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Editorial Reviews


“Steinbeck is a poet. . . . Everything is real, everything perfect.” —Upton Sinclair, Common Sense

“I think, and with earnest and honest consideration . . . that The Grapes of Wrath is the greatest American novel I have ever read." Dorothy Parker

“It seems to me as great a book as has yet come out of America.” —Alexander Woollcott

About the Author

John Steinbeck, born in Salinas, California, in 1902, grew up in a fertile agricultural valley, about twenty-five miles from the Pacific Coast. Both the valley and the coast would serve as settings for some of his best fiction. In 1919 he went to Stanford University, where he intermittently enrolled in literature and writing courses until he left in 1925 without taking a degree. During the next five years he supported himself as a laborer and journalist in New York City, all the time working on his first novel, Cup of Gold (1929).
After marriage and a move to Pacific Grove, he published two California books, The Pastures of Heaven (1932) and To a God Unknown (1933), and worked on short stories later collected in The Long Valley (1938). Popular success and financial security came only with Tortilla Flat (1935), stories about Monterey’s paisanos. A ceaseless experimenter throughout his career, Steinbeck changed courses regularly. Three powerful novels of the late 1930s focused on the California laboring class: In Dubious Battle (1936), Of Mice and Men (1937), and the book considered by many his finest, The Grapes of Wrath (1939). The Grapes of Wrath won both the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize in 1939.
Early in the 1940s, Steinbeck became a filmmaker with The Forgotten Village (1941) and a serious student of marine biology with Sea of Cortez (1941). He devoted his services to the war, writing Bombs Away (1942) and the controversial play-novelette The Moon is Down (1942).Cannery Row (1945), The Wayward Bus (1948), another experimental drama, Burning Bright(1950), and The Log from the Sea of Cortez (1951) preceded publication of the monumental East of Eden (1952), an ambitious saga of the Salinas Valley and his own family’s history.
The last decades of his life were spent in New York City and Sag Harbor with his third wife, with whom he traveled widely. Later books include Sweet Thursday (1954), The Short Reign of Pippin IV: A Fabrication (1957), Once There Was a War (1958), The Winter of Our Discontent (1961),Travels with Charley in Search of America (1962), America and Americans (1966), and the posthumously published Journal of a Novel: The East of Eden Letters (1969), Viva Zapata!(1975), The Acts of King Arthur and His Noble Knights (1976), and Working Days: The Journals of The Grapes of Wrath (1989).
Steinbeck received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1962, and, in 1964, he was presented with the United States Medal of Freedom by President Lyndon B. Johnson. Steinbeck died in New York in 1968. Today, more than thirty years after his death, he remains one of America's greatest writers and cultural figures. 

Robert DeMott, editor, is the Edwin and Ruth Kennedy Distinguished Professor at Ohio State University and author of Steinbeck's Typewriter, an award-winning book of critical essays.


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics; Reissue edition (March 28, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0143039431
  • ISBN-13: 978-0143039433
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.9 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4,274 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,141 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Linda Linguvic HALL OF FAME on November 3, 2001
Format: School & Library Binding
John Steinbeck wrote this classic gem in 1937. It's been a Broadway play and there have been several adaptations of it in movies and TV. I was generally familiar with the story but this was the first time I actually read the book. Wow! I was completely blown away! This is the story of a two lonely and alienated men who work as farm laborers, drifting from job to job in California. Lennie is gentle giant, physically strong but mentally retarded. George guides and protects Lennie but also depends on him for companionship. Together, they have a dream to someday buy a little farm where they can grow crops and raise rabbits and live happily ever after. This, of course, is not to be as the title suggests. "The best laid plans of mice and men" is a line in a poem by Robert Burns, which describes how a field mouse's world is destroyed by a plow.
Steinbeck's narrative voice is seemingly simple in his descriptions of nature of as well as the details of the bunkhouse. His characterizations of the people are magnificent. We meet the other workers, all loners, and appreciate the beauty of the unique friendship between Lennie and George. We meet Candy, the old man who is outliving his usefulness. We meet Crooks, the black stable hand, shunned by the men and therefore turning to books for companionship. We meet the cruel Curley who taunts Lennie into a fight. And we meet Curley's wife, another lonely soul who uses her femininity to get the wrong kind of attention.
There's tension in every word and I found myself holding my breath, knowing that something awful would happen, my eyes glued to the page, the world of Lennie and George deeply etched into my consciousness. I was pulled right into the story, wanting to shout warnings as I saw the inevitable consequences.
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Format: Hardcover
I don't know how anyone could read this book and not give it a five star rating. The true test for me of a "great book" is one that stays with me -- one I can't stop thinking about long after I've finished. I read this book for the second time in my life a month ago (first time was in high school many years ago), and I'm still haunted by the suffering endured by the Joad family. The interesting thing is that Steinbeck wrote this book in 1939 at the height of the injustices being fraught upon the migrant workers in California. I'm sure it wasn't popular then as it brought to the forefront the corruption of some powerful people in America. It also spoke to the conscience of every American which eventually led to political reform in California. After reading this book, I did some research into Steinbeck's motivation and learned that he was haunted by the plight of California's migrant workers to the point of obsession. To fuel his anger, he would visit the migrant camps each day full of their dirt, disease and hungry people and then return home to write about those people responsible for these conditions -- people he considered to be murderers.
Steinbeck concentrated on the circumstances of one family, The Joads, tenant farmers in Oklahoma until they were forced out by the larger companies who wanted their land back. With dreams of luscious grapes and peaches in abundance waiting to be picked, they loaded up their belongings and began their journey on Route 66 headed for Bakersfield, California. They began their trip with a bevy of colorful characters led by Ma and Pa Joad. It's amazing how much power Steinbeck gave to Ma Joad -- years before women had any right to a voice. Unfortunately, just as the Joads were heading out, so were thousands upon thousands of other families.
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Format: Hardcover
I can't remember the last time I was moved so profoundly by a work of fiction. I finished the book two weeks ago and have not been able to stop talking or thinking about it. Read this book. It will truly change the way you view the world.

The book is beautifully written. Steinbeck's style flows so smoothly and is so accessible. The book follows the Joad family for about nine months as they are driven from the place they've called home for generations and travel to California, only to find out that it is not the land of opportunity they expected. Steinbeck's formula here is to intersperse the lengthy chapters chronicling the Joads' journey with short chapters that encapsulate some nuance about the period or the people, giving you a picture of the greater struggle taking place, of which the Joads are just a small part. It creates a very powerful effect. This migration west involved hundreds of thousands of individuals. You see in a few pages the big picture, then you are pulled back into the intimacies of the Joads' lives and the tragedy is made very personal. In one especially startling example, Steinbeck puts these words into the mouth of a character after selling a nameless migrant and his family some gas for their car, "Well, you and me got sense. Them goddamn Okies got no sense and no feeling. They ain't human. A human being wouldn't live like they do. A human being couldn't stand it to be so dirty and miserable. They ain't a hell of a lot better than gorillas." In the next chapter, the Joads make camp along a stream and Ma is so happy for the clean water and the chance to stay put for a day so that she can take a bath and wash the family's clothes.
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