John Steinbeck's Books

A Chronological List of the 20th Century American Writer's Work

Picture of John Steinbeck

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John Steinbeck's books depict a realistic and tender image of his childhood and life spent in "Steinbeck Country," the region around the city of Monterrey, California. The world-renowned novelist, playwright, essayist, and short-story writer was born in Salinas, California, in 1902. Growing up in a rural town, he spent his summers working on local ranches which exposed him to the harsh lives of migrant workers. These experiences would provide much of the inspiration for some of his most celebrated works such as "Of Mice and Men."

John Steinbeck's Books

  • John Steinbeck (1902–1968) was an American novelist, playwright, essayist, and short-story writer.
  • His best-known work includes "Of Mice and Men" and "The Grapes of Wrath." 
  • He wrote a series of short stories set in his hometown of Monterrey, California, about the harsh lives of migrant workers there. 
  • He won the Pulitzer Prize for "Grapes of Wrath" in 1940, and the Nobel Prize in Literature for his body of work in 1962. 

Best Known Books

Steinbeck published 30 books, including several that were well-respected by both critics and the public. Among those are "Tortilla Flat," about a charming group of layabouts who live near Monterey; "The Grapes of Wrath" about a farming family fleeting the Dust Bowl of Oklahoma for California during the Great Depression; and "Of Mice and Men," a story of two itinerant ranch hands struggling to survive.

Many of Steinbeck's books centered around the difficulties experienced by Americans living in the Dust Bowl during the Great Depression. He also took inspiration for his writing from his time spent as a reporter. His work has stirred controversy and offered a unique view into what life was like for struggling low-income Americans.

John Steinbeck's Books

  • 1927: "Cup of Gold"—A historical fiction based loosely on the life of the 17th-century pirate Henry Morgan.
  • 1932: "The Pastures of Heaven"—Twelve interconnected stories about the people in a valley in Monterrey, California, a place which would become central in many of his later works.
  • 1933: "To a God Unknown"—Four brothers who move to California to work a ranch and struggle when a drought takes away all they have grown.
  • 1935: "Tortilla Flat"—A small band of Hispanic paisanos in Monterrey enjoy life in Monterrey (Steinbeck's first big success). 
  • 1936: "In Dubious Battle"—A labor activist struggles to organize fruit workers in California.
Lon Chaney, Jr. and Burgess Meredith in Of Mice and Men
Movie still from the 1939 Hal Roach production of Steinbeck's 'Of Mice and Men.' Here, George (Burgess Meredith) talks with his oafish friend, Lennie (Lon Chaney, Jr.). Corbis / Getty Images
  • 1937: "Of Mice and Men"—Two displaced migrants seek work in California during the Great Depression. The book was often a target of censorship for its vulgarity and offensive language.
  • 1937: "The Red Pony Stories"—Episodic novel appearing in magazines between 1933 and 1936, first published together in 1937, about a boy and his life on a California ranch.
  • 1938: "The Long Valley"—A collection of 12 short stories, written over several years and set in the Salinas Valley of California (includes the first Red Pony story). 
On the set of The Grapes of Wrath
L-R Dorris Bowden, Jane Darwell and Henry Fonda on the set of the film The Grapes of Wrath. Corbis / Getty Images
  • 1939: "The Grapes of Wrath"—A poor migrant family from Oklahoma and their struggles to find a place in California. Steinbeck's best-known novel and winner of the Pulitzer and other literary prizes.  
  • 1941: "The Forgotten Village"—A documentary film written by Steinbeck and narrated by Burgess Meredith, about a Mexican village grappling with modernization. 
  • 1942: "The Moon Is Down"—A story of a small coastal town in northern Europe which is overrun by an unnamed army (thought to be a fictionalization of the occupation of Norway by the Nazis in World War II). 
  • 1942: "Bombs Away: The Story of a Bomber Team"—A nonfiction account of Steinbeck's experiences with several World War II American Army Air bomber crews. 
  • 1945—"Cannery Row"—A story of a disastrous party thrown by the inhabitants of a small town in California for their friend Doc. 
  • 1947: "The Wayward Bus"—Interactions of a cross-section of people at a crossroads bus stop in California.
  • 1947: "The Pearl"—An immense pearl brings ill effects to an oyster fisherman's family. 
  • 1948: "A Russian Journal"—A report from Steinbeck on his travels through the Soviet Union during Joseph Stalin's rule. 
  • 1950: "Burning Bright"—A morality story meant to be produced as a play, during which an aging man goes to great lengths to have a child.
Mexico - Golfo de Santa Clara in Baja
A fishing boat moves on to a trailer pulled by a truck, in Golfo de Santa Clara, Baja California, in Mexico. Fishermen from this area fish in the Sea of Cortez which is the habitat of an endangered porpoise, La Vaquita. Corbis via Getty Images / Getty Images
  • 1951: "The Log from the Sea of Cortez"—Steinbeck's personal log of a six-week expedition in the Gulf of California he made with marine biologist Ed Ricketts. Written in 1941, published in 1951.
  • 1952: "East of Eden"—A novel about two Salinas valley families in the first two decades of the 20th century, based on the story of Steinbeck's own ancestors. 
  • 1954: "Sweet Thursday"—A revisit of the people in "Cannery Row," taking place after the main character Doc returns at the end of World War II.
  • 1957: "The Short Reign of Pippin IV: A Fabrication"—A political satire, exploring what might happen if an ordinary fellow was selected to be the King of France. 
  • 1958: "Once There Was A War"—A collection of articles written for the New York Herald Tribune while Steinbeck was a foreign correspondent during World War II.
  • 1961: "The Winter of Our Discontent"—The struggles of a Long Island man whose family has fallen from an aristocratic level to a middle-class existence. Steinbeck's last novel. 
  • 1962: "Travels with Charley: In Search of America"—A travelogue of Steinbeck's road trip across the U.S. in a hand-built camper with his dog Charley. 
  • 1966: "America and Americans"—A collection of articles from Steinbeck's career as a journalist. 
  • 1969: "Journal of a Novel: The East of Eden Letters"—A series of letters written by Steinbeck to his editor during the writing of East of Eden. Published posthumously (Steinbeck died in 1968). 
On the set of Viva Zapata!
Mexican-American actor Anthony Quinn, American actors Marlon Brando, Lou Gilbert and Harold Gordon on the set of Viva Zapata! directed by Greek-American Elia Kazan. Corbis / Getty Images
  • 1975: "Viva Zapata!"—A screenplay written by Steinbeck was used to produce this biographical film about the Mexican revolutionary Emiliano Zapata. 
  • 1976: "The Acts of King Arthur and His Noble Knights"—An adaptation of the legend of King Arthur, started in 1956, and unfinished at his death. 
  • 1989: "Working Days: The Journals of The Grapes of Wrath"—Edited and annotated version of Steinbeck's personal journal written while he was working on "The Grapes of Wrath."

Prizes for Literature 

Steinbeck won the Pulitzer Prize in 1940 for "The Grapes of Wrath," and a Nobel Prize for Literature in 1962, an award he did not think he deserved. The author was not alone in that thought; many literary critics were also unhappy with the decision. In 2013, the Nobel Prize committee revealed that the author had been a "compromise choice," chosen from a "bad lot" where none of the authors stood out. Many believed that Steinbeck's best work was already behind him by the time he was chosen for the award; others believed that the criticism of his win was politically motivated. The author's anti-capitalist slant to his stories made him unpopular with many. In spite of this, he is still considered one of America's greatest writers and his books are regularly taught in American and British schools.