The 10 Best Ernest Hemingway Books

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Ernest Hemingway is one of the most influential writers in American Literature. Because of his journalist training, he developed a simple style with short sentences, but very specific details. There was a lot of unspoken implication and tension in his stripped-down prose. Before, American writers were influenced by British writings.

Hemingway published seven novels and novellas, six short story collections and two nonfiction works. To this list, we can add three novels, four short-story collections, and three nonfiction works published posthumously.

Born in 1899, Ernest Miller Hemingway grew up in a suburb of Chicago. His father, Clarence Edmonds Hemingway was a physician, and his mother, Grace Hall Hemingway, was a musician. The couple had six children.

Like Mark Twain who influenced him, Hemingway became a journalist before being a novelist. After high school, he went to work for The Kansas City. He stayed only six months there, but it was an impactful experience, as it was the foundation of his writing style. He left to enlist as an ambulance driver in Italy during World War I and was sent back home in 1918 after being seriously wounded.

He later became a foreign correspondent and covered the Greco-Turkish war, the Spanish Civil War as well as World War II. His war experiences formed the basis of several of his own personal writings, including A Farewell to Arms (1929) and For Whom the Bell Tolls (1940).

In that same spirit, his passion for outdoor adventures and life in isolated areas instilled by his father who taught him to hunt, fish and to camp, influenced his stories. He was awarded the 1954 Nobel Prize in Literature for “for his mastery of the art of narrative, most recently demonstrated in The Old Man and the Sea, and for the influence that he has exerted on contemporary style.”

Hemingway was married four times: Hadley Richardson (m. 1921; div. 1927)​, Pauline Pfeiffer (m. 1927; div. 1940)​, Martha Gellhorn (m. 1940; div. 1945)​, and Mary Welsh (m. 1946). He had three children: Jack, Patrick, and Gloria.

Mental troubles and suicide issues are unfortunately part of Hemingway’s family, as several members of the family have died taking their own lives, including Hemingway’s father and Hemingway himself.

If you want to discover Ernest Hemingway, or re-read his most celebrated stories, the following are some suggestions…

Ernest Hemingway’s best book to start with

If you ask yourself ‘What is the best Hemingway novel to read first?‘, it would seem logical to choose what is considered his greatest work: The Old Man and the Sea. Hemingway himself considers the novel his finest work.

According to Barnes & Noble (and other readers), The Sun Also Rises should be your first Hemingway novel as it is “a story for anyone searching for their place in this world — it transcends generational confines.”

It should also be said that his short stories are a great way to discover Hemingway, and you could start with his most studied one, ‘The Snows of Kilimanjaro.

Essential Hemingway Books

Barnes and Noble offers an essential Hemingway reading list of the American novelist:

  1. The Sun Also Rises (1926)
  2. A Moveable Feast (1964)
  3. A Farewell to Arms (1929)
  4. For Whom the Bell Tolls (1940)
  5. The Old Man and the Sea (1952)

To complete this list, don’t forget to check out Hemingway, the documentary from Ken Burns and Lynn Novick and the companion book, The Hemingway Stories, featuring Hemingway’s most significant short stories in chronological order.

The Best Ernest Hemingway Short Stories

Hemingway has written more than 50 short stories, and only a handful of stories published during his lifetime are not collected in the classic The First Forty-Nine Stories. You can also find most of his short stories in The Complete Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway (though don’t be fooled by the title, this collection is not complete).

If you want to read his best works in this format, Interesting Literature put up this list of the Seven of the Best Ernest Hemingway Short Stories:

  1. The Snows of Kilimanjaro (1936)
  2. The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber (1936)
  3. Hills Like White Elephants (1927)
  4. Big Two-Hearted River (1925)
  5. Cat in the Rain (1925)
  6. Soldier’s Home (1925)
  7. A Clean, Well-Lighted Place (1933)

More Ernest Hemingway

For a complete list of Ernest Hemingway Books and more info on the author and his books:

The Hemingway Society. Foundation
Ernest Hemingway’s complete list of books and series in order. Fantastic Fiction
The Ernest Hemingway Collection. official home of Brand licensing products.