Ernest Hemingway’s Reading List for an Aspiring Writer

Image: Ernest Hemingway via Ida Woodward Barron Collection. Courtesy of Florida Keys Public Libraries,Flickr.

By Florida Verve Staff

In the spring of 1934, an aspiring writer named Arnold Samuelson left the cold of Minnesota for Key West to meet his literary hero — Ernest Hemingway.  After a 2,000-plus mile journey,  which included hitchhiking, train-hopping, and a couple nights in a mosquito-plagued jail, he did just that. In fact, not only did Samuelson meet Hemingway, he became the author’s literary protege and deckhand aboard “Pilar” (Hemingway’s famous boat). The arrangement, however, was short-lived (lasting about a year) — and Samuelson, on his own accord, left Key West for the mainland.

The rest of Samuelson’s life was defined by his odd behavior, which he carried out in his adopted hometown of Robert Lee, Texas. Without a doubt, Samuelson’s best days were in Key West.

From Arnold Samuelson’s With Hemingway: A year in Key West and Cuba:

[Hemingway] left me with that…marvelous feeling you can have only once in a lifetime if you are a young man who wants to become a writer and you have just met the man you admire as the greatest writer alive and you know instinctively he is already your friend.

Hemingway also left Samuelson with one of the greatest all-time reading lists:

“The Blue Hotel” by Stephen Crane

“The Open Boat” by Stephen Crane

Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert

Dubliners by James Joyce

The Red and the Black by Stendhal

Of Human Bondage by Somerset Maugham

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy

Buddenbrooks by Thomas Mann

Hail and Farewell by George Moore

The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

The Oxford Book of English Verse

The Enormous Room by E.E. Cummings

Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

Far Away and Long Ago by W.H. Hudson

The American by Henry James


Sources: Open Culture, Hemingway’s Boat: Everything He Loved in Life, and Lost, 1934-1961, by Paul Hendrickson; With Hemingway: A Year in Key West and Cuba, by Arnold Samuelson

Note: This Florida Verve blog post was first published in October 2013.