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10 Books to Add to Your Key West Reading List

Posted on: March 30th , 2023 | History
10 Books to Add to Your Key West Reading List

Planning a trip to Key West? Add these books to your list, from historical fiction pieces set in Key West to stories written by resident authors. Here are some books to sink into this spring and summer.

1. To Have and Have Not by Ernest Hemingway

2. One Arm and Other Stories by Tennessee WIlliams

3. Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. by Judy Blume

4. Different Dances by Shel Silverstein

5. Key West: History of an Island of Dreams by Maureen Ogle

6. The Woman at the Light by Joanna Brady

7. Full of Beans by Jennifer L. Holm

8 The Cuban Affair by Nelson DeMille 

9. Razor Girl by Carl Hiassen

10. The Last Train to Key West by Chanel Cleeton


1. 'To Have and Have Not' by Ernest Hemingway (Classic Literature, 1937)

If you're new to Hemingway and Key West, this is a good place to start. The subtle, gripping book takes place in the 1930s. It's about a humble boat captain who finds himself forced into smuggling between Key West and Cuba as a means to keep his family fed. His work shows him another side of reality teeming with wealthy yachtsmen - and leads him to an unusual love affair. 176 pages

2. 'One Arm & Other Stories' by Tennessee Williams (Short Stories / Fiction, 1948)

The famous dramatist who called Key West home for 34 years is known for A Streetcar Named Desire, and The Glass Menagerie, but you'll really get to know Tennessee Williams if you read One Arm & Other Stories. The short volume of fiction covers various themes that revolve around the human condition. 220 pages

3. 'Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret.' by Judy Blume (Coming of Age / Fiction, 1970)

This middle-grade novel takes place in suburban New Jersey, but it’s written by Key West’s Judy Blume so we added it to the list. This Time's 'Best YA Book of All Time' is now a major motion picture, set to premiere in April. In fact, Judy Blume and the film’s stars Rachel McAdams, Abby Ryder Fortson, and more just attended a special screening at Key West’s iconic Tropic Cinema! 192 pages

4. 'Different Dances' by Shel Silverstein (Adult Illustrations, 1979)

Different Dances by beloved author Shel Silverstein delivers a deep, earnest look at the social absurdities of the adult world through insightful illustration. This one deserves a spot on every book-lovers' shelf. We included it on our list because the late author lived in Key West with his wife until his death in 1999. 250 pages

5. 'Key West: History of an Island of Dreams' by Maureen Ogle (History / Non-fiction, 2016)

Truth is definitely stranger than fiction in this illustrated account of Key West history. Maureen Ogle takes us through Parrotheads, Hemingway aficionados, sun worshipers, pirates, rum runners, and more, as she weaves together the interesting history of our tropical paradise. 288 pages

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6. 'The Woman at the Light' by Joanna Brady (Historical Fiction, 2012)

The Woman at the Light is historical fiction inspired by Barbara Mabrity, Key West's lighthouse keeper for 40+ years. It will fill you in on the island's colorful history with a strong character at its center. 352 pages

7. 'Full of Beans' by Jennifer L. Holm (Children’s, 2016)

Winner of the Scott O'Dell Award, this coming-of-age book is geared toward young adults, but it's super entertaining for older adults too. It's a story of historical fiction about young Key West locals (known as Conchs) growing up in Key West during the Great Depression. 224 pages

8. 'The Cuban Affair' by Nelson DeMille (Crime Thriller, 2016)

New York Times bestselling author Nelson Demille captures the gritty side of Key West in The Cuban Affair. It’s about a charter boat captain about to set sail on the cruise of a lifetime (not in a  good way). From hotshot Miami lawyers to Castro, Cuba, fishing tournaments, and more, the novel captures the thrill of the Florida Straits. Key West’s historic Green Parrot Bar even makes an appearance! 448 pages

9. 'Razor Girl' by Carl Hiaasen (Mystery / Humor / Fiction, 2017)

This fast-paced, darkly humorous bestseller is set in Key West. It's about a con woman and a disgraced detective team in search of a redneck reality TV star. Raucous and razor-sharp, this novel is another gem by Carl Hiaasen, known as the "Sunshine state satirist." 400 pages

10. 'The Last Train to Key West' by Chanel Cleeton (Historical Fiction, 2020)

This instant New York Times bestseller was one of the most anticipated books of summer in 2020. In The Last Train to Key West, it’s 1935, and three women’s lives have become intertwined after traveling to Key West under very different circumstances. As a powerful hurricane barrels towards the Keys, the women’s lives become forever changed. 320 pages



Bibliophiles, rejoice! Find your poolside post at 24 North Hotel after checking out a book from our Underwater Library. Relax by (or in!) the pool with your selection. No more shriveled pages or running ink - our books can be splashed on or even taken under.

Check out our best rates at 24 North Hotel. We have excellent dining options and an on-site Starbucks, shuttle service to Old Town, and our pool area is one of the best on the island. See our special offers, including special rates for Florida residents.

Stay up to date with our events calendar for the best in entertainment, including our brand new Pet Yoga and Paint & Sip series, held monthly.



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