Ideas for Books to Read Set in Key West, Florida

The Florida Keys and Key West have been the home of many great authors, and are a great place to relax – so what better to do than find some fun beach reads for the Florida Keys? Key West is an incredible literary town, with a rich tradition of some of the world’s most revered writers calling it home. Combine that with the island lifestyle “where the weird go pro,” Key West and the Florida Keys are the perfect place to grab a great book and enjoy!

Key West Beach Reads

Beach, pool, sail, repeat – what could be better? The best way to enjoy down time in Key West is to grab a great book that will suck you in. Whether you like thrillers, historical fiction, romance or a little bit of anything, you’ll find great beach read novels set in Key West. 

The Road to Key West

The Road to Key West is the perfect book to read with a pina colada in your hand and Buffet on. This fun book dives into Key West and the Caribbean of the 1970s, so it’s an incredibly fun beach read!

Florida Straits

Florida Straits is the very definition of a fun beach read. It’s a crime thriller, with hilarious people and a fast-paced plot. You’ll meet Miami crime lords alongside other characters, all interacting with Key West. Luckily, it’s the first in a series of 8, so you’ve got lots of fun reading ahead of you.

Key West

If you want more historical fiction than murder mystery, Key West is a good choice. You can follow the lives of four women as the figure out how to create lives living in Key West. This walks back through their difficulties and challenges, which make it a perfect book if you love deep characters.

The Last Train to Key West

What is more quintessentially Floridian than a hurricane? Dive into this novel that follows three different women, on three different life paths, all converging the same weekend a hurricane is coming to Key West in 1935. Be prepared for great Key West scene-setting of old Key West!

Hemingway Books to Read in Key West

Perhaps one of Key West’s most legendary residents, Ernest Hemingway’s legacy is still felt. Don’t forget to go see his six-toed cats, unique to his Key West home! Given his legendary status, some of the books you should read are fictionalized accounts of his time in Key West – but don’t forget to read some of his classic work as well!

Hemingway’s Girl

This work of fiction launches you into the world of Hemingway and Key West. The world is shown through a woman hired to be a servant in the household. If you want the kind of book where Key West is as much a character as any of the people, then Hemingway’s Girl is a great choice! It’s an easier read, so it’s a perfect beach/pool read to get the atmosphere without having to work too hard.

Mrs. Hemingway

Ernest Hemingway’s life manages to invite all sorts of speculation. With a man who lived as he did, it’s no wonder. Mrs. Hemingway dives into the stories of each of Hemingway’s four wives, illuminating how he lived – and how they lived in relation to him. If you enjoyed The Paris Wife, then you’ll likely love learning more about Hemingway’s other three wives in Mrs. Hemingway.

A Farewell to Arms

One of the most immortal classics by Hemingway himself, it’s said that A Farewell to Arms was written while he lived in Key West. This is one to appreciate the man himself, but do’t expect an easy read. This book will challenge you and give you an appreciation for Hemingway’s unique style.

Books By Authors Who Have Lived in Key West

Key West has attracted hundreds of writers, each attracted to its particular magic. These books are all written by people who lived in Key West for months or years.

The Mango Opera

More than Jimmy Buffet, Tom Corcoran is known for his Alex Rutledge mystery series. This is the first in the series, and it’s set in Key West. If you love mysteries and thrillers, and want to get a great feel for the island, The Mango Opera is a perfect read. As an added bonus, if you’re a quick reader there are a number of books in the series!

Jimmy Buffet: The Key West Years

Tom Corcoran met Jimmy Buffet while they both lived in Key West, and he even co-wrote a few songs with him. This book is heavy on pictures and stories from the times in Key West. If you’re into the Margaritaville life, and you love Buffet, this book is perfect. You’ll find many places mentioned that you can still visit today.

The Poetry of Robert Frost

Yes, he went to the woods to live more deliberately – but did you know Robert Frost also spent a few winters in Key West? If you’re looking to reconnect with his incredible poetry, then the Florida Keys are a perfect place to dive into it.

Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret

Judy Blume is another beloved children’s author who has made Key West home. If you’re bringing kids, or you just want to enjoy how wonderful her books are, then consider picking one up on your way to Key West!

Where the Sidewalk Ends

Not exactly what comes to mind when you think “beach read,” but did you know Shel Silverstein lived in Key West at times? If you’re looking for a fun way to re-connect with your childhood, don’t hesitate to grab this one.

Seas Outside the Reef

This novel features a love triangle, Cuban dissidents, crazy Florida weather and more. What else could you ask for? (A whore peddling pornographic poems? Glad you asked – that’s there too!) Rosalind Brackenbury has lived in Key West, and features the island in this story as well. If you’re getting ready for a trip to Key West, then this sets the stage well – or is a perfect read if you’re already there!

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