If you’ve been reading our blog for any length of time, you know we’re big fans of John Steinbeck. Steinbeck, through his writing, made his way into American homes and schools over the course of the 20th century. That trend has continued to present day with many of his books counted as classics and placed on required reading lists from California to Maine. Steinbeck earned the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1962 "for his realistic and imaginative writings, combining as they do sympathetic humour and keen social perception." In many a blog post, we’ve noted some of our favorite facts about Steinbeck’s life, best ways to collect the literary giant, and perhaps some lesser known (or considered) details of his career and legacy. In honor of his birthday today, we’ve rounded up some of our favorite John Steinbeck articles from across the blog. Enjoy!
Legendary author John Steinbeck was a literary mastermind. He wrote prolifically throughout the 20th century, and his work and the themes he presents still resonate today. Of Mice and Men, his 1937 novella, does what all brilliant pieces of literature are wont to do. It gives us characters and situations that make us think and feel deeply. As such, the work has been subject to both high praise and a substantial amount of criticism. But it’s safe to say that Of Mice and Men will continue to be widely read, discussed, and appreciated. For a Steinbeck collector, it’s a must-have. Here, we’ve compiled several interesting editions and options for those looking to add Of Mice and Men to their shelves.
For those looking to really delve into collecting Steinbeck, we’d highly recommend the Tetsumaro Hayashi bibliography or the Goldstone & Payne bibliography, which we used as reference for what follows. Read more >>
On May 28, 1935, the world saw the release of Tortilla Flat. It would become John Steinbeck’s first truly successful book, heralding the arrival of a truly distinguished American voice. Steinbeck later went on to write more ambitious novels like East of Eden and The Grapes of Wrath, ultimately leading the author to a Nobel Prize in Literature. But before all that pomp and regard, there was a slim, comic novel about jolly laborers passing time in California.
By what you were assigned in school, you might not have thought the works of John Steinbeck to be very funny. There isn’t much to laugh about, after all, in the morbid ending of Of Mice and Men or the Depression travails of the Joads. Yet humor was an important part of Steinbeck’s reputation. In 1962, when the Nobel committee recognized the author for his entire career, they were sure to give mention to the writer's "sympathetic humor." Read more >>
John Steinbeck has become a central figure in the American literary canon. A winner of the National Book Award, Pulitzer Prize, and Nobel Prize, Steinbeck certainly has the accolades to justify that position. But Steinbeck's detractors--including members of the Swedish Academy--doubted the legendary author's merits, and Steinbeck himself didn't believe he was worthy of the Nobel. Read more >>
In 1940, John Steinbeck undertook a fishing boat journey around the Gulf of California to collect marine specimens. That, in itself, is not so unusual. Afterall, Vladimir Nabokov worked as a lepidopterist and has several species of butterfly named after him. Indeed, many authors have dabbled in science. Somewhat more unusual, however, is that the journey led to a published collaboration between Steinbeck and famed marine biologist, Ed Ricketts.
The book in question, 1941’s Sea of Cortez: A Leisurely Journal of Travel and Research, was a mix of marine taxonomies, ship logs, and Ricketts’ journal entries. These were imbued with some of Steinbeck’s most reliable themes, from the interconnectedness of all organisms to the tenuous nature of "home." Read more >>
There were only two authors whose work I encountered in each year of high school: Shakespeare and John Steinbeck. His novellas like The Pearl and Of Mice and Men, his novels The Grapes of Wrath and East of Eden, even his inspiring Nobel address, informed my burgeoning understanding of what an American writer sought to accomplish and examine. Steinbeck turned his attention and sympathy toward that majority of people—those who toil, who care for their family, who seek joy and exaltation in however rare supply those delights may be. His style, mixing the merits of both American plainspokenness and figurative language, comforts me whenever I need to pull something off the shelf. Read more >>