Bright Side

12 must-read books recommended by Ernest Hemingway

Back in 1934, an aspiring writer and journalist called Arnold Samuelson made a long journey to meet Ernest Hemingway at his Florida home. The famous author was impressed by the young man’s determination and gave his guest a list of books that, in his opinion, every self-respecting person (and in particular every budding writer) should be familiar with.

We at Bright Side have decided to reprint this list especially for you. We hope you’ll enjoy each and every one of these outstanding works of literature!

The Blue Hotel

Stephen Crane
The Blue Hotel is a collection of short stories that seem straightforward, yet leave a bitter aftertaste and can put your soul in utter turmoil. Crane’s prose possesses a mysterious inner rhythm which remains imprinted on your memory for a very long time.

The Open Boat

Stephen Crane
Four men adrift in a boat, following a shipwreck. A tense struggle for survival. Evocative language and profound philosophical ruminations about life. With one wave of emotions washing over the reader after another, this book is certain not to leave anyone unaffected.

Madame Bovary

Gustave Flaubert
Emma Bovary longs for a life of glamour and romantic adventures. Instead, she has to lead a monotonous and cash-strapped existence, being the wife of a small-town doctor. The provincial atmosphere is suffocating for Emma, but all her attempts to leave this dreary world are doomed to failure. Is there any hope of escape?


James Joyce
This collection of fine psychological novellas represents Joyce’s first mature contribution to literature. He portrays Dublin as the embodiment of all the things he hated about the Irish way of life in those days. The city comes across as a den of vices that include backwardness, sycophancy, corruption, vulgarity and soullessness. Dubliners is regarded as the first example of 20th century realist Irish literature.

The Red and the Black

A universally accepted masterpiece of 19th century literature. This is the tale of an ambitious and talented young man who sets out to climb the social ladder and once captivated some of the world’s most famous authors, including Leo Tolstoy. Having come to the conclusion that ’’money is all that matters in today’s world’’, the main protagonist, Julien Sorel, begins his self-styled conquest of the social Olympus. In all, his efforts soon bring the desired results.

Of Human Bondage

Somerset Maugham
Possibly Maugham’s most influential novel, Of Human Bondage allows the reader to witness the full scope of the author’s genius in revealing both the darker and the lighter sides of human nature. Moreover, it’s in this book that Maugham veritably exceeds himself in baring his own soul to the world.

Anna Karenina

Leo Tolstoy
The greatest love story of all time, this book has inspired countless theatre and movie adaptations. To this day, Tolstoy’s creation has lost none of it’s boundless allure — the allure of passion, both blindly destructive and mesmerizing in its intensity.

War and Peace

Leo Tolstoy
An epic story that recounts a trying period in the history of Russia and Europe — the Napoleonic Wars. Tolstoy gives us a detailed account of both the battlefield realities and the everyday life in early 19th century Russia. The book deals with a variety of themes, including serving one’s country, love, duty and a person’s place in history.


Thomas Mann
Also known as The Decline of a Family, the book describes the lives of four generations of a rich and well-known merchant family from the German town of Lübeck. On first impression, the Buddenbrooks seem to be the epitome of traditional German virtues. Yet, this is a story of love and betrayal, enmity and intrigues, desperate passion and burning hatred.

The Brothers Karamazov

Fyodor Dostoevsky
The most complicated and controversial of all Dostoevsky’s novels. Over the years, critics have described it as a detective story for intellectuals, an early example of post-modernism, or simply as the best book on the subject of the unfathomable Russian soul. First published in1880, the novel hasn’t lost its spiritual intensity to this day.

Wuthering Heights

Emily Brontë
Catherine loses her heart to her cousin, but pride and a thirst for wealth cause her to marry a well-to-do man. Yet, she doesn’t let go of her secret lover. The forbidden affair becomes a curse and a torture to both of them. A vivid and realistic tale that depicts life in rural England with all it’s prejudices, hidden vices, passions, prudishness and drama.

The American

Henry James
The story of a guileless and straightforward American millionaire who attempts to marry into a treacherous and contemptuous French aristocratic family. The book explores the differences between American and European mentalities, which leads to varying interpretations of things like chivalry and betrayal, moral freedom, and keeping within acceptable boundaries.

Preview photo credit John F. Kennedy Library