Home Press Releases World Acclaimed American Novelist Philip Roth Bequeathes His Entire Personal Library To The Newark Public Library

World Acclaimed American Novelist Philip Roth Bequeathes His Entire Personal Library To The Newark Public Library

Historic Donation from “Son of Newark” Will Transform the Library

into a Literary Destination for the People of Newark and the World

 The Newark Public Library has announced that Philip Roth has bequeathed his entire personal library to the Newark Public Library. The Philip Roth Personal Library, which has never been seen before by the public, will house over 3,500 volumes collected by Mr. Roth from 1950 to the present, many with his marginal notes and underlinings.

Mr. Roth has a strong personal connection to the Newark Public Library and to the City of Newark. The Library played a significant role in Mr. Roth’s life, especially throughout his youth in the Weequahic community of Newark. Looking back, he describes himself as a “library intoxicated” young man whose interest in reading and writing was formed at the Library. It played a key role in his first novel, “Goodbye, Columbus,” as its protagonist worked there. Mr. Roth also conducted extensive research for his “American Trilogy” in the Library’s New Jersey Room.

My decision to locate my personal library in Newark and, specifically, in the Newark Public Library, was determined by a longstanding sense of gratitude to the city where I was born,” said Mr. Roth. 

The Newark Public Library will house Mr. Roth’s Personal Library in a separate room on the second floor. Designed by architect Henry Myerberg, this space will capture the simplicity of Mr. Roth’s writing environment while creating a tangible sense of what it’s like to be a writer. It will have the feel of a library and a home, a place to experience books and a comfortable setting for study and seminar discussions.

“The Philip Roth Personal Library is an extraordinary gift that will touch vast numbers of people now and in the future. It will be an invaluable cultural and literary resource for the City of Newark and a beacon for students, scholars, educators and writers from around the world,” said Timothy Crist, President of the Board, Newark Public Library. “Just as Mr. Roth found inspiration for his writing at the Newark Public Library, we know that his extraordinary gift will inspire others to do the same.”

In addition to his books, Mr. Roth is donating his custom-made writing desks and Eames reading chairs so that visitors can experience where he read and wrote his novels, as well as his large refectory table which will be used for student seminars and discussions. Visitors to the Philip Roth Personal Library will be able to use his books, but will not be able to check them out.

In reflecting on the impact that the Library had upon him as a college student, Mr. Roth stated, “During that first year at Newark Rutgers, during the many hours each day when I didn’t have classes, the stacks and the reference room and the reading rooms of the main library were where I camped out when I wanted a quiet place to be alone to read or to study or to look something up. It was my other Newark home. My first other home.”

On the occasion of donating his personal library, Mr. Roth identified the 15 most significant works of fiction read during the first half of his life. They are:

Age 14             CITIZEN TOM PAINE, by Howard Fast

Age 16             FINNLEY WREN, by Philip Wylie

Age 17             LOOK HOMEWARD ANGEL, by Thomas Wolfe

Age 20             CATCHER IN THE RYE, by J.D. Salinger

Age 21             THE ADVENTURES OF AUGIE MARCH, by Saul Bellow

Age 23             A FAREWELL TO ARMS, by Ernest Hemingway

Age 24             THE ASSISTANT, by Bernard Malamud

Age 25             MADAME BOVARY, by Gustave Flaubert

Age 25             THE SOUND AND THE FURY, by William Faulkner

Age 27             THE TRIAL, by Franz Kafka

Age 30             THE FALL, by Albert Camus

Age 35             CRIME AND PUNISHMENT, by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Age 37             ANNA KARENINA, by Leo Tolstoy

Age 40             CHERI, by Colette

Age 41             STREET OF CROCODILES, by Bruno Schulz

About the Newark Public Library

Since 1888, the Newark Public Library has been an anchor institution in Newark. It is New Jersey’s most comprehensive public library, serving nearly 10,000 patrons per week and providing equal access for all to vast educational, cultural, literary, historical and digital resources. Through its Main Library and seven branches, the Newark Public Library provides residents of Newark with reference help for job searches and accessing social services, ESL and computer classes, and family literacy programs.  It also contains the Hispanic Research Information Center, the New Jersey Information Center and James Brown African American Room.