBR piles/mountains. To participate, all you do is pick a book from your TBR pile, and write a post about it–what its about, why you want to read it, when you got it, and such. If you participate, don’t forget to link back to Lisa’s page, and do also leave your links in the comments below as I’d love to check out your picks as well!

This week’s pick is a book and also an author I’ve been meaning to pick up for a long long time, but still haven’t gotten to. The book is Lust for Life and the author, Irving Stone. Born in San Francisco in 1903, American writer Irving Stone worked as a teaching assistant in English after receiving his bachelors and masters degrees from UC Berkley. Stone is best known for his fiction, most of them biographical novels of various personalities from John and Abigail Adams to Charles Darwin, Sigmund Freud to Camille Pissaro, but he also wrote non-fiction including a biography of Clarence Darrow.

Lust for Life (1934) was Stone’s first book, published after 17 rejections over a three-year period. It is of course a biographical novel and tells the tempestuous and dramatic life story of Vincent Van Gogh. From his fevered loves to his paintings which are works of genius, the book takes us from days Van Gogh spent in a desperate state in coal mines to his most dazzling in the South of France painting the picture of a man who was ‘mad, tragic and triumphant all at once’. Stone wrote the book after months of research and also based on his correspondence with Dr Felix Rey who had treated Van Gogh after the latter cut off his own ear! The book was adapted into a 1956 film starring Kirk Douglas (which I’ve seen and enjoyed)

I’ve always liked Van Gogh’s art (starry night, almond blossoms, and many more–I have a book on it and also some prints) and reading about his life is something I have always meant to do. Lust for Life I thought would be a great starting point. Irving Stone is an author I’ve been meaning to pick up for ages as well, and I’ve been particularly interested in his books on Van Gogh, Michelangelo, and Darwin. So this is a book I definitely want to pick up sooner than later hopefully.

On a (related) tangent, if you haven’t seen it, Vincent and Me (1990) (details in wikipedia here) is a lovely children’s film about a young girl who because of her artistic skills draws the attention of a mysterious European Art Dealer who she finds out is passing her sketches as those of Van Gogh. She and her friends decide to go to Amsterdam and investigate. It was in this film that I saw some more of Van Gogh’s art than I knew at that point.

Have you read this one or any other books by Stone? How did you like it/them? Any you’d recommend? Looking forward to your thoughts and recommendations!

Book details, author details and cover picture from Goodreads; and Wikipedia

Lisa’s pick this week is The Book of Strange Things (2014) by Michel Faber, a book of science fiction but also literary fiction; find her post here


11 thoughts on “Shelf Control #147: Lust for Life by Irving Stone

  1. I read Irving Stone’s book about Michelangelo (The Agony and the Ecstasy), and loved it! It was many years ago, but I read it while on a trip to Italy, and it was the perfect companion for visiting museums and seeing so much of the art described in the book. Lust For Life sounds like it would be wonderful too. Van Gogh had such an interesting life — it would probably make a fascinating novel. Hope you enjoy!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Mallika–enjoyed the review! I was quite an Irving Stone fan, many years ago, and read several of his novels. The only one that’s stuck in my mind was The Agony and the Ecstasy, about Michelangelo, which seems to be the popular choice for most of the other commentators as well. At the time, I enjoyed Stone’s work very much and actually learned quite a bit from his novels; The Agony & the Ecstasy actually got me hooked on Renaissance art!
    Like you, I love van Gogh’s art and never miss a chance to see it, either “in the flesh” so to speak or online. You probably know this already, but just in case not I’ll mention that there was a very good movie made not too long ago, in which Willem Dafoe played the artist in the last few years of his life (Mads Mikkelsen had a supporting role); it’s called At Etermity’s Gate. The movie was well received and Dafoe is great (I think he may have gotten an Oscar nomination for his role).


    1. Thanks Janakay! Stone is an author I’ve been meaning to get to for ages and I hope I will finally do so this year. Sometimes featuring these books buried in our TBR mountains works as a great reminder and some motivation to get to them.

      Thanks for mentioning the Defoe film. I didn’t know it but will be sure to see it now. I’ve seen the Kirk Douglas movie, Vincent and Me (a children’s film and good fun), also the Dr Who Van Gogh episode but not this one so far.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I thought of the Dr Who van Gogh episode, but didn’t remember enough about it to mention it!
        The Dafoe film IS a bit grim, but very well done and, as far as I can tell, historically accurate. I really love VVG’s art (he’s one of my favorite artists); it’s interesting and ironic that he’s so popular today but so totally unappreciated in his own time. I have a copy of The Yellow House: Van Gogh, Gauguin and Nine Turbelent Weeks in Provence, which has gotten great reviews, but . . . I haven’t gotten around to reading it!

        Liked by 1 person

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