Yes, I will say it big and bold, though it may be. To Kill a Mockingbird is the best American novel ever written by a “one -hit wonder” of a writer named Harper Lee in 1960. That is my opinion and I strongly recommend the book to everybody, especially those wanting to understand the Southern part of the United States. This novel tells the story of what it means to have grown up in the South in the earlier part of the 20th century. In fact, in some ways, it remained the story of the south in which I grew up.
I challenge anybody that hasn’t already read this wonderful book to read it already!! I read it in school and it has had a strong impact on my thinking and feeling though out my entire life. It became, if you will, part of my very soul.
It tells the story of a Black man in the 1950’s that is accused of rape of a white woman. The woman was a member of the most “white trash” family in the town. Gregory Peck played the part of Atticus, the lawyer, in the movie version of the book admirably. Atticus (the lawyer defending the black accused of rape) is the main character’s father, and she speaks in innocence and love to the bigotry and racial hatred of the time period and prevents a lynching although not a racially biased guilty verdict. Of course, it was a foregone conclusion that the man was going to be found guilty.
It also has much to say about outcasts and those that do not fit in. Just remembering the story as I am writing this is bringing tears to my eyes.
I think part of why I am so affected: so PROFOUNDLY affected is because of the tie in with the old south that was part and parcel of my upbringing. I know this sort of bigotry close up and personal. I was also one of the outcasts, the oddballs, those looked down on, and know some of the themes of the book from an inside-out perspective.
And yes, this is the only novel that Harper Lee ever wrote until recently when someone went into her files and pulled out a sort of prequel. She did so some reporting, and worked with Truman Capote on In Cold Blood. It seems, to me, almost like she was put on the planet to write this one story that so badly needed telling. That is another piece of why I love this book so much. Who knows if she had written other novels it might have diluted the impact of this one.
Have you read it? Do you question my assertion of it being the best American novel, if so what would you suggest is?
Literary fiction, art, music, or any other creative medium for self expression are all highly subjective. I tend to steer clear from preferential absolutes within the sphere of fictional novels – or any other art form comes to that matter; one man’s poison is another man’s meat. I’ve read many novels in my time and have a huge library at home to testify to that fact. I have no ‘best’ novels, but I have plenty of ‘good’ novels. Books which etch a mental marker in the mind will always stand above the rest simply because of the impact they had upon the reader. There is one American novel written by Ken Casey: “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” which left a long lasting impression upon me and still does to this very day. The subject matter regarding the deep changes to the methods of psychology and psychiatry in America are quite disturbing when you realise that in parody, Casey managed to portray his time and experiences doing the graveyard shift as an orderly in a mental health facility and skilfully worked them into his novel. On release, the novel made such an impression that it got banned after protests from the Strongsville five in Ohio.
I like the novel a lot but wouldn’t claim it to be the ‘best’ novel I’ve ever read, instead I would claim it to be a well crafted book that reflected the mental health issues of the time period in which it was written in.
There is another stand out American novel by Hunter S. Thompson: “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas,” written in 1971. The novel deals with the futile search of the American dream (whatever that is?) and descends into drug fuelled madness which is both hilarious and sobering at the same time.
Just two examples of American novels that made a lasting impression upon me in my youth, but to reiterate, they are both highly subjective from my point of view, and other people who have read both of these books will not share my opinion to the letter because in their minds their own experiences would translate the themes and meanings in an entirely different way.
Thank goodness for literary fiction!
Thanks for sharing your opinion. And your’s is certainly an opinion that is just as valid as mine. However, I will also say that literature is, in fact, subjective. I will also say that I have never heard of Fear and Loathing, and it does sound like something that I might read, and enjoy.
Nor do I remember reading One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest…but it doesn’t sound like something that I would want to read. My understanding of everything I have read indicates to me that it is about the subject of mental illness, and I have had enough up close experience in my personal life to ever find that an entertaining subject.
I still stand by my review of To Kill A Mockingbird, which although obviously not everybody agrees with me, is MY favorite book of all time anyway. 🙂
The two books I gave mention to can been seen in film form. “One Flew Over” stars Jack Nicholson in a memorable role, and the film script is faithful to the novel.
“Fear & loathing” stars Johnny Depp and Benicio Del Toro as leads.
Hey, I like Johnny Depp and movies are usually quicker…so I might check these two out. 🙂
Just got though watching Fear & Loathing In Las Vegas. Unusual movie about the drug culture. Sadly, the movie didn’t show much except the drug abuse.
I don’t think I have read it. I am horrible at remembering all the books I have read.
But a few years ago I made it a goal to read top classic novels.
Besides the ones we have to read for school like Romeo and Juliet, Of Mice and Men, Catcher in the Rye, Catch 22, and a few others I can’t remember at the moment. It’s strange how when we HAVE to read a book for school we can be so reluctant.
So after I decided to read the Classics as Older Me…..the first one I read was Earnest Hemingways Old Man and the Sea.
After reading that I got it. To read something so beautiful…so well written. I understood why it was a Classic.
To feel the characters struggles…to see what they saw…I could see it all and feel it all and taste it.
That takes a great writer to accomplish all these things.
Maybe I related more to this short story because I grew up at the beach….seeing the sun dance off the water. I love swordfish and could taste it when he wrote of wising he had lemon and salt. We would spend a few weekends in Ensenada Mexico when I was growing up and I knew the fishing town smell.
ANYWAYS….I recommend it to all.
Currently I am reading a few books on Santeria Religion and just finished an Audiobook on Angels.
Our family friend is a High Priestess in the religion and I have been to few of their ceremonies and wanted to learn more about it. So I picked up a few books on it.
I believe many of us have favorite books like we have favorite movies. And I also know that our list of top 5 or 10 may always change because more books and movies will always be written.
I am going to find an excerpt of “To kill a Mockingbird” and see if I read it. If not…I may just buy it in audiobook form.
I would encourage you to at least check to make sure you have read it. Or, at least check and decide whether you feel it is worth reading. I don’t believe i have ever read anything by Earnest Hemingway. Or if I had to read “Old Man and the Sea”, i don’t remember it as being a good experience for me. The idea of an old man battling the sea doesn’t “light my fire”…I would prefer staying on dry ground, thank you very much. 🙂
My preference has always been science fiction and things that resonated with me…for example, I have read at least one book about the very real woman named Marie Leveau. The woman that inspired all the Voodoo stories of “old dark woman of the swamp” type legend.
Marie was actually a woman of mixed blood, probably more white than black so her complexion was far from dark. She had, however, learned the African healing techniques from her mother and grandmother, therefor, what is called voodoo…a mixture of the belief Catholic saints and tribal gods and goddesses, with often the name of the saint layered over by the power of “magic” that was associated with the devinity of the tribal religion. Fascinating to me.
To Kill was a favorite for two reasons. The first is that the movie version of Atticus, the lawyer father, was played so sympathic by Gregory Peck. The second was the very real racism that existed, and still does to some extent, in the deep south. It could have been a home town story.
The ending, unlike some books, doesn’t wrap the story up in a nice happy ending. Atticus is ultimately a failure at his defense of the accused, because the bias against those who “would defile our southern white womanhood” was too big a prejudice to over come in a poor community in a southern town in the 1930’s which I believe is when it was supposed to be about.
I think it might be even more powerful coming to it in the days of the Black Lives Matter movement.
I really do love this book. It is one of my favorites. I wouldn’t necessarily call it the “best ever written’, but it is definitely up there on the list. There was a film of it as well, but I am actually one who usually prefers the book to the movie and this one was no exception. Books just seem to carry so much more detail. Great post!
LOL–Let me introduce myself. I am Mr Left Thought, and I operate on the principal that if a statement is worth making, it is worth overstating. 🙂 🙂 🙂
I haven’t read every book so obviously i have no proof that it is the absolute best….but it is my all time favorite. Which qualifies it to be called “the best book in the world” if I am talking about it.
But I certainly don’t really expect others to buy in. Glad you do at least love the book. 🙂
I’m not for sure if iv read it or not. It would have been about 40 years ago. I did enjoy the movie. The time period I most likely would have read it I was all into what I consider the same genre: Dostoevsky,, Winds of War, Exodus, Ayn Rand, my favorite of hers being We the Living, In Cold Blood, The Onion Field, those types. Then around 1980 I read a book called Shibumi, which has turned out to be my all time favorite. I have identified with nearly every page of that book and can honestly say it has transformed my life in many ways.
40 years ago was the first time I read, I re=read it fairly recently…say within the last 10 years. Wow, I have never read any of what you listed. 🙂