HEMINGWAY was a prolific writer and his works are among the most highly regarded in the American literary tradition.
From tales of war to family politics to existentialist crises – here are Hemingway’s must-read books…
What are Ernest Hemingway’s best books?
The Old Man and the Sea
This is a short story written by Hemingway in Cayo Blanco, Cuba.
It is about a veteran fisherman named Santiago who has struggled to catch a fish for 85 days.
He sails to the Gulf of Mexico where he hooks a giant marlin but can’t reel it in. After killing the marlin with a harpoon, he fixes the fish to the boat and heads back to shore.
But to Santiago’s despair, sharks demolish the marlin’s carcass before he even reaches the port.
The seemingly simple tale speaks to the experiences of pride and struggle and The Old Man and the Sea was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.
It was also Hemingway’s final full-length work published during his lifetime.
A Farewell to Arms
Hemingway’s 1929 novel tells the story of Lieutenant Frederic Henry, a young American ambulance driver with the Italian army during World War I.
It is a tale of love in battle, as Henry falls for Catherine Barkley, a British nurse, who tends to him when wounded.
Barkley falls pregnant, but their attempts at creating a future with one other is continually thwarted by the war.
The novel is heavily influenced by Hemingway’s own experiences in Italy as an ambulance driver.
Hemingway rewrote the ending 39 times to perfect it – and the novel is now widely considered one of Hemingway’s best literary works.
For Whom the Bell Tolls
For Whom the Bell Tolls is set at the height of the Spanish Civil War.
Opening in May 1937, it follows Robert Jordan, an American volunteer attached to a Republican guerrilla unit during the war
He is tasked with blowing up a Fascist-controlled bridge.
Robert is taken to a the guerrilla camp, where he meets and falls in love with a young woman named Maria.
Hemingway worked as a journalist in Spain to cover the country’s civil war for the North American Newspaper Alliance, and his experiences are reflected in this novel.
Some have even called it the best war novel of all time.
A Moveable Feast
A Moveable Feast is Hemingway’s posthumously-published memoir.
It documents his years in Paris in the early 1920s and his failed first marriage to Hadley Richardson.
The memoir is a must-read for literary fanatics as it features cameos from famed literary figures, including Sylvia Beach, Hilaire Belloc, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ford Madox Ford and James Joyce.
It also provides a detailed insight into the contemporary bars, cafes, and hotels of the time as well as exploring Hemingway’s divorce from Richardson.
The Sun Also Rises
The Sun Also Rises follows a group of post-World War I generation American and British men and women.
They visit Pamplona to watch the running of the bulls at the festival of San Fermin.
At the center of the novel are Jake Barnes and the woman he loves, Lady Brett Ashley.
It documents the hedonistic lives of the European elite and their promiscuous sexuality.
It showcases Hemingway’s simple yet powerful writing style and Hemingway biographer Jeffrey Meyers writes that the novel is now “recognized as Hemingway’s greatest work”.
Complete Short Stories
Complete Short Stories is a posthumous collection of Ernest Hemingway’s short stories.
The collection contains sixty stories, among them his best-loved works, including The Snows of Kilimanjaro, Hills Like White Elephants, and A Clean, Well-Lighted Place.
From family relationships to War tales, this is a must read for anyone wanting to experience Hemingway at his best.
To Have and Have Not
To Have and Have Not tells the story of a fishing boat captain forced to run contraband between Cuba and Florida out of economic desperation.
He meets other corrupt sailors along the way, and finds himself embroiled in a strange love affair.
The novel also also inspired the famed film of the same name, starring Humphrey Bogart.
Death in the Afternoon
Death in the Afternoon is a non-fiction book about the art of Spanish bullfighting.
Hemingway writes about the tradition as a dance, whilst he explores the technicality and athleticism required to succeed in the sport.
Many have seen it as a metaphor for the act of writing.
Critic Marianne Wiggins has written of the book: “Read it for the writing, for the way it’s told… He’ll make you like it [bullfighting]… You read enough and long enough, he’ll make you love it, he’s relentless”.
Islands in the Stream
Islands in the Stream is the first of Hemingway’s posthumously published novels.
First published in 1970, it follows the adventures of explorer and artist Thomas Hudson.
Beginning on the island of Bimini, it takes the reader to Cuba during World War II and documents the life of a bachelor coming to terms with being a father.
The Irish Times has described the novel as “Hemingway’s most deeply autobiographical piece of work.”
Green Hills of Africa
Green Hills of Africa is a memoir, detailing Hemingway’s safari across the Serengeti with his wife, Pauline Pffeifer.
It documents the beauty of the African continent and the wonders of the plains, as well as Hemingway’s own fascination with game hunting.
When it was first published in 1935, The New York Times called the memoir “the best-written story of big-game hunting anywhere”.
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