Ernest Hemingway’s Top 10 Books Ranked 📚

Hemingway was a prolific writer. He wrote at least 25 books during his lifetime, and likely more.

Ernest Hemingway

(1899-1961), American Novelist and Journalist

Upon his death, the Nobel Prize-winner left behind more than 322 unfinished manuscripts for his family to go through, some of which have since been published. On this list, you’ll find ten of the best books that Ernest Hemingway wrote, all of which received varying degrees of positive and negative criticism during his life.

Ernest Hemingway's Top 10 Books Ranked 📚 1

1. The Old Man and the Sea

The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway Digital Art
The Old Man and the Sea Digital Art

The Old Man and the Sea‘ are commonly cited as Hemingway’s best novel. It was written in Cuba in 1951 and then published a year later. It was the last major fiction novel that Hemingway published during his life. The story focuses on a short period in the life of a Cuban fisherman named Santiago. This endearing, poor old man hooks and fights with an enormous Marlin for days before finally wrestling it out of the Gulf Stream. By the time he gets it back to shore it has been devoured by sharks leading him to regret the entire endeavor. The novel won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1953.

2. A Farewell to Arms

This novel is set during the Italian campaign, at the italian front of World War I. It is a first-person story told from the perspective of Frederic Henry. During his time in Italy, a love affair between Henry and an English nurse named Catherine Barkley begins. This novel is often considered to be the success that solidified Hemingway’s place in American literary history. The book is inspired by events in Hemingway’s own life, and his time as an ambulance driver during WW1.

3. For Whom the Bell Tolls

For Whom the Bell Tolls’ is considered by some to be Hemingway’s best novel. The novel tells the story of an American teacher called Robert Jordan, who during the 1920s gets involved in the Spanish Civil War, as Hemingway did himself. Their mission is to destroy a major bridge during an attack on the city of Segovia, and the novel follows the four days leading up to this event. He wrote the novel in Havana, Cuba, as well as in Key West, Florida, and Sun Valley, Idaho. 

4. The Sun Also Rises

This very popular novel describes the travels of, Jake Barnes, Lady Brett Ashley, and other American and British expatriates who travel to the Festival of San Fermín in Pamplona. There, they watch the brutal running of the bulls. By some, this book is Hemingway’s greatest work, even though it received less than stellar reviews when it came out. Ernest Hemingway was inspired to write this book after he took a trip to Spain in 1925.
This Hemingway book focuses on Gertrude Stein’s coined “lost generation”, who are a post-World War generation rife with disillusionment caused by the horrors of the World War, and who are ready to move on from the traditions of the older generation.

5. A Moveable Feast

Hemingway’s memoir, ‘A Moveable Feast’, was published in 1964. It tells of the years he spent as a journalist and writer in Paris in the 20s. In it, a reader can find references to a variety of famous figures and an account of Hemingway’s marriage to Hadley Richardson.

6. Complete Short Stories

Although not a novel, this collection of Hemingway’s short stories deserves to be on this list. In it, readers will find all of his best short fiction works including The Snows of Kilimanjaro‘ and ‘Hills Like White Elephants‘.

7. To Have and Have Not

This novel tells the story of Harry Morgan, a fisherman from Key West, Florida. this ordinary working man gets forced into the black market goods trade. He runs contraband between Cuba and Florida but things only end up getting worse for him as he decides to swindle Chinese immigrants and gets involved in a murder.

8. Islands in the Stream

This novel was published posthumously in 1970. It was among the 332 finished and unfinished works that Hemingway left behind when he died. The book follows Thomas Hudson through the stages of his life. It is made up of three stories, or acts, that were retiled as “Bimini,” “Cuba,” and “At Sea”.

9. Death in the Afternoon

This is one of Hemingway’s non-fiction works. It describes the traditions of bullfighting in Spain, something that the writer observed personally. The book looks at the history of the sport as well as explores the elements of fear and courage that are involved.

10. Green Hills of Africa

Green Hills of Africa‘ is another non-fiction book, Hemingway’s second. In it, he describes a month he spent on a safari in Africa with his wife, Pauline. It is separated into four parts, each of which has a different bearing on the story. He speaks about the time he spent hunting, meditates on the impact of various authors, and spends time talking about the landscape.


What is considered Ernest Hemingway’s best book?

The Sun Also Rises‘ is commonly considered to be one of Hemingway’s best novels. It describes the travels of American and British expatriates who venture to the Festival of San Fermín in Pamplona.

What is the best Hemingway book to start with?

The Old Man and the Sea‘ is often read first. It is short, easy to understand, and extremely effective. It was the last major work of fiction that Hemingway published during his life. The story focuses on a short period in the life of a Cuban fisherman named Santiago.

What is Hemingway’s greatest contribution to the world of literature?

His contributions include original short stories, novels, and a style of writing that inspired generations to come. Hemingway was also respected in journalism. One could argue that his greatest contribution is the “iceberg theory,” which influenced 21st-century literature.

What is Hemingway’s shortest book?

His shortest book is ‘The Old Man and the Sea‘. It is only 127 pages and tells a compelling and memorable story of an old fisherman, Santiago. Hemingway also wrote many more short stories, including the collections, ‘The Snows of Kilimanjaro and Other Stories‘, and ‘The Fifth Column and the First Forty-Nine Stories’

What did Hemingway write about?

Hemingway wrote about hunting, adventure, fishing, Africa, relationships, contemporary life, etc. He often included the theme of disillusionment in his work, as did many writers of the Lost Generation.

What was Hemingway’s best-selling book?

Hemingway’s best-selling book is ‘A Farewell to Arms‘. It is set during the Italian campaign of World War I. It is a first-person story told from the perspective of Frederic Henry.

Emma Baldwin
About Emma Baldwin
Emma graduated from East Carolina University with a BA in English, minor in Creative Writing, BFA in Fine Art, and BA in Art Histories. Literature is one of her greatest passions which she pursues on Book Analysis.
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