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9 Best John Steinbeck Books You Should Read This Year

Best John Steinbeck Books

Few writers have fought for the poor and oppressed with the same zeal and dedication as John Steinbeck.

Whether in his magnum opus, East of Eden; his multiple novels and novellas; or his wide range of nonfiction works, the author never failed to chronicle the misery of the poor, therefore transforming refined society’s image of what may have been simply a satire.

Over the course of his life, he drew a lot of flak for his views and his suspicion of official organizations, particularly the CIA. But none of this seemed to have an impact on his mood.

John Steinbeck is a writer that every man should be familiar with for these reasons. If you’re stuck on ideas, he’ll motivate you; if you’re bored, he’ll entice you to try something new.

Our collection of 9 Best John Steinbeck Books includes everything from his longest books to his most hard-boiled reporting and fanciful allegories.


Best John Steinbeck Books to Read

1. East of Eden (Penguin Twentieth Century Classics)

1. East of Eden (Penguin Twentieth Century Classics)

About the Book

“East of Eden (Penguin Twentieth-Century Classics)” written by John Steinbeck is a masterpiece of Biblical scope and the magnum opus of one of America’s most promising authors.

East of Eden was dubbed “the first book” by Nobel Laureate John Steinbeck in his journal, and it does have the primal power and simplicity of myth.

This expansive and often cruel novel, set in the farmland of California’s Salinas Valley, recounts the connected fates of two families the Trasks and the Hamiltons whose generations repeat the fall of Adam and Eve and the toxic rivalry of Cain and Abel.

East of Eden has remained vitally present in American society for nearly half a century, having been adapted for the 1955 film directed by Elia Kazan starring James Dean and read by thousands as the book that resurrected Oprah’s Book Club.

Book Review

A novel conceived on the greatest of scales. One of those times when a writer has set a lofty goal for himself and then summoned every ounce of energy, talent, earnestness, and passion he possessed.

Because the story is so personal, a reader might believe it was written specifically for her. It’s a narrative we need to hear, a story we already know, a story with which we can identify, as we can with all the stories passed down through the ages.

Steinbeck effortlessly entices you along with his words, deceiving you into overlooking the monumental task he has set before you. He teaches you the word “Timshel.”

The wonderful character development that spans the historical era and geographic region is one of the many brilliant aspects of this novel. It’s about the human condition, the search for good and evil, and the power to forge one’s own path.

Key Takeaways from the Book

East of Eden is a work in which Steinbeck created some of his most captivating characters and explored some of his most enduring themes: the mystery of identity, the inexplicability of love, and the murderous consequences of love’s absence.

About the Author

John Steinbeck (1902-1968), the recipient of the Nobel Prize in Literature, published Tortilla Flat, which became a great success in 1935. He went on to write almost twenty-five novels, including The Grapes of Wrath and Mice and Men, among others.

Book Details

You can purchase this book in Paperback, Kindle, Audiobook, and Hardcover versions.

  • Author: John Steinbeck
  • Pages: 691 (Paperback)
  • Category/Genre: Classic American Literature, Contemporary Literature & Fiction, Family Saga Fiction.

2. Tortilla Flat (Penguin Great Books of the 20th Century)

2. Tortilla Flat (Penguin Great Books of the 20th Century)

About the Book

Steinbeck is an artist, and he portrays these beloved thieves and adulterers’ stories with a delicate and poetic purity of heart and prose.

John Steinbeck erected a “Camelot” on a shabby hillside above the town of Monterey, California, based on the structure and motifs of the Arthurian tale, and populated it with a colorful band of knights.

Danny, whose house, like Arthur’s castle, becomes a gathering place for men seeking adventure, companionship, and a sense of belonging—men who strongly reject the corrupting tide of honest toil and civil rectitude—is at the center of the story.

Book Review

The story is distinctly ethnic, which may not appeal to all modern readers. It is, nevertheless, unquestionably a great novella and a “must-read.”

Steinbeck was the only writer who truly understood how people’s fortunes were intimately linked to their land. The familiar landscape of Monterrey county introduces us to a new cast of characters who are brought together by the seriousness of their origins.

It reveals the inner workings of folks we all too frequently dismiss as worthless scumbags. It’s Steinbeck at his most beautiful. Squatters are seen as parasites and takers, and this group of people has their own moral standards and sense of right and wrong.

Key Takeaways from the Book

As Nobel Laureate Steinbeck recounts their exploits, their various lovers, fantastic brawls, and Rabelaisian wine-drinking he paints a tale as enthralling and ultimately heartbreaking as the legendary Knights of the Round Table that inspired him.

About the Author

John Steinbeck (1902-1968), the recipient of the Nobel Prize in Literature, published Tortilla Flat, which became a great success in 1935. He went on to write almost twenty-five novels, including The Grapes of Wrath and Of Mice and Men, among others.

Book Details

This book is available in Paperback, Hardcover, Kindle, Audible versions.

  • Author: John Steinbeck
  • Pages: 174 (Paperback)
  • Category/Genre: Hispanic American Literature & Fiction, Classic American Literature, Small Town & Rural Fiction.

3. The Moon Is Down

3. The Moon Is Down

About the Book

When a small, peaceful town is occupied by enemy troops, it is confronted with evil imposed from without—and betrayal born within the tight-knit society.

Steinbeck explores the impact of invasion on both the captives and the conquerors in this powerful story set in Norway during World War II.

Steinbeck finds important, often uncomfortable truths about war—and human nature—as he digs into the emotions of the German commander and the Norwegian traitor, and illustrates the fierce patriotism of the Norwegian underground.

The Moon is Down was surreptitiously translated into French, Norwegian, Danish, Dutch, Swedish, German, Italian, and Russian, with hundreds of thousands of copies distributed across Europe during the occupation, making it the most popular piece of propaganda.

Book Review

Steinbeck presents a dreadful situation in a way that anybody can understand. It demonstrates the full complexity of losing one’s freedom.

This brief dramatic Occupation fable is as relevant today as it was in the 1940s. It piqued students’ interest and sparked a lively debate regarding the ethics of collaboration vs opposition.

This book demonstrates that Steinbeck was a true believer in freedom and liberty and that he took action to protect them.

It was wonderful propaganda for the allies, and it would have bolstered any resistance’s resolve. It conveys the notion that the occupation will never win.

Key Takeaways from the Book

“The Moon is Down” discusses why democracy is the ideal form of governance, what freedom is, and how much it can cost.

The book provided insight into a harrowing event, as well as hope and motivation for people to sacrifice their lives in the struggle against the occupation.

About the Author

John Steinbeck (1902-1968), the recipient of the Nobel Prize in Literature, published Tortilla Flat, which became a great success in 1935. He went on to write almost twenty-five novels, including The Grapes of Wrath and Of Mice and Men, among others.

Book Details

You can buy this book in Paperback, Library binding, Kindle, Audible versions.

  • Author: John Steinbeck
  • Pages: 112 (Paperback)
  • Category/Genre: Teen & Young Adult Classic Literature, Military Historical Fiction, Classic American Literature.

4. Sweet Thursday (Penguin Classics)

4. Sweet Thursday (Penguin Classics)

About the Book

Sweet Thursday is the day after Lousy Wednesday, which is one of those days that is simply naturally unpleasant in Monterey, on the California coast.

Returning to Cannery Row—weedy Monterey’s lots, junk heaps, and flophouses—John Steinbeck brings to life the denizens of a netherworld of laughter and tears, from Doc, based on Steinbeck’s lifelong friend Ed Ricketts, to Fauna.

Book Review

They tend to overlook the fact that he was quite hilarious and, now and then, could provide us with a novel that wasn’t completely depressing. This is a magnificent bit of writing, and Steinbeck was a master.

This is a sequel to Cannery Row, which is what makes it unique. To enjoy this book, you must also enjoy reading Steinbeck.

It has the same people as several of Steinbeck’s other Monterey-set novels, but it isn’t necessary to have read the others to enjoy it. As usual, Steinbeck’s character development is superb.

Key Takeaways from the Book

It’s messy, unwieldy, and distractingly constructed, but despite being a “mind candy” novella, it’s still interesting.

In this sequel to Cannery Row, Steinbeck weaves together the threads of human tenacity, humor, and cunning once more.

Honesty, kindness, and sincerity triumph, a basic character story with human spirit and emotions.

About the Author

John Steinbeck (1902-1968), the recipient of the Nobel Prize in Literature, published Tortilla Flat, which became a great success in 1935. He went on to write almost twenty-five novels, including The Grapes of Wrath and Of Mice and Men, among others.

Book Details

You can get this book in Paperback, Kindle, Hardcover, Audiobook formats.

  • Author: John Steinbeck
  • Pages: 249 (Paperback)
  • Category/Genre: 20th Century Historical Romance, Classic American Literature, Classic Literature & Fiction.

5. Travels with Charley in Search of America

5. Travels with Charley in Search of America 

About the Book

“Travels with Charley in Search of America” presented by John Steinbeck is about an intimate journey across America.

John Steinbeck’s aspirations as he set off, at the age of fifty-eight, to find the land he had been writing about for so many years were to hear the real America’s voice, smell the grass and trees, see the colors, and light.

Steinbeck travels the interstates and country roads with his French poodle Charley, dines with truckers, encounters bears in Yellowstone, and visits old acquaintances in San Francisco.

Along the trip, he ponders the American character, racial antagonism, a specific type of American loneliness that he encounters practically everywhere, and strangers’ surprise compassion.

Book Review

This book is witty and sensible. It includes insights that rival Twain’s and prose depictions that rival Hemingway’s.

This novel is pleasant, but it is not very poetically written. His journey and experiences are honest, lighthearted, and at times painful and difficult to read.

This book is a complete joy to read. Steinbeck comes out as smart, wry, and amusing, and as for Charley Dog, you would gladly adopt one if he could have been cloned!

It’s a short book, but it’s a deep read – the author doesn’t waste a single word, so it takes longer to read and digest than you may expect, and you’ll probably need to go back over it again to get the most out of it.

Key Takeaways from the Book

Steinbeck looked for normal folks in roadside diners and campgrounds, giving us a snapshot of the average American at the time. You’ll be surprised at how much has changed and how little has changed in the last 65 years.

About the Author

John Steinbeck (1902-1968), the recipient of the Nobel Prize in Literature, published Tortilla Flat, which became a great success in 1935. He went on to write almost twenty-five novels, including The Grapes of Wrath and Of Mice and Men, among others.

Book Details

You can obtain this book in Paperback, Kindle, Audiobook, School & Library binding versions.

  • Author: John Steinbeck
  • Pages: 277 (Paperback)
  • Category/Genre: Road Travel Reference, Football Biographies, Travelogues & Travel Essays.

6. Cannery Row (Classic, 20th-Century, Penguin)

6. Cannery Row (Classic, 20th-Century, Penguin) 

About the Book

Steinbeck’s gritty yet endearing depiction of people on the fringes of society who rely on one another for physical and emotional survival.

Cannery Row, first published in 1945, is about accepting life as it is: both the exuberance of community and the loneliness of the individual.

Steinbeck interweaves the stories of Doc, Dora, Mack, and his boys, Lee Chong, and the other characters, drawing on his memories of the real inhabitants of Monterey, California, including longtime friend Ed Ricketts, to create a novel.

Susan Shillinglaw explains in her introduction how the work expresses much that is distinctively Steinbeck, both in style and theme: scientific detachment, empathy toward the lonely and despondent, the horror of solitude and nothingness.

Book Review

You won’t like this book if you’re used to exhilarating, mile-a-minute accessibility. You’ll enjoy this book if you enjoy calm anarchy and tight, clean, half-ranting lyricism.

A vibrant and enlightening look at Monterey during Steinbeck’s time. The characters are well-developed, amusing, and evocative of the time period. Steinbeck takes the reader on a journey through brothels, canneries, merchant stores, and a doctor’s office.

By seeking to offer a more positive scenario, this book departs from most of John Steinbeck’s typical stories about persons in poverty.

If you’ve recently finished reading “The Grapes Of Wrath” and “Of Mice And Men,” this novel will be ideal for you. A community comes together to honor a local marine biologist.

Key Takeaways from the Book

It’s about a group of misguided men making do with what they have and being joyful rather than miserable. Helping each other, even if they don’t really understand each other.

About the Author

John Steinbeck (1902-1968), the recipient of the Nobel Prize in Literature, published Tortilla Flat, which became a great success in 1935. He went on to write almost twenty-five novels, including The Grapes of Wrath and Of Mice and Men, among others.

Book Details

This book can be obtained in Paperback, Kindle, Hardcover, Audiobook versions.

  • Author: John Steinbeck
  • Pages: 185 (Paperback)
  • Category/Genre: Humorous American Literature, Classic American Literature.

7. Of Mice and Men (Penguin Great Books of the 20th Century)

7. Of Mice and Men (Penguin Great Books of the 20th Century) 

About the Book

“Of Mice and Men (Penguin Great Books of the 20th Century) ” presented to you by John Steinbeck is a controversial story of friendship and tragedy during the great depression.

Steinbeck’s story of devotion, loneliness, hope, and loss has remained one of America’s most widely read and taught novels for over seventy-five years since its first publication.

George and Lennie, two migrant workers in California during the Great Depression, are an odd team who strive for the American Dream. They scrounge for work when they can, live on the edge of poverty.

Because George and Lennie have a plan: they want to acquire an acre of property and a shack of their own. When they obtain work on a ranch in the Salinas Valley, it appears like they will be able to realize their ambition.

Even George, however, cannot protect Lennie from the provocations, nor can he foresee the implications of Lennie’s unwavering adherence to George’s teachings.

Book Review

A brief story with a lot of strength and beauty. To the present tough-tender school of American fiction, Mr. Steinbeck has contributed a tiny masterpiece.

While the novel is full of wonderful friendships and the milk of human compassion, it also delves into the darkest elements of humanity, and the book’s brutal bigotry is particularly difficult to swallow.

Steinbeck writes with a raw realism that is wonderful, yet his candid portrayal of brutality in the world conveys the cruelty that we all know exists.

Overall, it’s an excellent book with helpful summary pages and questions that make it simple to grasp and utilize as a GCSE English Literature preparation tool.

Key Takeaways from the Book

Of Mice and Men is a form experiment, described by Steinbeck as “a kind of playable novel, written in novel form but so scened and staged that it can be played as is.”

About the Author

John Steinbeck (1902-1968), the recipient of the Nobel Prize in Literature, published Tortilla Flat, which became a great success in 1935. He went on to write almost twenty-five novels, including The Grapes of Wrath and Of Mice and Men, among others.

Book Details

This book can be bought in Paperback, Kindle, Audible, Hardcover forms.

  • Author: John Steinbeck
  • Pages: 105 (Paperback)
  • Category/Genre: Censorship & Politics, Teen & Young Adult Classic Literature, Classic American Literature.

8. The Winter of Our Discontent (Penguin Classics)

8. The Winter of Our Discontent (Penguin Classics)

About the Book

“The Winter of Our Discontent (Penguin Classics)” written by John Steinbeck is the final novel with a story of degeneration, corruption, and spiritual crisis.

The protagonist of Steinbeck’s final novel, Ethan Allen Hawley, works as a cashier at a grocery shop that his family used to run.

Ethan’s wife is restless now that he is no longer a member of Long Island’s aristocracy, and his teenage children yearn for the enticing material comforts he can no longer afford. Then, one day, in the midst of a moral crisis, Ethan decides to relax his own standards.

The novel, set in Steinbeck’s 1960 America, investigates the fine line between private and public honesty and is now considered one of his most famous works of profound insight into the American character.

Book Review

Although this is an old-fashioned morality tale, it contains far more fun than preaching, making it an incredible joy to read. When it was first released in 1961, the novel, which was Steinbeck’s final work of fiction, garnered mixed reviews from critics.

The Winter of Our Discontent is a bleak critique of the American Dream and the lengths to which people will go to achieve success.

This is a wonderful account of a nice, disappointed, and modest man’s slide into darkness as he achieves success but loses his soul in the process.

Key Takeaways from the Book

This is Steinbeck at his best. It is set in 1960s America and tells the story of a shop clerk whose family was formerly wealthy but has since lost their fortune. He plots and schemes to increase his money. Is his strategy going to work? Find out by reading the book!

About the Author

John Steinbeck (1902-1968), the recipient of the Nobel Prize in Literature, published Tortilla Flat, which became a great success in 1935. He went on to write almost twenty-five novels, including The Grapes of Wrath and Of Mice and Men, among others.

Book Details

This book can be purchased in Paperback, Kindle, Audiobook, and Hardcover versions.

  • Author: John Steinbeck
  • Pages: 336 (Paperback)
  • Category/Genre: Classic American Literature, Family Life Fiction.

9. The Grapes of Wrath

9. The Grapes of Wrath

About the Book

The Pulitzer Prize-winning Great Depression epic enthralled—and occasionally outraged—millions of readers. PBS’s The Great American Read named it one of America’s best-loved novels.

Steinbeck’s strong landmark novel is undoubtedly the most American of American Classics, serving as a realist epic, captivity tale, road fiction, and transcendental gospel all at once.

Book Review

Steinbeck values the uniqueness and complexity of each person’s life, as well as the strength to be drawn into becoming a part of something larger than oneself, first and foremost one’s family, and then humanity as a whole.

It makes you upset at how families and individuals have been crushed by capitalism’s “progress,” and it’s just as important today as it was then.

Key Takeaways from the Book

The novel portrays the horrors of the Great Depression and dives into the very nature of equality and justice in America.

It is a depiction of the fight between the powerful and the downtrodden, of one man’s fierce reaction to injustice and one woman’s stoical strength.

About the Author

John Steinbeck (1902-1968), the recipient of the Nobel Prize in Literature, published Tortilla Flat, which became a great success in 1935. He went on to write almost twenty-five novels, including The Grapes of Wrath and Of Mice and Men, among others.

Book Details

You can get this book in Paperback, Hardcover, Kindle, Audible versions.

  • Author: John Steinbeck
  • Pages: 464 (Paperback)
  • Category/Genre: Censorship & Politics, Teen & Young Adult Classic Literature, Classic American Literature.

Final Verdict

He will, regardless of where you begin, encourage compassion and the opening of one’s eyes for people who are often disregarded. Happy Reading!


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Chandan Negi

I’m the Founder of Internet Pillar. I love sharing quotes and sayings to inspire and motivate people - #quotes #internetpillar
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