On July 21, 1899, a baby boy was born to a couple named Clarence and Grace Hemingway in Oak Park, Illinois. Named after Grace’s father, the young boy was called Ernest Hemingway, and he would grow up to become one of the greatest American writers of all time.
As one of the most notorious names in literature, Hemingway arouses a multitude of feelings among readers: some praise his genius, others detest him, while others just think he’s plain boring. Like him or not, however, you have to admit that Hemingway has left a profound impact on the way we think, write, and read literature. In honor of Hemingway’s 117th birthday this Thursday, I’ve put together a list of books for those who wish to celebrate the day by reading about the man himself, or just for those folks looking for a good bit of scandalous literary history (and let’s be honest, Hemingway’s life was full of scandal).
The Paris Wife by Paula McLain
No list of books about Hemingway would be complete without mentioning this wonderful historical fiction novel. Set in the 1920s, The Paris Wife is told from the perspective of Hadley, Hemingway’s first wife, and covers how he starts his literary career, his time in Paris, and the eventual dissolution of his first marriage. This novel really brings to life the events Hemingway writes about in his memoir A Moveable Feast, which you can find my full review of here.
Everybody Behaves Badly: The True Story Behind Hemingway’s Masterpiece The Sun Also Rises by Lesley M.M. Blume
While The Paris Wife brings to life Hemingway’s memoir A Moveable Feast, Everybody Behaves Badly brings to life Hemingway’s classic novel of the Lost Generation, The Sun Also Rises. This nonfiction book, which tells the real-life story of how Hemingway and a group of friends traveled to Pamplona, Spain, to watch the running of the bulls, explores the revelries and rivalries that inspired the fictional characters and events of The Sun Also Rises.
Mrs. Hemingway by Naomi Wood
Another historical fiction novel, Mrs. Hemingway is divided into four parts, one from each of Hemingway’s four wives: Hadley, Pauline, Martha, and Mary. Spanning from the Parisian literary scene of the 1920s to the Cold War America of the ’60s, this novel brings Hemingway to life through the voices of the women who knew him best.
Hemingway vs. Fitzgerald by Scott Donaldson
There’s nothing better than a good literary friendship, and the relationship between Hemingway and fellow author F. Scott Fitzgerald was one of the greats. In this nonfiction book, Scott Donaldson sifts through all the myths and legends to tell the true story of the up-and-down, booze-fueled relationship between these two literary giants.
Papa Hemingway and Hemingway in Love: His Own Story by A.E. Hotchner
After serving in the Air Force as a military journalist during the Second World War, author A.E. Hotchner met Hemingway and the two were close friends for fourteen years. Papa Hemingway, published in 1966, is Hotchner’s biography of Hemingway as based on the stories he was told by the man himself. Ranging from Rome to the Key West to Idaho, this book discusses many of the real events behind Hemingway’s novels. Hemingway in Love, which was published just last year, is based on the conversations Hotchner had with Hemingway in June of 1961 when he went to visit his old friend in St. Mary’s Hospital’s psychiatric ward. From his failed relationships to his legendary life, this book is a powerful look into Hemingway at the very end of his days.
Hemingway’s Girl by Erika Robuck
The last historical fiction novel on this list, Hemingway’s Girl is set in 1930s Key West and tells the story of Mariella Bennet, a Cuban-American woman who is hired by Hemingway’s second wife, Pauline, as a maid. A lot of literary historical fiction is set in Paris, so this is a nice change for those wishing to read about Hemingway in a different period of his life.
Michael S. Reynolds’ Hemingway Biographies
Michael S. Reynolds is a serious Hemingway scholar who has devoted his life to retracing the famous author’s travels and mapping out his life in a series of detailed biographies. Some of his works include The Young Hemingway, Hemingway: The Paris Years, Hemingway: The 1930s, and Hemingway: The Final Years.
Ernest Hemingway: The Last Interview and Other Conversations
Part of Melville House’s “The Last Interview” series, this collection of interviews with Hemingway gives an insight into the author’s life, and is a chance to hear his voice without reading his books.
Will you be celebrating Hemingway’s birthday? Have you read any of these books? Let me know down in the comments. 🙂