Key West Reading List

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With its relative isolation and physical beauty, Key West has long been a refuge and an inspiration for writers. Not all the books on this list constitute high literature, but each is well worth reading.

The Key West Reader

Edited and with an introduction by George Murphy

The Key West Reader edited and with an introduction by George Murphy - Amazon

This indispensable volume presents writers’ takes on the island, including those of Ernest Hemingway, Tennessee Williams, Tom McGuane, James Merrill and Elizabeth Bishop. A Kindle edition is available from Amazon. Print copies can be tracked down on eBay.

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To Have and Have Not

By Ernest Hemingway

To Have and Have Not by Ernest Hemingway - Simon and Schuster

Hemingway lived on Key West for about 10 years, and it was a place he loved greatly. This novel, published in 1937, tells the story of Harry Morgan, a boat owner who, to survive economically, becomes tangled in illicit trading between Cuba and Florida. Hemingway’s descriptions of Key West are reportorial, and the story makes for dramatic reading.

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Key West Tales

By John Hersey

Key West Tales by John Hersey - Amazon

Best known for his reporting on the aftermath of the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima, Hersey is another writer who succumbed to Key West’s allure. Published after the author’s death, in 1993, these 15 short stories and sketches present a fascinating and varied look at life on the island.

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Gumbo Limbo

By Tom Corcoran

Gumbo Limbo by Tom Corcoran - Amazon

I picked up this volume a few years ago at the recommendation of the staff at Key West Island Books. This is the second of Corcoran’s Alex Rutledge mysteries, and it is full of Key West life.

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Bad Monkey

By Carl Hiaasen

Bad Monkey by Carl Hiaasen - Penguin Random House

Hiaasen’s long career with The Miami Herald began in 1976 as a general assignment reporter. He now writes a weekly column for the paper. His fiction career began in the 1980s, and his work displays deep knowledge of the state, as well as affection, skepticism and humor. Key West features in this engaging narrative about suspended detective Andrew Yancy, who thinks he can solve the murder of a Medicare fraudster and thereby regain his job.

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