It’s hard to argue that Ernest Hemingway isn’t one of the most influential writers of the last 100 years. His books are still widely read and his direct minimalistic style of writing helped shape American writing.
As a freshman in college, I read The Sun Also Rises for the first time. I had always been a reader, but this book was different from the books I had previously read. It felt as if I was reading something important. Since then, I’ve read most of Hemingway’s novels (I haven’t read his posthumous books, other than A Moveable Feast). Here is my ranking of the best Hemingway books.
6. A Farewell to Arms
A Farewell to Arms is a war novel. It takes place in Italy during World War I, and it follows an American who is serving in the Italian Army.
5. Green Hills of Africa
Green Hills of Africa is Hemingway’s second non-fiction book. It’s about a safari trip Hemingway took with his wife to Eastern Africa. He opens the book by saying that “The writer has attempted to write an absolutely true book to see whether the shape of a country and the pattern of a month’s action can, if truly presented, compete with a work of the imagination.” Hemingway was an avid big-game hunter and his passion for the sport is evident in this book. He gives great imagery of what Africa was like 100 years ago.
4. For Whom The Bell Tolls
This novel takes place during the Spanish Civil War. Hemingway covered this war as a journalist and adapted what he saw into this novel. This is one of Hemingways most popular works and many consider it to be one of his best. I liked it but thought the three books below were better.
3. The Old Man and the Sea
The Old Man and the Sea is classified as a novella. Depending on what copy of the book you have, it may be less than 100 pages. But this small book has a lot to say. It won the Pulitzer Prize and was noted as being one of the reasons Hemingway won the Nobel prize.
2. A Moveable Feast
Hemingway once said, “If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast.”
A Moveable Feast is a non-fiction work, which Hemingway writes about his time in Paris during the 1920s. Throughout the chapters, we get character snippets of some of the biggest artists and writers of the day. He was friends with many of them. There is also much introspection of Hemingway’s own life.
This book helped me understand Hemingway. All of his books contain parts of Hemingway in them. He was a complicated person, and Paris was probably the most important time of his life. Hemingway captures the spirit of the lost generation better than any other author. A Moveable Feast goes hand in hand with Hemingway’s best book The Sun Also Rises.
1. The Sun Also Rises
I’ve written about The Sun Also Rises many times on this website (Themes in the Sun Also Rises, Ernest Hemingway’s Masterpiece The Sun Also Rises). It is a masterpiece. It captures the struggles and hopes of a whole generation. The world was wounded during World War 1 and many young adults who came of age during this time were lost and confused. Many creatives flocked to Paris and sought love, happiness, and freedom, but as we read in The Sun Also Rises, many of this generation had underlying problems and issues.
This is by far Hemingways best book.