The Grapes of Wrath

By John Steinbeck,

Book cover of The Grapes of Wrath

Book description

'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, The Grapes of Wrath is Steinbeck's Pultizer Prize-winning epic of the Joad family, forced to travel west from Dust Bowl era Oklahoma in search of the…

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Why read it?

15 authors picked The Grapes of Wrath as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?

Steinbeck can see through his character’s eyes. I get chills when he captures private moments.

Faces on pickers being pushed off land in the dustbowl during the Depression. I tasted abject poverty when supper was passed out on pie tins—one tablespoon of beans in each. Dimes were gas money to follow a dream of picking work a brochure of orange orchards in California promised, not for bread.

The hardships mesmerized me—burying Grandpa along the highway; daughter Rosasharn rocking her swaddled stillborn to ward off the suspicion of border inspectors. In an abandoned railroad car as a night’s shelter a man…

Again, it’s a missing piece from my childhood reading list.

Several of my books have covered the same era of the Great Depression, and Steinbeck helped me understand it through a ground-level lens and its human dimensions of devastation. He sets a scene like few can, with insights that sear and stay.

But don’t believe me, consider this passage: “In the eyes of the hungry there is a growing wrath. In the souls of the people the grapes of wrath are filling and growing heavy, growing heavy for the vintage.”

Anger, indeed, and fruit for contemplation.

“It happens that every man in a bank hates what the bank does, and yet the bank does it. The bank is something more than men, I tell you. It’s the monster. Men made it, but they can’t control it.”

Steinbeck’s epic novel follows a family of sharecroppers from Great Depression Oklahoma, thrown off their land by economic forces beyond their control.

He beautifully demonstrates the process of economic transformation through the journey of its protagonists as they suffer heart-rending setbacks but also defend themselves from the exploitation they face proving “repression works only to strengthen and knit the repressed.” 

The historically inspired migration of Oklahoma farmers to find work in California during the Great Depression and Dustbowl forms the basis of honesty and goodness struggling against greed and cruelty.

I think Tolkien would have loved this book. I hope he read it. Since Reagan and Thatcher, we’ve had in the west this insane idea of libertarianism—complete deregulation of the private sector—as though it’s in any way a foil to communism. But what’s the difference between a politburo and a handful of monopolies controlling every industry?

Steinbeck gives amazing truth in fiction to the timeless consequences greed has not for…

This is probably not a book you consider when you think of retirement, but the reason I've included it in this list is that it is a story of pursuit, hardship, sacrifice, and endurance.

Steinbeck's prose puts you in the center of the drama and action as if you are part of the Joad family.

It's hard to be unhappy and ungrateful in your own life when you read about the constant struggles throughout the book. They are underdogs. You feel for them. You root for them. And in return, you gain a new appreciation for your own life.

As most people know, this classic novel is about poor farmers suffering during the Great Depression and trying to make their way to a better life in California. They endure drought, foreclosure, displacement, homelessness, and, most heartbreakingly, indifference from those in a position to help. The protagonist’s resilience and determination to make the world a better place no matter the odds and regardless of the adversity he faces is truly an inspiration, particularly for those of us with so many fewer obstacles than he had.  

From Howard's list on inspiring people to improve the world.

I’m always shocked at how many must-reads and banned-books lists Steinbeck’s masterpiece shows up on. The term “okie” still rubs some people the wrong way, feeling that stigma their (and even my) grandparents felt at struggling through the Dust Bowl and another wave of agricultural depression in the 1950s. Steinbeck gives a captivating portrayal of the experience living in or leaving Oklahoma, but it’s the interspersed chapters with other perspectives that always linger in my mind, whether the tractor-driver for the factory-farm that sold out his people for $3.00 (thirty silver dimes) or the waitress who lies about candy being…

A staple in high school literature curriculums, The Grapes of Wrath is probably the most-read book depicting the despair and resilience of those who experienced the Great Depression, particularly the Dust Bowl migrants. Of course, the story is beautifully written and haunting. But more than that, it is grounded in Steinbeck’s own experiences as a journalist, traveling alongside migrant workers in California. The resulting articles, published in October of 1936, informed his future writings, including The Grapes of Wrath. Without Steinbeck’s first-hand observations gathered in 1936, I doubt the book would be the masterpiece it instantly became. The final…

I recommend the book because it is uniquely written by John Steinbeck, telling of the terrible depression, troubles, and hardships in the early 1900s in the United States of America. I write about British history and enjoy learning about historical America. This book is educational as well as thought-provoking and entertaining.


John Steinbeck has a way with words that draws you in and keeps you present in his uncomfortable reality. A realistic take on a very significant phase in US history, this might be Steinbeck's greatest achievement. His descriptions and dialogue bring scene after scene to life, until the devastating effect of a nationwide depression overwhelms you with its realism. To this day, he is one of my greatest literary influences.

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