Discover the best books by John Steinbeck, a Nobel Prize-winning American author, to satisfy your literature cravings.

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Best books by John Steinbeck

John Steinbeck is regarded as one of the most influential writers of the 20th century, renowned for his vivid portrayals of life during the Great Depression and Oklahoma Dust Bowl era. His works offer a unique insight into the struggles of those affected by these tumultuous periods in American history. His novels are considered masterpieces that explore themes such as poverty, racism, marginalization, and justice.

But who exactly is John Steinbeck?

This article will look deeper into one of America’s greatest writers and reviews his notable works.

From The Grapes of Wrath to The Red Pony, we’ll explore why Steinbeck’s works are so relevant today.

A short biography of John Steinbeck

John Steinbeck was an American author most well-known for his novels and short stories set in Salinas Valley, California. These include The Grapes of Wrath, In Dubious Battle, Of Mice and Men, Cannery Row, East of Eden, and The Pearl. Other notable works include Burning Bright, The Red Pony, To a God Unknown, and The Pastures of Heaven. He also wrote numerous movie scripts, such as The Wayward Bus (1947) and Viva Zapata! (1952).

Steinbeck was born on February 27, 1902, in Salinas, California, to a family of German-Irish descent. His father, John Ernst Steinbeck, was also an American writer, and his mother, Olive Hamilton, was a schoolteacher. He attended Salinas High School in 1919 and later enrolled at Stanford University. However, he left before completing his degree program and went to New York City to start his career as a writer.

Steinbeck married three times in his life. He met his first wife, Carol Henning, in Lake Tahoe in 1929 and married her one year later in Los Angeles, California. He married his second wife, Gwyndolyn Conger, in 1941 and then Elaine Scott Anderson in 1950. Steinbeck’s marriage to Carol Henning produced two sons, Thomas and John Jr., but the couple divorced in 1941. John Steinbeck also had a daughter with Gwyndolyn Conger named Waverly Scott Steinbeck.

During his life, he wrote more than 30 books and often worked as a manual laborer to support his expenses. Steinbeck also worked as a reporter for the San Francisco News and as a war correspondent in Europe during World War II.

From the start of his writing career, Steinbeck earned various awards. He won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1940 for The Grapes of Wrath and the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1962 for his various works focusing on social issues. He also received honorary degrees from institutions of higher learning such as Harvard University and Oxford University.

In addition to these awards, Steinbeck earned three Hollywood Academy Award nominations. He received honorific medals from multiple countries, including Mexico’s Order of the Aztec Eagle (1964) and Italy’s Ordine della Corona di Ferro (1963).

While researching material for some of his books, Steinbeck took jobs as a migrant worker alongside Mexican farm workers. One particular episode saw him working on a chicken ranch near Soledad, California. This experience provided him with much-needed insight into the lives of migrant workers, which he used when writing about them in Of Mice and Men (1937) and The Grapes of Wrath (1939).

Although most of John’s works were inspired by his life as a casual laborer, Ed Ricketts, a marine biologist, played a significant role. Ed taught John a lot about marine life, culminating in several books, including one about sea life called The Log from the Sea of Cortez (1941).

Steinbeck wrote his final book – The Winter of Our Discontent – in 1961, just a year before he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature.

John Steinbeck’s influence has been felt around the globe for many years since the publication of his first novel, Tortilla Flat (humorous short stories about life in Paisanos, Monterey). While critics have debated whether some of his work falls into the category of “great 20th-century literature,” there can be no doubt about the lasting legacy the American writer has left behind.

The author’s notable works

Of Mice and Men

In this powerful novella set during the Great Depression, John Steinbeck creates a vivid portrait of men struggling against unfavorable odds. At its heart are George Milton and Lennie Small, two displaced migrant workers trying to survive on their terms in an unforgiving world.

Despite their differences, they form an unbreakable bond that is tested by life’s unpredictability. Through these two characters, Steinbeck crafts a tale full of pathos that raises questions about power dynamics, loyalty, compassion, and justice.

The Grapes of Wrath

This Pulitzer Prize-winning novel shows how economic hardship affected ordinary people’s lives during America’s Dust Bowl era. It follows the Joad family as they travel across Oklahoma in search of a better life in California after being evicted from their home farm due to drought and bank foreclosures. The story captures the harsh realities faced by many Americans during this difficult period through their resilience and strength in times of great difficulty.

East of Eden

This timeless classic tells the story of two families in a small town in California. Steinbeck masterfully explores themes of identity, morality, and the consequences of choices. Through multiple characters’ perspectives, he weaves together an epic journey from the beginning to the end of time that examines the complexity of human nature and our relationship with God.

The novel also contains striking imagery that transports readers to a world far from their own experiences.

Honorable mentions

  • Travels with Charley: in Search of America (1962)

  • The Long Valley (1938)

  • The Moon is Down (1942

  • Sweet Thursday (1954)

  • Cup of Gold (1929)

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What was John Steinbeck’s cause of death?

John Steinbeck died of heart failure.

What is John Steinbeck’s best-selling novel?

The Grapes of Wrath is John Steinbeck’s best-selling novel.

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