"No one is truly literate who cannot read his own heart."|
Over the course of his career, Hoffer wrote eleven books, but published only ten of them. His final book, an autobiography called "Truth Imagined," was not published until after his death in 1983. Two of them, "Working and Thinking on the Waterfront" and "Before the Sabbath," were published journals that Hoffer had originally written solely for the purpose of stimulating his own thoughts. Finally, there is the collection, "Between the Devil and the Dragon," which includes a sample of his best writings.
At present, all of Hoffer's books, except for "The True Believer," are out of print. They can readily be found on the shelves of any decent local library, though.
The True Believer
(New York: Harper and Row, 1951.)
Hoffer's first book is the one that brought him fame and continues to be his best known. Subtitled "Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements," it is an examination of the types of individuals who tend to join and foster those destructive (and sometimes creative) fanatical causes which have wreaked such havoc in our time.
The Passionate State of Mind
(New York: Harper and Row, 1955.)
This is a collection of 280 aphorisms that deal with many of the themes that Hoffer would return to throughout his career, including the uniqueness of man, the role of the misfit in human affairs, and the flight of the self-despiser from an unwanted self.
The Ordeal of Change
(New York: Harper and Row, 1963.)
Considered by some to be Hoffer's best book, it focuses on a theme that he found to be running under the surface of his previous thoughts and writings. The idea is that the difficulty of dealing with drastic change tends to produce those extreme attitudes in the individual that often result in the rise of mass movements and other generally destructive activities in the world.
The Temper of Our Time
(New York: Harper and Row, 1967.)
A collection of magazine articles dealing with the familiar subject of drastic change, which Hoffer considered the central problem of our time, this book examines the influence of the juvenile mentality, the rise of automation, the problems of the black revolution and the regression of the back-to-nature movement, among other things.
Working and Thinking on the Waterfront
(New York: Harper and Row, 1969.)
This is a journal that Hoffer wrote in 1959 while he was struggling with the ideas that would become the substance of his third book, "The Ordeal of Change." He discovered the journal among his papers many years later and published it as a record of both his working life at the time and the process whereby he produced his original thoughts and writings.
First Things, Last Things
(New York: Harper and Row, 1971.)
This is another collection essays, some previously published in magazines, that deal mainly with the importance of cities in both the rise of man at the beginnings of human history, and in his current fall into crime and madness. The idea is that cities help protect man from the ravages of mother nature, but cannot protect man from his potentially destructive inner nature. Nevertheless, according to Hoffer, cities are the natural home of mankind.
Reflections on the Human Condition
(New York: Harper and Row, 1973.)
A series of 183 thoughts divided into five sections, these reflections on the strange nature of man and his condition in this world are similar in form to Hoffer's previous work, "The Passionate State of Mind," but a little more tightly organized.
In Our Time
(New York: Harper and Row, 1976.)
Sticking to his belief that any idea could be expressed in just two hundred words, Hoffer wrote these short essays about a variety of topics, including dull work, the middle class, China, the role of the trader in history, and the problems of blacks in America.
Before the Sabbath
(New York: Harper and Row, 1979.)
This is another journal that Hoffer published after the fact, and one that garnered impressive reviews from critics. Originally intended as a way to regain the alertness he felt to have lost in later years, the diary turned out to be a penetrating examination of the various causes of the social crises of the time.
Between the Devil and the Dragon
(New York: Harper and Row, 1982.)
A selection of essays and aphorisms from all of his previous books, this one is intended as a representative collection of Hoffer's ideas. A few of the essays here appear in different versions than originally published, plus there is a previously unpublished summary of the journal "Before the Sabbath." Also included is the full text of "The True Believer."
(New York: Harper and Row, 1983.)
Hoffer's autobiography is probably the most entertaining thing he ever wrote. He demonstrates such a facility for storytelling in this book that one wishes he would have written and published a few novels before he was finished.