A Year In Books

A Farewell To Arms

Sometimes, you just need an old favorite. Last week, I did, so I read A Farewell To Arms by Ernest Hemingway. It’s one of my absolute favorite reads and I usually re-read it about once a year. This year reading it held special meaning for me after reading Paris Without End a few weeks ago.

If you have never read A Farewell To Arms, you need to. It’s a classic for a reason. Full disclosure, I had a reputation in High School for being a bit of a Hemingway fanatic. So, you know, obviously I was one of the cool kids. I read everything Hemingway ever published- it was a bit of an obsession for me. I’m a sucker for stream of consciousness. True story. It all started with A Farewell To Arms though, it was my first, and still holds a very special place in my heart. Catherine Barkley is a bit crazy, which I absolutely fall in love with every time. I think she is one of Hemingway’s better written female characters (hmmm maybe that’s because he used first wife Hadley Richardson as the inspiration….). I’m entirely sympathetic to Catherine throughout the novel, although I don’t have that same consistent sympathy for Frederic Henry. There’s just something about Catherine Barkley, when she talks about her first love and how she became a nurse with vague notions of taking care of him after he suffered a heroic but not life-threatening injury during the war, I think how entirely human and sweet those imaginations were, and when she reveals he was blown to bits by a bomb, I think how entirely true and real that is. Catherine is a real person. And by that I mean, really well written.

I don’t entirely agree with Hemingway’s notion of two lovers becoming one another and being only one complete person when together but it certainly makes for lovely reading. The descriptions of WWI were powerful in that they never felt emotionally manipulative. The war is described frankly and without grandiose exclamations (which is interesting seeing as how Hemingway himself was quite prone to grandiose exclamations), it is the war as Hemingway experienced it and his way of viewing and discussing it would ultimately be part of an entire literary generations conception of it. It’s simple and beautifully written.

This is just one of my absolute favorite books ever. If I was forced to choose only 5 books to read for the rest of my life, this would be one of them.

What are you guys reading? What 5 books would you choose??

14 thoughts on “A Year In Books

  1. I knew one day this piece of family trivia of mine would come in handy…My mother had a polydactyl cat. We never knew the term polydactyl since the person we bought her from just said, “she’s a descendant of the Hemingway cats.” Anyway, my mother named her Muriel. Get it? After one of Hemingway’s daughters. We thought that was funny. And, it’s really fun to see these cats play with a ball, it’s like they have a mitt to catch things with.

  2. Too difficult to pick out 5, but i loved these above the normal delight of reading a good book.
    Free Fall William Golding ( I blogged about it a few months ago)

    THe Outsider Albert Camus

    The Yellow Wallpaper D Gilman

    American Pastorale Philip Roth

    George Orwell Essays

  3. Oooh, I’m a bit of a Hemingway nerd myself. I wrote a review of the latest posthumous book published, True at First Light. http://asalinguist.com/2011/02/23/review-true-at-first-light-by-ernest-hemingway/

    I think the only things I haven’t read yet is Green Hills of Africa and Across the River and into the Trees. I loved A Farewell to Arms but I think my list of 5 books would have to include A Moveable Feast. I just adore it.

    I can’t say the other 4 books at the moment because I just can’t decide. It might have to include War and Peace just so I can finally finish the damn thing! 😉

  4. hahaha, even before I read this, I was singing in my head, “GotC and Hemingway, sittin’ in a tree…or wait, was GotC and an old man, sittin’ in the sea?”

    I read all of Percy Jackson Book 3 yesterday, and am trying to decide if I dare pick up Book 4 today (since I’m old and can’t stay up late reading it)!

      1. Psst – The #1 reason I’m behind on reading blogs? I’m almost done with the series! The last book is in my purse right now, calling to me…

  5. I love Hemingway! Well, his writing. Farewell to Arms is great. Sun Also Rises has one of my favorite endings ever.

    “Oh, Jake. We could have been so happy together.”
    “Yes. Isn’t it nice to think so?”

    And currently I just finished Adam Levin’s “The Instructions,” and thousand-page behemoth about a kid who thinks he might be the messiah then leads violent revolt against his school. I need something very light and very fluffy next.

  6. I used to have a ton of books at hand, many of which I would read again and again. Then, for no particular reason, I gave them all away several years ago. I only keep a couple now, because they were signed by the authors. I have many reference/instructional type books of course, but I don’t count these. I still read a couple of books a week… but I just can’t seem to work up the desire to read a book again once I’ve read it once, no matter how much I enjoyed it the first time.

    Hemmingway trivia: He was given a polydactyl cat once by a seafaring friend. Polydactyl cats have a genetic mutation that causes them to have more toes than “normal” cats. He loved the cat so much that after his death his home became a museum and over 50 of the cat’s descendants live there. About half of the kitties are polydactyls.

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