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9 Must-Read John Steinbeck Books: Where to Start

We recommend starting with one of these nine excellent books.

Last Updated on April 19, 2024 by BiblioLifestyle

Must-Read Books by John Steinbeck Where to Start Reading

John Steinbeck is one of the most influential writers in American history.  His works have been adapted for stage, film, and television countless times since his first novel was published in 1929.  He has won both the Pulitzer Prize and Nobel Prize for Literature and the National Book Award, further solidifying him as a literary icon of the twentieth century.  So if you’re interested in reading John Steinbeck, these nine John Steinbeck books are a great place to start!

About John Steinbeck

But first, who is John Steinbeck?

John Steinbeck was an iconic American author of the 20th century. He was born in Salinas, California, on February 27th, 1902. He attended Stanford University but he did not take a degree, after which he worked various odd jobs while he began to write. His time working as a laborer definitely lent insight to and gave authenticity to the workers her wrote about in his books.  Steinbeck’s first book, Cup of Gold, was published in 1929.  Steinbeck then went on to write many more books and, in 1962, won the Nobel Prize for Literature.

What was John Steinbeck’s writing most famous for?

John Steinbeck’s writing was most famous for its poetic descriptions of the hardships endured by ordinary people during the Great Depression.  He wrote about the trials and tribulations of migrants, factory workers, and small farmers, depicting their struggles with heartbreaking detail and realism.

About John Steinbeck Books

What is widely considered Steinbecks best book?

Steinbeck’s best book is widely considered to be The Grapes of Wrath (Amazon or Bookshop.)  It is an epic story that follows a family and their struggles as they travel from Oklahoma to California during the Great Depression.  This book highlights many of Steinbeck’s familiar themes, such as human struggle, morality, and social injustice.

What John Steinbeck book should beginners read?

If you are new to reading books by John Steinbeck, a great place to start is his classic novel Of Mice and Men (Amazon or Bookshop.)  This novella follows the story of two migrant workers—George and Lennie—as they search for their own piece of the American Dream during The Great Depression.  It’s easy to read, although it packs a punch with its tragic ending.

Another great starting point if you are a beginner to Steinbeck’s work is The Pearl (Amazon or Bookshop.)  This novella tells the story of a poor pearl diver living in La Paz and his attempt to secure an improved future for his son.  It is full of vivid imagery and complex characters, making it an excellent place to start exploring Steinbeck’s writing.

Book List - Must-Read Books by John Steinbeck

9 Must-Read John Steinbeck Books

For readers looking to explore John Steinbeck’s works, here is a list of must-read books:

  • Of Mice and Men
  • The Grapes of Wrath
  • East of Eden
  • Cannery Row
  • Travels with Charley in Search of America
  • The Winter of Our Discontent
  • The Pearl
  • In Dubious Battle
  • The Log from the Sea of Cortez
Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

Of Mice and Men is an iconic novella by John Steinbeck, first published in 1937. The novel follows two friends, George and Lennie, as they travel from one job to another during the Great Depression era in California. It is a powerful story of loneliness and friendship, with themes of powerlessness, sacrifice, and fate.

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The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck

The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck

The Grapes of Wrath is a Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by John Steinbeck, published in 1939. The novel follows the Joad family as they make their way from Oklahoma to California during the Great Depression. The novel sheds light on the struggles of migrant workers and how they were treated by landowners, as well as the underlying themes of poverty, family, and hope.

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East of Eden by John Steinbeck

East of Eden by John Steinbeck

East of Eden is a novel by John Steinbeck, published in 1952. It is a reimagining of the biblical story of Cain and Abel, set in Salinas Valley in California. The novel follows two generations of families as they confront questions of good and evil, and explores themes of fate, free will, and morality.

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Cannery Row by John Steinbeck

Cannery Row by John Steinbeck

Cannery Row is a novel by John Steinbeck, published in 1945. Set during the Great Depression era in Monterey, California, the novel follows a group of down-and-out individuals as they find solace and friendship in each other. It explores themes of poverty, resilience, and friendship.

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Travels with Charley - In Search of America by John Steinbeck

Travels with Charley in Search of America by John Steinbeck

Travels with Charley in Search of America is a travelogue by John Steinbeck, published in 1962. The non-fiction book follows the author as he embarks on a road trip across the United States, accompanied by his French poodle Charley. It is an exploration of America’s changing landscape and culture.

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The Winter of Our Discontent by John Steinbeck

The Winter of Our Discontent by John Steinbeck

The Winter of Our Discontent is a novel by John Steinbeck, published in 1961. The novel follows an ethical man as he struggles to make ends meet and comes to the realization that success can only be achieved through dishonesty. It explores themes of morality, ambition, and greed.

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The Pearl by John Steinbeck

The Pearl by John Steinbeck

The Pearl is a novella by John Steinbeck, published in 1947. The story follows Kino, a poor fisherman who discovers an immense pearl which he believes will help him make his fortune. But the discovery brings more suffering and tragedy than joy for Kino and his family. It is a haunting parable about the consequences of greed and ambition.

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In Dubious Battle by John Steinbeck

In Dubious Battle by John Steinbeck

In Dubious Battle is a novel by John Steinbeck, published in 1936. The novel follows an apple picker’s strike in California as it turns into a battle between the striking workers and their oppressive employers. It explores themes of labor unions, justice, and class differences.

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The Log from the Sea of Cortez by John Steinbeck

The Log from the Sea of Cortez by John Steinbeck

The Log from the Sea of Cortez is a non-fiction book by John Steinbeck, published in 1951. The book chronicles Steinbeck’s six-week marine biology expedition into the Gulf of California with his friend and colleague Ed Ricketts. It is an exploration of life on the sea and its creatures, as well as a reflection on life, love, and friendship.

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What do you think about these John Steinbeck books?

Have you read any John Steinbeck books?  Are any of these books or his other works on your TBR?   What John Steinbeck books are your favorite?  What John Steinbeck books would you add to this list?  Let us talk about it in the comments below.

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Book List - Must-Read Books by John Steinbeck

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