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75 Books You Should Read During 2023

Part of a reading campaign for 2023

American Literature - Fiction and Drama

To Kill A Mockingbird - Harper Lee


Harper Lee is the Pulitzer Prize winning author of the brilliantly written To Kill a Mocking Bird. The book instantly became a best seller internationally and was also adapted into an Academy Award winning movie in 1962. Although Harper’s contribution to literature has been limited to one novel only, she has achieved what many writers can only wish for even after authoring volumes.

Nelle Harper Lee was born on April 28, 1926 in Monroeville, Alabama. Lee’s father was a lawyer and member of the Alabama State Legislature. Her mother was mentally unwell and mostly stayed inside the house. Lee was the youngest child of her parents with 3 siblings. Most part of her childhood was spent in a small town being a tomboy with close friend Truman Capote who too became a famous writer. Unlike girls of her age, Lee was as tough as boys and always stood up for Truman when he was being picked on by other boys for being sissy and dressing up in fancy clothes. Their exemplary childhood companionship was to grow stronger into a lifelong friendship. Lee’s interest in literature grew while she was in high school. She attended the Huntingdon College in Montgomery where she was an exceptional student focusing on studies and writing instead of makeup, clothes and dating like other girls. She was also a member of the glee club and the literary honorary society. Lee then enrolled in University of Alabama, where she studied Law from 1945 to 1949. Pursuing her interest in writing, Lee wrote for a humorous school magazine, Rammer Jammer and later became its editor. However, the pressure of her law studies forced her to leave the editor’s position. She also went to Oxford University as an exchange student for one year. Soon after returning from Oxford, Lee realized her career was in writing and not law. She dropped out of the university and moved to New York in 1950 where worked at an airline as a reservations officer. It is during her time in New York that she wrote and finished the manuscript of To Kill a Mocking Bird in 1959.

The Pearl and Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck

John Ernst Steinbeck Jr. was an American writer and the 1962 Nobel Prize in Literature winner "for his realistic and imaginative writings, combining as they do sympathetic humor and keen social perception." He has been called "a giant of American letters." During his writing career, he authored 33 books, with one book co-authored alongside Edward Ricketts, including 16 novels, six non-fiction books and two collections of short stories. He is widely known for the comic novels Tortilla Flat (1935) and Cannery Row (1945), the multi-generation epic East of Eden (1952), and the novellas The Red Pony (1933) and Of Mice and Men (1937). The Pulitzer Prize winning The Grapes of Wrath (1939) is considered Steinbeck's masterpiece and part of the American literary canon. In the first 75 years after it was published, it sold 14 million copies. Most of Steinbeck's work is set in central California, particularly in the Salinas Valley and the California Coast Ranges region. His works frequently explored the themes of fate and injustice, especially as applied to down-trodden or everyman protagonists.

A Raisin in the Sun - Lorraine Hansberry

Lorraine Hansberry was born at Provident Hospital on the South Side of Chicago on May 19, 1930. She was the youngest of Nannie Perry Hansberry and Carl Augustus Hansberry's four children. Her father founded Lake Street Bank, one of the first banks for blacks in Chicago, and ran a successful real estate business. Her uncle was William Leo Hansberry, a scholar of African studies at Howard University in Washington, D.C. In a Raisin in the Sun, the first play by an African American woman to be produced on Broadway, she drew upon the lives of the working class black people who rented from her father and who went to school with her on Chicago's South Side. She also used members of her family as inspiration for her characters. Hansberry noted similarities between Nannie Hansberry and Mama Younger and between Carl Hansberry and Big Walter. Walter Lee, Jr. and Ruth are composites of Hansberry's brothers, their wives and her sister, Mamie. In an interview, Hansberry laughingly said "Beneatha is me, eight years ago."

Shane - Jack Schaefer


American writer and journalist, a master of the novella, whose best-known book Shane (1949) has been considered the ultimate achievement in creating a mythical western hero with a shady past. The story followed the pattern of a classical Greek tragedy, in which there is no escape from Fate. Schaefer's novel was adapted into screen in 1953, directed by George Stevens and starring Alan Ladd. Jack Schaefer was born in Cleveland, the son of Carl Walter Schaefer, attorney, and Minnie (Hively) Schaefer. Both of his parents were fond of literature, and his father was a friend of Carl Sandburg. "I read more Tarzan stories by Edgar Rice Burroughs than anything else," Schaefer said once in an interview. "Later I read Dickens, Thackeray, and Trollope." (Shane: The Critical Edition, ed., by James C. Work, 1984) Schaefer was educated at Oberlin College, Ohio, where he edited the campus literary magazine, as his sister had done earlier. After receiving his A.B. in English in 1929, Schaefer entered Columbia University, New York, but left his studies when the faculty denied him permission to prepare a master's thesis on the development of motion pictures. "The thesis committee at Columbia just laughed at me," Schaefer recalled. They said the movies were merely cheap reproductions of stage plays." Schaefer worked first as a reporter for the United Press in New Haven, Connecticut. His journalistic career spanned nearly 20 years, but between the years 1931 and 1938, he also served as the assistant director of education at Connecticut State Reformatory in Cheshire. From the mid-1930s to the early 1940s. he was involved in editing and publishing magazines on films and the theatre. Schaefer was an associate editor at Journal Courier (1939-42), and editorial writer for Baltimore Sun (1942-44), an associate editor at Norfolk Virginia Pilot (1944-48), and an associate at Lindsay Advertising Company (1949). In New Haven he was an editor and publisher of Theatre News (1935-40), The Movies (1939-41), and Shoreliner (1949).