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A Good Place To Start

Complete Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway 4
The Sun Also Rises 2
A Farewell to Arms 2
A Moveable Feast 2
The Old Man and the Sea 1

A Bad Place To Start

The Old Man and the Sea 3
Death in the Afternoon 2
Across the River and Into the Trees 2
The Sun Also Rises 1
A Farewell to Arms 1


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Ernest Hemingway

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Please consider recommending where to begin reading this author, or where not to. A few words about your experiences reading this author and why you make the recommendations you do will be helpful to other users. If you are the author or have studied this author extensively, please say so.

achamber January 29th, 2006 08:36 AM PST

The place to begin reading Hemingway is in his short stories, available as "The Complete Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway." As a terse, compressed writer, Hemingway's style is best suited for the short story format.

Many make the mistake of begining with Hemingway's most famous novels, including "Old Man and the Sea" and "The Sun Also Rises." But many of his longer works seem forced given his terse style. His best ideas are in the stories. Begin with them, not the novels.

Here's a few stories that best illustrate his compressed, elegant style of "leaving everything out":

-The short happy life of Francis Macomber
-The Snows of Kilimanjaro
-Big Two-Hearted River
-A Clean, Well-Lighted Place
-After the Storm
-Summer People

petaluma February 1st, 2006 01:59 PM PST

I agree with your comments on Hemingway. Many readers I've recommended EH to seem more familiar with his public persona than his works. I love the Nick Adams stories, the Spain stories and "Cat in the Rain".

Chainz February 2nd, 2006 11:28 AM PST

I would actually start with The Old Man and the Sea. It is short enough to get a feel for his writing style and will let you figure out if you are willing to continue to some of his longer works like For Whom the Bell Tolls and A Farewell to Arms.

As for the short stories, I personally would not have been able to appreciate them without reading his novels first.

texan1510 December 19th, 2006 02:39 PM PST

The first Hemingway I read was The Old Man and the Sea, and I didn't touch another book of his until it was required for a class. Because it was a poetry class, we read A Moveable Feast, which recounts his time spent writing in Paris with Ezra Pound and Gertrude Stein, among others. Because I really respect the other writers he hung out with, this kind of gave Hemingway instant credibility and inspired me to give him another chance.

Hemingway is incredibly dry, which bothers a lot of people. It bothered me, too, until I read his theories about writing, particularly this quote: "All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence you know." It's interesting to read his memoir, because you get a better understanding of what he was trying to do, why he was trying to do it, and the sacrifices he had to make (at least in the beginning) to get it done.

joecowley May 28th, 2007 09:08 PM PST

I think the Complete Stories is a good place to begin reading Hemingway. He and Faulkner were extremely to my generation of young writers. However, there are only a handful of his stories that are great, and the commentator above has mentioned most of them. I, too, like his early Nick Adams stories. His novels are probably less impressive today. He his too immature and "macho" to be someone we can identify with. But, of the novels, you should at least read The Sun Also Rises and A Farewell to Arms. For Whom the Bells Toll is also quite interesting. He also wrote some awful junk, like Across the River and Into the Trees. I would also like to mention, perhaps because of my interest in the 1920's, that I found A Moveable Feast quite enjoyable, though, basically, because of his macho pose and immaturity, he is essentially full of bullshit. However, he did invent a powerful prose style, which can be deadly if you try to immitate it. Joseph Cowley


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Ernest Miller Hemingway (July 21, 1899 ? July 2, 1961) was an American novelist and short story writer whose works, drawn from his wide range of experiences in World War I, the Spanish Civil War, and World War II, are characterized by terse minimalism and understatement; they exerted a significant influence on the development of twentieth century fiction. Hemingway's protagonists are typically stoic male individuals, often interpreted as projections of his own character, who must master "grace under pressure". Many of his works, like The Sun Also Rises, A Farewell to Arms and The Old Man and the Sea, are now considered classics in the canon of American literature. Hemingway was part of the 1920s expatriate community in Paris, known as "The Lost Generation," a name coined and popularized by Gertrude Stein. Leading a turbulent social life, Hemingway married four times, allegedly formed various romantic relationships during his lifetime, and received much media exposure. Hemingway received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1954, seven years before his death by suicide in 1961. Source: Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ernest_Hemingway)

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