The author of many great novels himself, Hemingway recommends the books he admires
“War and Peace” by Leo Tolstoy
– from an article on openculture.com
Tolstoy’s most famous work, with the exception of Anna Karenina, doesn’t leave out much in terms of themes or timeless concepts. The Petersburg party crowd is made up of privileged persons with deep psychological and family issues, while the Moscow families are beset with debt but in better emotional states. Readers who don’t shy away from political, philosophical, or religious topics of all kinds will be fascinated by Tolstoy’s grasp of Napoleonic historical forces mixed with changeable but fascinating human individuals caught up in forces much larger than themselves.
“Anna Karenina” by Leo Tolstoy
– Ernest Hemingway in Esquire magazine
Also mentioned in Vladimir Putin’s 5 Favorite Books
More humanly centered than his other well-known work, War and Peace, Tolstoy makes it clear that life is far too complicated for easy handouts of mercy or judgment. The novel begins with a case of family brokenness and adultery, and sympathy is geared mostly toward the malefactor. As the story unfolds, the dark sides of the likable siblings appear (Anna and Stiva), who are outwardly accepted by society in the face of moral betrayal. The contrast between Anna, who runs away with her lover Vronsky, and Lenin (who marries Vronsky’s former romantic interest), is especially worth reading. As one falls, the other rises, seeming to imply that following one’s heart is only as worthwhile as true morality is also followed.
“Madame Bovary” by Gustave Flaubert
The tale of Emma Bovary lies somewhere between a cautionary tale of Victorian anti-womanhood, Bohemian ideals, and a George Bernard Shaw warning against middle-class morality. Flaubert doesn’t trouble to make his female protagonist a relatable person; the focus lies more on an examination of a thoroughly self-centered woman who has an astonishing lack of judgment. The despair and affairs brought on by boredom, and the resulting financial misery accompanying mounds of debt, are a much more graphic portrayal than any Thomas Hardy novel, and Flaubert never forgave his countrymen for putting him on trial for violating public morals.
“Sketches from a Hunter’sAlbum” by Ivan Turgenev
Also mentioned in Vladimir Putin’s 5 Favorite Books
Those who love the Hunger Games series won’t be disappointed by this Russia classic. These 25 real-life observations of Turgenev include the human landscape, from peasants to mothers and doctors, in their struggle for existence and poetic depictions of sorrow. In the end, his insights of beauty and sorrow led to the hunter becoming hunted by the state, although rumor has it that these tales also led to the abolition of the serf classes’ misery.
“The Brothers Karamazov” byDostoevsky
Also recommended by Albert Einstein, Vladimir Putin, mentioned in 5 Good Books To Read According To Haruki Murakami
This is of the best allegorical novels to explain the fractured nature of 19th century Russia. Each character is representative of one of the ruling classes. There is the father Fyodor, the landowner who is negligent about his land, but greedy in using its produce for himself. There’s Dmitri, who has been passed around from house to house, and has grown up an entitled but debt-ridden soul. There’s the skeptic Ivan, who wishes to live more among cold concepts than people. Third is gentle Alyosha, the mystic and religious peacemaker, and the illegitimate Smerdyakov. Throughout are themes of love, law, and duty, which makes this one of the best Dostoyevsky books to read besides Crime and Punishment.
“Buddenbrooks” by Thomas Mann
A shallow similarity to The Forsyte Saga could be traced to Mann’s work of fiction; both depict multiple generations of a wealthy family experiencing a slow decline, and both families move through spiritual and mental instability though they are held together by cords stronger than death or weddings. However, these German traders show more humor and less of a dependence on art and music as saving graces. Mann received the 1929 Nobel Prize for his literary efforts.
“Far Away and Long Ago” by W.H.Hudson
Readers who long for bird sanctuaries and decry the desire for smokestacks in cities will resonate with Hudson’s lament over South America. Later on in life, the author became an ornithologist and became friends with fellow novelist Joseph Conrad, but this book is a reflection of his childhood memories of Argentina and the strong lure of unspoiled nature. Depictions of family life are few, and saved for the last chapters.
“Adventures of HuckleberryFinn” by Mark Twain
While Twain’s other classic (Tom Sawyer) is known for the chapter on the joys of fence-painting, Huck Finn is known for his friendship with an escaped slave and enmity with the Widow Douglas who adopts him. Being an enterprising and adventurous soul, Huck manufactures his own death to throw his drunken father off the scent of discovered treasure. While on the run down the Mississippi River, Huck discovers a different sort of life on boats that appeals to his love of change; the work also appealed to Ernest Hemingway and the American public, who ignored initial critical reviews.
“The Red and the Black” by Stendhal
This anti-society novel begins rather strangely, with a depiction of a carpenter’s son who believes himself duty-bound to create a love affair with the local mayor’s wife. After quite a few social gaffes and run-ins, Julien finally comes to the realization that he needs to drop the masks that plague his life and escape the desert of selfishness. However, he’s too late to escape the fate of the noose he’s placed around his own neck, despite the fact that he realizes his social ambitions before he dies.
“Dubliners” by James Joyce
Most readers know that Joyce experimented with form in his novels, but it’s no Ulysses, though Joyce kept to his classic themes of disaffection with social and spiritual forces beyond the invididual. The story of high schoolers Eveline and Jimmy, their hopes and dreams of the future, could help young adults to identify with the characters in this string of short stories. History students will be interested in the varying perspectives of 20th century Ireland, especially in «A Mother».