If you look at any list of the greatest books in American Literature, you’re pretty much guaranteed to see at least one book by Ernest Hemingway on the list.
Though famous for his tales—both personal and fictional—of hunting, bullfighting, and fishing, most of Hemingway’s stories also have gentler sides that explore love, loss, and the human condition.
In his lifetime, the author published 7 novels, 6 short-story collections, and 2 nonfiction works. While each is worthy of recognition in their own right, we’ve narrowed down the list to 10 classics that every Hemingway fan and literature-lover should read.
10 Best Ernest Hemingway Books
Below are 10 of the best books penned by Ernest Hemingway, including collections of short stories, novellas, and iconic full-length novels.
In Our Time
Having built his name as a journalist and author of short stories, In Our Time was Hemingway’s first book-length published work. This collection of short stories also serves as a great introduction for readers just getting acquainted with Hemingway’s style.
Still, don’t let the brevity of these stories fool you: there’s a lot to unpack there, with many of them considered some of the best short stories every written. You’ll also meet Nick Adams, the semi-autobiographical character who appears in many of Hemingway’s short works.
Men Without Women
Another collection of short stories, Men Without Women features some of Hemingway’s most iconic and powerful pieces. Some of the most famous titles include “Hills Like White Elephants,” “The Killers,” and “In Another Country.”
You’ll get Hemingway’s simple, straightforward prose, but be ready to have the wind knocked out of you, as the Champ knows how to pack a lot of punch in just a few words.
The Nick Adams Stories
The Nick Adams Stories were published 11 years after Hemingway’s suicide. The title character and his adventures were inspired by Hemingway’s own early life.
These 24 short stories (8 of which were never published before the release of this volume) offer a glimpse at Hemingway’s relationship with his parents, as he accompanies his father on trips to provide pro bono medical services, and reveal more about his mother.
Green Hills of Africa
Green Hills of Africa is Hemingway’s memoir of his safari across the Serengeti with his wife, Pauline.
While most of this nonfiction piece centers on the author’s hunting efforts, the book is also a love letter to the African landscapes and the beautiful wilderness that was, even then, being threatened by man.
To Have and Have Not
To Have and Have Not is the classic tale of a generally good man forced to do questionable things to provide for his family.
Harry Morgan is a fishing boat captain who is forced by economic hardship to run contraband between Cuba and Florida. Marked by strong character development and Hemingway’s trademark simplicity, this book also inspired the iconic film of the same name, starring Humphrey Bogart.
For Whom the Bell Tolls
For Whom the Bell Tolls is set in the middle of the Spanish Civil War, and is based on Hemingway’s own experiences as a foreign reporter.
Meet Robert Jordan, a young American in the International Brigades who is attached to an anti-fascist guerilla unit. The story explores loyalty and courage, love and defeat, and the death of an ideal while following Jordan’s assignment to blow up a bridge and his love affair with the beautiful Maria.
A Moveable Feast
A Moveable Feast is Hemingway’s posthumously-published memoir about his early years in Paris, as he broke into the expat-writer scene of the early 1920s while crossing paths with the likes of Gertrude Stein, James Joyce, and Sylvia Beach.
Get an intimate glimpse of Ernest’s life as a young, struggling writer living in a small Paris flat with his wife, enjoying the simple pleasures of sipping wine in cafes or spending an afternoon at the races, but also contemplating more serious issues like divorce and the guilt of leaving his first wife.
The Old Man and the Sea
This is Hemingway’s last piece of fiction to be published during his lifetime. This novella is often cited as Hemingway’s greatest work, as it showcases his unique ability to move readers profoundly simply by writing about everyday people doing everyday things.
In this case, we follow an old Cuban fisherman trying to catch a marlin, which captures the struggles, hopes, and perseverance that life is made of. The Old Man and the Sea won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1953.
The Sun Also Rises
Hemingway’s first novel, The Sun Also Rises captures all the turmoil, hedonism, and disillusion of the “Lost Generation” of American expats in Paris after World War I.
Follow war veteran and journalist Jake Barnes’s complicated love affair with the wild Lady Brett Ashley as they and their friends partake in Champagne binges, bullfights, and Spanish fiestas.
A Farewell to Arms
Hemingway’s stark, unembellished prose tells the story of our protagonist, Frederic Henry, a paramedic in the Italian army during World War I. (Hemingway himself had left the Midwest in search of adventure on the Italian front, working as an ambulance driver.)
Frederic falls in love with an English nurse, Catherine, and their story is full of confrontations with death, while Hemingway juxtaposes themes of fear and bravery, as well as masculinity and femininity, leading to one of the most tragic yet unforgettable endings in literature.
Which Hemingway Book Should You Read First?
Ernest Hemingway’s writing is famous for its simple, unadorned prose. For fans of his work, this style packs a punch by infusing more emotion with fewer words, relying on relatable characters and their actions to carry the story.
However, this style also isn’t for everyone, and many readers complain that this overly simple prose is dull or boring. It’s really a matter of taste and personal preference.
If you’ve never read Hemingway before, I’d recommend starting with his short stories for an intro to his style. Plus, many of his short stories are regarded as masterpieces in their own right, so even if you decide that his prose isn’t for you, at least you’ll have experienced a classic.
More Classics for Your Reading List
Reading classic novels, like those by Hemingway, is a great way to explore your reading preferences, but also grow your writing skills. After all, these books are classics for a reason, and it’s usually because the authors did something that stuck with people.
To discover more classic books that everyone should read in their lifetime, check out our list of 100 Books to Read Before You Die, and start tackling that TBR list!
Do you have a favorite Ernest Hemingway book? Share your thoughts in the comments below!
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As a blog writer for TCK Publishing, Kaelyn loves crafting fun and helpful content for writers, readers, and creative minds alike. She has a degree in International Affairs with a minor in Italian Studies, but her true passion has always been writing. Working from home allows her to do even more of the things she loves, like traveling, cooking, and spending time with her family.