When I found out we were moving to Monterey, I made a goal to read all of John Steinbeck's novels in anticipation of visiting the National Steinbeck Center in Salinas, the town where he was born and raised. I didn't read all of them, but I did read a few key novels and doesn't that count for something? Please say yes, because I need something to show for this past year as far as reading goals and resolutions are concerned.
The novels I read in order of favorites:
East of Eden: technically I already read this a few years ago but it's still my favorite Steinbeck novel. Even he considers it his masterpiece. It takes place in Salinas and Steinbeck spends a good chunk of time describing the beauty of the Salinas Valley, and I'll tell you what--when I drive around the farmlands ours there I realize just how good of a writer he is because his words come alive.
The Grapes of Wrath:
There's a reason this novel is what everyone else considers as his masterpiece. This novel sparked outrage at the time it was published because it makes Californians look like complete a-holes regarding how they treated all the migrants from the mid west during the Dust Bowl.
Cannery Row: not like his other novels but still fun because it all takes place in Monterey and it was pretty cool reading his writing about places I know now from living in Monterey.
The Winter of our Discontent:
Doesn't take place in Monterey but it brought up interesting themes.
Takes place in Monterey--kind of a weird read, honestly!
So now that I'm looking at it, I really didn't read as many as I'd like, so this is carrying over into this year. But, I did get to visit the Steinbeck Center when my friend Lindsay visited, and it was something I had been looking forward to since high school, after I had read East of Eden for the first time for Oprah's book club and she held her show on the lawn of his house. I'm such a dork.
My little pregnant belly. Seems like so long ago.
The main theme of East of Eden: "thou mayest." Meaning you always have freedom of choice. So beautiful.
Now the house he grew up in is open to the public as a cute restaurant where you can eat. It was such a treat! I loved every second.
So anyway, I look forward to reading more and visiting the Center again. Does anyone reading this actually like Steinbeck? I hope so. I am kind of a fangirl. I even tracked down the house he lived in in Pacific Grove (also near Monterey) and it's just a regular house. I wonder if the people living in it now know that they live where Steinbeck did some of his major writing. Lucky!