Celebrated as not just one of the best American writers but also one of the best writers in the world, Ernest Hemingway was a man that revolutionized the modern novel. He wrote with a simple style that he often describes as the iceberg method; A method that suggested a deeper meaning behind everything that he wrote. Using that style, he wrote over 27 masterful books that speak as much to the generations of today as they did to previous generations.
Unfortunately, not everyone has had the experience of enjoying some of his most important masterpieces, so we’ve decided to change that and introduce our readers to the best Hemingway books currently available. Although it was a difficult task to choose just three books from his collection, we think the following books will uniquely engage them and help them understand why Hemingway had the strongest influence on 20th-century fiction.
Quick Summary of the Best Hemingway Books
- Editor’s Choice
The Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway: The Hemingway Library Collector’s Edition (Amazon) – Review
- Also Recommended
A Farewell to Arms: The Hemingway Library Edition (Amazon) – Review
- Also Consider
The Old Man and The Sea (Amazon) – Review
Editor’s Choice: The Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway: The Hemingway Library Collector’s Edition
Some people may be questioning our reasoning behind making this collection of Ernest Hemingway short stories the number one book on our list. We can almost hear the complaints right now, and we know that people are going to be appalled that we didn’t put A Farewell To Arms, The Sun Also Rises, or A Moveable Feast in the top position. While all of those are important novels in our opinion, as well as the opinion of literature teachers all over the world, we feel that one of the best ways to get into Hemingway’s writing style is through his short stories.
The short stories in this book capture the imagination, the breadth of experience, and Hemingway’s voice in an easy-to-digest manner. In this collection, the reader will find Hemingway’s everything from his first published story, the Judgment Of Manitou, which he published in 1916, to the Snows Of Kilimanjaro—a story that was first published in Esquire magazine in the summer of 1936. It’s a collection of 49 stories that are going to capture the readers’ imagination and are full of what we would like to call the “Hemingway Experience.”
What’s the Hemingway experience? This is what we refer to stories that depict manly men in adventurous situations. Stories that are written in a plain style that reveals the existential angst and the loss of purpose that modern men experience in the world. These are also stories that feature stunted idealism but are filled with humor. In other words, these are stories that give the reader special access into the mind of Hemingway. And that’s why we felt that this collection was one of the best Hemingway books currently available.
This collection of stories is the best representation of the iceberg method of writing. It’s a collection of stories in which the writer has written truly enough that he may omit things that he knows from the stories and the reader will still understand the concepts that lie beneath the superficial events. It’s the reason why we recommend everyone have a copy of this book.
Also Recommended: A Farewell to Arms: The Hemingway Library Edition
A Farewell To Arms is probably one of the most celebrated books written by Hemingway, and that shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone who has read it. It’s a book that explores classical love during wartime and was lauded as one of the best books to ever come out of the Great War–World War I. It was written by Mr. Hemingway when he was 30-years old and it tells the story of an American ambulance driver on the Italian front who develops a true passion for a lovely English nurse.
This is more than just a love story, however. It’s also a story that captures the horrors of war and the unavoidable pain that the lovers experience as their love and the war sweeps them away. It’s a book that speaks of the struggle between loyalty to oneself and a loved one and loyalty to one’s own honor. It’s a story that Hemingway has said that he had to rewrite the ending to almost 40 times to get it just right. And this version contains many of those alternative endings, along with handwritten notes, all together in one volume for the reader to appreciate.
This book is approximately 352 pages long and the reader can feel Hemingway’s attention to detail and dedication to his craft on every single page. Although we found this volume to be difficult to read at times due to text inconsistencies and errors, the story contained within is a classic.
It’s a book that shows just how Hemingway went from a bold and loud writing style to the stripped-down style that would become his trademark and would influence American novelists for the next almost 100-years to come. This is a book that everyone should read at least once in their lives. It’s an excellent introduction to the human conditions of love and war and remains one of the most important novels to ever be written on these subjects.
Also Consider: The Old Man and The Sea
The story found within the cover of this book might seem simple, but it’s extremely powerful and that’s why it’s one of Hemingway’s most enduring and best-loved works. This is a story about a down-on-his-luck Cuban fisherman who wages an unabating battle with a giant marlin out in the Gulf Stream. It’s a story of courage versus defeat, of triumph pried from the jaws of one’s own personal losses and failures. It was a story that was originally written in 1952 and won a Pulitzer Prize in 1953. It’s also a story that would go on to become one of the most successful novels that Hemingway ever wrote.
This book isn’t worth reading because it was a commercial success, or even because it won literary awards. The only real reason to read this book is to get an intimate look inside the human condition. This was one of the last great novels that Hemingway wrote before his death in 1961 and the maturation of his style is evident in every single word on the page. It’s no wonder Ernst Hemingway won a Nobel Prize for Literature in 1954 and why this book is taught in just about every American high school. It’s truly a classic that everyone should experience.
What most people don’t realize about this novel, however, is that it was the book that revived his career after he had experienced some critical failures. It revived the reader’s confidence in the writer and helped to propel him to the status of a living legend. It’s a book that also consistently makes it onto the list of the best-loved novels of all time. That’s why it’s our firm opinion that everyone should read this book and that it should remain a staple in American schools.
Of course, some critics at the time (and maybe even to this day) have felt that this book was a departure from Hemingway’s usual realistic writing style. That it was too allegorical in nature. While it’s certainly their opinion, it’s not one that we share with these critics.
A Guide To Ernest Hemingway & His Books
Now that we covered some of the books that we feel are the best Ernest Hemingway books for readers to enjoy, we thought that we’d do a deeper dive into not only this writer’s work but also his life. It’s our simple attempt to illuminate this author and his writing style, so consumers can not only find the books of his that they might find enjoyable or illuminating but also so they can get the most out of those books. Let’s begin our journey together with a short, and admittedly incomplete, biography of the man himself.
The Life Of Ernest Hemingway
Ernest Hemingway was born on July 21, 1899, in Oak Park, Illinois—a suburb of Chicago. He was born to Clarence Edmonds Hemingway, who was a doctor, and Grace Hall—an opera singer, music teacher, and painter. When he was a child, his mother taught him to play the cello, and he would later attest to the fact that the music lessons helped to inspire his writing style later in life.
When he finished high school in Oak Park, he would go on to work for a reporter for the Kansas City Star. However, this gig only lasted a few months, and he would leave Illinois for the Italian front when he enlisted as an ambulance driver during World War II.
In 1918, he became seriously wounded and would have to return home. Three years later, in 1921, he would marry Hadley Richardson—a woman who was born on November 9, 1891, in St. Louis. She would become the first of Hemingway’s four marriages. They would live in Paris for a while as he worked as a foreign correspondent and become members of the Lost Generation expatriate community.
In 1926, Hemingway would publish his first novel, The Sun Also Rises, and a year later he would divorce his wife and marry Pauline Pfeiffer. Pauline was a woman born on July 22, 1895, in Parkersburg, Iowa, and was a graduate of the Visitation Academy Of St.Louis and the University of Missouri School of Journalism. He would eventually divorce Pauline in 1940 after he returned from the Spanish Civil War.
Hemingway would base the book, For Whom The Bell Tolls, on his experiences during the Spanish Civil War, and the same year it was released, he would marry Martha Gellhorn—a war correspondent that was born on November 8, 1908, in St.Louis, Missouri. They would end up divorcing in 1945, and Ernest would go on to marry Mary Welsh in 1946. Mary would remain his wife up until his death.
In 1954, Ernest Hemingway was in two plane crashes across two days, and these accidents led to him being in constant pain for the rest of his life. In 1959, he would go on to purchase a home in Ketchum, Idaho, and he would live there until he ended his life in 1961. He dies from a single gunshot wound to the head.
The Selected Bibliography Of Ernest Hemingway
Although we don’t have the space available to us to list all 27+ works that Ernest Hemingway wrote during the course of his lifetime, we can list some of the novels, novellas and short stories that we think are his best works. The following are the works that we feel are his best and should be read by anyone interested in 20th-century literature.
Novels & Novellas:
- The Sun Also Rises (1926)
- A Farewell To Arms (1929)
- For Whom The Bell Tolls (1940)
- The Old Man And The Sea (1952)
- Islands In The Stream (1970)
- Indian Camp (1926)
- Green Hills Of Africa (1935)
- A Moveable Feast (1964)
Short Story Collections:
- Three Stories And Ten Poems (1923)
- The Snows Of Kilimanjaro And Other Stories (1961)
- The Nick Adams Stories (1972)
- The Complete Short Stories Of Ernest Hemingway (1987)
- The Short Stories Of Ernest Hemingway: The Hemingway Library Collector’s Edition (2017)
What Stories & Books Did Hemingway Read?
As a fun addendum to this guide, we thought that it would be a bit of fun to list some of the books and stories that Hemingway loved to read. Although we can’t list every book that Hemingway wrote because he was known for reading up to four books at a time and finishing a book a day, we can go over some of the classics that he loved. After all, Ernest Hemingway felt that he had to read the best of the classics so that he knew what he had to beat with his writing. So without further ado, we hope you enjoy some of the books that Hemingway himself had recommended people to read.
- The Adventures Of Huckleberry Fin By Mark Twain
- The American By Henry James
- The Complete Works Of Rudyard Kipling
- Wuthering Heights By Emily Bronte
- Ulysses By James Joyce
- The Common Reader By Virginia Woolf