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History of Books and Writing
John Steinbeck

John Steinbeck
Reading Level
     edHelper's suggested reading level:   grades 9 to 12
     Flesch-Kincaid grade level:   8.65

     challenging words:    desperation, gifted, letter-writer, simple-minded, well-researched, austere, upheaval, codeine, greenery, infernal, twentieth-century, recognition, astute, picker, portrayal, sympathetic
     content words:    John Steinbeck, John Steinbeck Day, Pacific Ocean, Paradise Lost, Le Morte, Stanford University, New York, Carol Henning, Pacific Grove, Tortilla Flat

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John Steinbeck
By Colleen Messina

1     Not many authors have their own holiday, but John Steinbeck is one of the lucky ones. February 27 is John Steinbeck Day in California! Not surprisingly, the prize-winning author was born in Salinas, California on February 27, 1902. John enjoyed the Pacific Ocean, and much of his later fiction was set in his home state. His mother loved books and instilled a love of the classics in her son. John loved Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment, as well as Milton's Paradise Lost and Le Morte d' Arthur.
2     Steinbeck worked on farms and ranches during his school vacations, and these experiences served him well when he later wrote about migrant workers. He graduated from high school in 1919 and attended Stanford University. He studied marine biology and English but never received a degree, saying that he had always planned to be a writer. He wrote short stories and poems for university publications. In 1925, he left the university to pursue his writing career in New York.
3     Steinbeck did not do well in New York. Perhaps he missed the milder climate, lush greenery, and ocean beaches of his childhood. He returned to California, and he kept on writing. He also did odd jobs to support himself. He worked as a painter, a surveyor, and even a fruit picker. Steinbeck published several novels, but his work received very little attention. He married Carol Henning in 1930, and when they moved to Pacific Grove, it provided inspiration for his first literary success.
4     Steinbeck then had a breakthrough. He wrote a story called Tortilla Flat in 1935, which won the California Commonwealth Club's Gold Medal for the best novel by a California author. This humorous novel tells the story of some fun-loving Mexican-Americans. It is written in a vivid, descriptive style, and one of its main themes is cultural conflict. His success improved his financial life tremendously. Instead of just earning $35 a week, he was now paid thousands of dollars for the film rights to Tortilla Flat.
5     Steinbeck then had another great success when he wrote Of Mice and Men in 1937. This tragic story hit a chord during the Great Depression. Many people were struggling, and this novel was about hard work and broken dreams. Two friends wanted to own a farm. Lenny was a gentle, simple-minded giant who is so big and strong that his other friend, George, has to watch out for him. However, their plans go horribly wrong, and the book ends in tragedy.

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