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25 Classic Books Ernest Hemingway Recommends For Writers

In "Ernest Hemingway on Writing," the renowned author Ernest Hemingway advocates for a continuous pursuit of learning from fellow writers.

On page 91 of this book, Hemingway underscores the importance of gleaning wisdom from every author who has something valuable to offer.

"I think you should learn about writing from everybody who has ever written that has anything to teach you." – Ernest Hemingway

This philosophy resonates through the carefully curated list of Classic Books he has listed as ''necessary books to read.''

Let's start.

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Immerse yourself in Tolstoy's sweeping masterpiece, which intricately weaves the lives of its characters against the backdrop of war and societal change. With its profound insights into human nature and the challenges of living through tumultuous times, this novel offers a masterclass in character development and historical context.

Delve into the intricate web of aristocratic society in 19th-century Russia as Tolstoy dissects the lives, loves, and moral dilemmas of his characters. Through themes of love, infidelity, and societal norms, this tragic narrative invites writers to explore the complexities of human relationships and the consequences of our choices.

Embark on an adventurous journey through the Royal Navy alongside a young midshipman. Captain Marryat's narrative captures the maritime life of the era, offering valuable insights into naval customs, challenges, and camaraderie.

Join Frank Mildmay on his naval escapades, where battles and personal growth intertwine to offer a vivid portrayal of life at sea. Marryat's storytelling provides a window into the world of naval exploration and the experiences that shape a sailor's character.

Set sail with Peter Simple, a young and spirited sailor, as he navigates a series of humorous and often perilous adventures within the Royal Navy. Marryat's lively narrative captures the spirit of maritime life and the colorful characters that inhabit it.

Enter the world of Emma Bovary, a woman disillusioned by provincial life and trapped in the pursuit of romantic ideals. Flaubert's incisive exploration of character psychology and societal expectations offers writers a lesson in crafting complex, relatable characters.

Accompany Frédéric Moreau on his journey through love, politics, and society as Flaubert explores the aspirations and disillusionment of youth. This novel provides insights into the challenges of navigating personal ambitions against the backdrop of societal change.

Witness the decline of the Buddenbrook family as they navigate changing times and societal pressures. Mann's panoramic narrative captures the intricacies of family dynamics, societal expectations, and the passing of eras.

Step into the lives of Dublin residents through a collection of short stories that offer snapshots of everyday experiences. Joyce's keen observation and distinctive writing style provide writers with a lesson in capturing the essence of human existence.

Accompany Stephen Dedalus on his artistic and intellectual journey of self-discovery, as he grapples with the challenges of identity, religion, and societal norms. Joyce's introspective exploration encourages writers to delve into the complexities of character development and personal growth.

Embark on a single day's odyssey through Dublin with a multitude of characters, experiences, and literary allusions. Joyce's experimental narrative challenges writers to push the boundaries of traditional storytelling and engage with the possibilities of language and structure.

Follow the escapades of Tom Jones, a charming and roguish young man, as he navigates the complexities of 18th-century English society. Fielding's comedic and satirical approach provides writers with insights into humor, social commentary, and character-driven storytelling.

Join Joseph Andrews, a virtuous footman, on his journey home, encountering a series of misfortunes and humorous escapades. Fielding's wit and character-driven narrative style offer writers lessons in crafting engaging and entertaining tales.

Enter the complex world of Julien Sorel, a young man navigating love, ambition, and class struggle in post-revolutionary France. Stendhal's psychological insight and exploration of human nature provide writers with a glimpse into creating multidimensional characters.

Follow Fabrice del Dongo's transformation from provincial nobility to the intrigues of the Italian court. Stendhal's blending of romance and political intrigue offers writers a lesson in weaving personal narratives within historical contexts.

Engage with Dostoevsky's exploration of morality, faith, and the human psyche as the Karamazov brothers grapple with their conflicting beliefs. This novel challenges writers to tackle profound themes and intricate character relationships.

Embark on a timeless adventure down the Mississippi River with Huck Finn and Jim, exploring themes of freedom, race, and friendship. Twain's narrative addresses social issues while inviting writers to explore the bond between characters.

Experience the harrowing journey of four shipwrecked men in a lifeboat, reflecting on the raw realities of human survival against nature's forces. Crane's focus on the human experience in dire circumstances offers writers insights into empathy and tension-building.

Step into the Blue Hotel, where tensions escalate among guests in a Western town, offering a psychological exploration of human behavior under pressure. Crane's examination of interpersonal dynamics provides writers with lessons in crafting conflict and suspense.

Join George Moore's exploration of Irish society and cultural identity, capturing the nuances of his experiences as an expatriate in France. Moore's observations offer writers insights into societal commentary and the influence of personal experiences.

Immerse yourself in the introspective world of W.B. Yeats through his autobiographical writings, which reveal his artistic journey and spiritual beliefs. Yeats' reflection on his life offers writers lessons in introspection and the fusion of personal experience with creativity.

"Far Away and Long Ago" transports readers to W.H. Hudson's childhood in the Argentine pampas. Through his evocative prose, Hudson recounts his youthful discoveries in nature and his enduring connection to the environment. This memoir captures the magic of early experiences and offers a universal reflection on the passage of time and the impact of our formative years.

"Madame de Mauves" is a captivating novella by Henry James that delves into the interplay of desire and societal norms. Through the enigmatic character of Madame de Mauves, James explores themes of attraction, cultural clashes, and the complexities of human relationships. This tale offers a nuanced exploration of the tensions between personal longing and social expectations.

Henry James's "The Turn of the Screw" is a chilling novella that blurs the boundaries between the supernatural and the psychological. As a governess believes she's encountering malevolent spirits, James crafts an atmosphere of suspense and uncertainty. With its unreliable narrator and masterful tension-building, this work continues to captivate readers with its enigmatic narrative.

"The Portrait of a Lady" introduces Isabel Archer, a strong-willed young woman navigating a world of choices and consequences. Henry James weaves a complex narrative that probes the conflicts between personal aspirations and societal norms. With rich character development and psychological depth, this novel remains a powerful exploration of identity, independence, and the intricacies of relationships.


If you enjoyed these book recommendations, check out the rest of my Fiction/Literature book lists on my blog —

As Hemingway envisioned, these 25 Classic Books offer a rich array of lessons and inspiration for writers, each showcasing a distinct aspect of storytelling, character development, and thematic exploration.

Through these celebrated works, writers have the opportunity to learn from literary masters who have left an indelible mark on the world of literature.

1 Comment

Sep 21, 2023

Let's see, I've read 1 1/2 of those, Huckleberry Finn and half of Tom Jones. Better get moving.

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