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Classic Literature

9 Must-Read Ernest Hemingway Books: Where To Start Reading

We recommend starting with one of these nine excellent books.

Last Updated on May 24, 2024 by BiblioLifestyle

Ernest Hemingway Books - Where To Start Reading

Ernest Hemingway is an iconic figure in 20th-century literature, and he is renowned for his straightforward narrative style and masterful storytelling.  His works, which are deeply rooted in his adventurous lifestyle and personal experiences, have become staples of American literature and are read and loved worldwide.  Hemingway’s stories are filled with themes of love, war, wilderness, and loss, leaving an indelible mark on modern literature. I’ve personally been a fan of Hemingway for a really long time. My first love will always be Thomas Hardy, but Hemingway is pretty up there, and I’ve reread my favorites of his numerous times. So, if you’re new to reading Ernest Hemingway books or you’re looking to delve deeper into his literary genius, this guide will provide you with a roadmap to navigate his most significant works.

But first, who is Ernest Hemingway?

Ernest Hemingway was born on July 21, 1899, in the small town of Oak Park, Illinois.  He began his writing career as a newspaper reporter for the Kansas City Star before leaving for Italy to serve as an ambulance driver during World War I, an experience that profoundly influenced his future work.  After the war, Hemingway moved to Paris and became a key figure in the influential Lost Generation.  His first major novel, “The Sun Also Rises” was published in 1926, followed by other successful works like “A Farewell to Arms” and “For Whom the Bell Tolls.”  In 1954, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature for his novel “The Old Man and the Sea.” A lover of adventure, Hemingway lived in various parts of the world, including Paris, Spain, and Cuba.  His larger-than-life personality and adventurous lifestyle added to the allure of his work.  Much like his stories, Hemingway’s life ended tragically when he died from suicide in 1961.  His works continue to be celebrated for their impactful storytelling and unique narrative style.

About Ernest Hemingway Books

Is Hemingway still worth reading?

Yes!  Hemingway’s works remain as relevant and impactful today as they were when he wrote them.  His influence on literature speaks volumes, with many modern authors citing him as one of their greatest inspirations.  While his writing style may take some getting used to, his stories are filled with depth and emotion that will stay with you long after you close the book.

What is the most famous book by Hemingway?

Hemingway’s most famous book is probably The Old Man and the Sea, which was published in 1952 and won him the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.  It’s a personal favorite of mine, and it tells the story of an old Cuban fisherman named Santiago who goes out into the Gulf Stream looking for a big catch, only to find himself battling against both his own physical limitations as well as the great forces of nature.  The book is considered a classic for its raw emotion, captivating imagery, and simple prose.

What Hemingway book should I read first?

If you’re a beginner looking to read your first Hemingway book, I recommend starting with “The Sun Also Rises.”  It’s considered to be one of Hemingway’s most accessible works, and it provides readers with an intimate look into the Lost Generation.  This classic novel follows the story of expatriate Americans living in Paris after World War I and is considered one of the earliest examples of modernist literature.  It delves into the themes of love, war, wanderlust, and disillusionment that are central to Hemingway’s works.

Another great place to begin is A Farewell to Arms.  Hemingway’s 1929 novel is a semi-autobiographical account of his time during World War I.  It follows the story of an American ambulance driver, Frederic Henry, and his love affair with British nurse Catherine Barkley.  The book offers readers a beautiful and tragic war story that captures the realities of fate and the complexity of human relationships.

9 Must-Read Ernest Hemingway Books

For readers looking to explore books by Ernest Hemingway, here is a list of nine must-read books:

  • The Sun Also Rises
  • A Farewell to Arms
  • For Whom The Bell Tolls
  • The Old Man and the Sea
  • To Have and Have Not
  • Across the River and Into the Trees
  • The Snows of Kilimanjaro
  • A Moveable Feast
  • Green Hills of Africa
The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway

The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway

Hemingway’s first major novel, The Sun Also Rises, tells the story of a group of expatriates living in Paris after World War I and their travels to Spain.  Through his characters’ relationships and inner struggles, Hemingway explores themes of love, war, wanderlust, and disillusionment.  It remains one of Hemingway’s most popular works and is credited with introducing the Lost Generation to the world.

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Check out our article Exploring Ernest Hemingway’s “The Sun Also Rises”: A Timeless Tale of Love, Loss, and the Human Spirit to learn more.

A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway

A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway

A semi-autobiographical account of his time during World War I, Hemingway’s 1929 novel follows the story of an American ambulance driver named Frederic Henry and his love affair with British nurse Catherine Barkley.  It offers readers a beautiful and tragic war story that captures the realities of fate and the complexity of human relationships.

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For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway

For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway

Hemingway’s 1940 novel is set during the Spanish Civil War and follows an American volunteer named Robert Jordan as he helps a group of anti-fascist guerrillas behind enemy lines.  It explores themes of courage and sacrifice while capturing the reality of war and its devastating effects.

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The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway

The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway

Hemingway’s 1952 novella tells the story of an old Cuban fisherman named Santiago who goes out into the Gulf Stream looking for a big catch, only to find himself battling against both his own physical limitations and a giant marlin. This timeless classic captures the struggle between man and nature and explores themes of courage, perseverance, and faith.

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Check out our article, The Old Man and the Sea: A Mini Deep Dive of a Timeless Tale of Struggle and Triumph, to learn more.

To Have and Have Not

To Have and Have Not by Ernest Hemingway

This novel follows the story of a fishing boat captain called Harry Morgan who is forced to become involved with smuggling in order to make ends meet. It interweaves themes of love, poverty, and morality and captures Hemingway’s signature style of simple, direct prose.

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Across the River and Into the Trees

Across the River and Into the Trees by Ernest Hemingway

Hemingway’s 1950 novel follows an aging American colonel named Richard Cantwell as he reminisces about his past while on a duck-hunting trip near Venice. He reflects on his life’s accomplishments, regrets, and relationships while also struggling to come to terms with his own mortality.

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The Snows of Kilimanjaro

The Snows of Kilimanjaro by Ernest Hemingway

This short story is considered one of Hemingway’s best works and is included in most anthologies of his work. It follows the story of an American writer, Harry, and his last days as he lies dying on the slopes of Kilimanjaro while reflecting on the choices he has made with his life. The Snows of Kilimanjaro captures Hemingway’s signature blend of tragedy and raw emotion.

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A Moveable Feast

A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway

Hemingway’s posthumously published memoir is set in 1920s Paris and recounts the author’s experiences with friends like F. Scott Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein, and Ezra Pound.  It offers readers a unique look into Hemingway’s life as an expatriate writer in Paris and explores his relationships with some of the most influential writers of the 20th century.

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Green Hills of Africa

Green Hills of Africa by Ernest Hemingway

Hemingway’s memoir-style travelogue chronicles his big game-hunting adventures in East Africa.  In this work, Hemingway describes his experiences in lyrical language and muses on the meaning of life.  It provides readers with a unique glimpse into Hemingway’s mind while exploring the themes of courage, death, and masculinity.

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Ernest Hemingway Books - Where To Start Reading

Even More About Ernest Hemingway Books

What themes does Ernest Hemingway commonly explore in his books?

Hemingway often explores themes of courage, loyalty, love, loss, adventure, and nostalgia in his books.  He has a unique ability to capture the beauty and tragedy of the human experience in ways that feel both personal and universal.  He was one of the first authors to explore more complex themes like disillusionment, trauma, and death in a straightforward yet powerful way.

Are Hemingway books considered classics?

Yes, many of Hemingway’s books are considered classics.  The Sun Also Rises, A Farewell to Arms, The Old Man and the Sea, For Whom the Bell Tolls, and To Have and Have Not are just a few examples of his classic works.  These books have withstood the test of time and continue to be read by readers around the world.

Why was The Sun Also Rises banned?

The Sun Also Rises was banned in Italy and Spain due to its perceived anti-war message. Some American readers criticized it for its frank depictions of alcohol abuse and promiscuity. Despite the controversy, it remains one of Hemingway’s most famous works and is widely considered a classic of modern literature.

In what order should I read Hemingway books?

There are many different ways to approach reading Hemingway’s books.  One way could be to start with his earlier novels and progress chronologically through the years, as each of these works captures a different era in Hemingway’s life.  Another option is to begin with one of his more well-known classics like The Sun Also Rises or A Farewell to Arms and then explore some of his lesser-known works.  Whichever way you choose, diving into Hemingway’s books will give you a unique insight into the mind of one of America’s greatest authors.  So, there is no right or wrong way to read Hemingway.

Here is a list of my nine must-read Ernest Hemingway books in order of publication:

  1. The Sun Also Rises (1926)
  2. A Farewell to Arms (1929)
  3. Green Hills of Africa (1935)
  4. The Snows of Kilimanjaro (1936)
  5. To Have and Have Not (1937)
  6. For Whom The Bell Tolls (1940)
  7. Across the River and Into the Trees (1950)
  8. The Old Man and the Sea (1952)
  9. A Moveable Feast (1964)

Ernest Hemingway’s Writing

What is so special about Hemingway?

Hemingway’s writing style was revolutionary.  His often minimalist prose and spare dialogue were a stark contrast to the flowery, melodramatic writing of many of his contemporaries.  His stories explored themes of courage, loss, love, and adventure in ways that felt deeply personal and resonated with readers.  In addition to being an excellent storyteller, Hemingway had a unique sense of humor and wit that made his books enjoyable to read.

How did Ernest Hemingway influence literature?

Hemingway’s influence on literature is undeniable.  His writing style has had a profound impact on modern authors, and he is widely credited for ushering in the era of modernism.  His works have inspired countless authors and continue to influence the way we write and think about literature today.

What grade level did Hemingway write at?

Ernest Hemingway is known for his accessible and straightforward writing style.  This has prompted many to investigate the reading level of his work.  According to the Flesch-Kincaid readability test, Hemingway’s writing falls roughly around a 5th-grade reading level.  However, it’s essential to note that while his sentences may be short and his vocabulary simple, the themes and ideas he explores in his works are profound and complex, which makes his books appealing to readers of all ages and reading levels.

What do you think about these Ernest Hemingway books?

So whether you’re just starting out with Hemingway or looking for some of his classics, these nine books are essential reading for any fan.  Ernest Hemingway’s works have inspired and influenced generations of readers and writers, leaving a lasting legacy that lives on in literature today.

Have you read any books by Ernest Hemingway?  Are any of these books or his other works on your TBR?   What book by Ernest Hemingway is your favorite?  What other Ernest Hemingway books would you add to this list?  Let us talk about it in the comments below.

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List of Must-Read Ernest Hemingway Books

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