Book 1: Cannery Row
In the din and stink that is Cannery Row a colourful blend of misfits - gamblers, whores, drunks, bums and artists - survive side by side in a jumble of adventure and mischief. Lee Chong, the astute owner of the fantastically well-stocked grocery store, is also the proprietor of the Palace Flophouse that Mack and his troupe of good-natured 'boys' call home. Dora, of the flaming orange hair and taste for Nile-green dresses, runs the brothel with clockwork efficiency. Doc, who owns the laboratory, is the fount of all generosity and wisdom. Everybody wants to do something nice for Doc: the trouble is, he always ends up paying. Packed with invention and joie de vivre, "Cannery Row" is Steinbeck's high-spirited tribute to his native California.
Book 2: East of Eden
There is only one book to a man Steinbeck wrote of "East of Eden", his most ambitious novel. Set in the rich farmland of Salinas Valley, California, this powerful, often brutal novel follows the intertwined destinies of two families -the Trasks and the Hamiltons - whose generations helplessly re-enact the fall of Adam and Eve and the poisonous rivalry of Cain and Abel. Here Steinbeck created some of his most memorable characters and explored his most enduring themes: the mystery of identity, the inexplicability of love and the murderous consequences of love's absence.
Book 3: The Grapes of Wrath
I've done my damndest to rip a reader's nerves to rags, I don't want him satisfied.' Shocking and controversial when it was first published in 1939, Steinbeck's Pulitzer prize-winning epic, "The Grapes of Wrath", remains his undisputed masterpiece. Set against the background of Dust Bowl Oklahoma and Californian migrant life, it tells of the Joad family, who, like thousands of others, are forced to travel west in search of the promised land. Their story is one of false hopes, thwarted desires and broken dreams, yet out of their suffering Steinbeck created a drama that is intensely human, yet majestic in its scale and moral vision; an eloquent tribute to the endurance and dignity of the human spirit.
Book 4: Of Mice and Men
The compelling story of two outsiders striving to find their place in an unforgiving world. Drifters in search of work, George and his simple-minded friend Lennie have nothing in the world except each other and a dream - a dream that one day they will have some land of their own. Eventually they find work on a ranch in California's Salinas Valley, but their hopes are doomed as Lennie, struggling against extreme cruelty, misunderstanding and feelings of jealousy, becomes a victim of his own strength. Tackling universal themes and giving voice to America's lonely and dispossessed, "Of Mice and Men has" proved one of Steinbeck's most popular works, achieving success as a novel, a Broadway play and three acclaimed films.