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I still remember the first time I read Of Mice and Men. I was in high school and had picked up a copy at random because it looked so small and unassuming sitting on the school library shelf, one of those Penguin classics with the orange spines. And even though the story is fairly well-known, I had no clue what it was about. But, it completely hooked me to the point where I was even sneaking opportunities during class to read “just one more paragraph”. While I know many of you reading this probably had to read Steinbeck for a school assignment, his name has never once graced one of my syllabi, and I was always disappointed that I never had the opportunity to read him in a classroom setting (The Pearl was once a suggested Summer Reading title, but we never even talked about it!). But, after reading Of Mice and Men, I became a devoted John Steinbeck fan for life.

Book of the Month

Of Mice and Men (1937) by John Steinbeck

Opening Words

“A few miles south of Soledad, the Salinas River drops in close to the hillside bank and runs deep and green. The water is warm, too, for it has slipped twinkling over the yellow sands in the sunlight before reaching the narrow pool. On one side of the river the golden foothill slopes curve up to the strong and rocky Gabilan mountains, but on the valley side the water is lined with trees–willows fresh and green with every spring, carrying in their lower leaf junctures the debris of the winter’s flooding…”

Of Mice and Men, John Steinbeck

What’s it All About?

Two hired hands, George and Lennie, travel from town to town in search of work. George is small and quick and hotheaded, and while Steinbeck doesn’t specify Lennie’s condition, today’s readers would probably identify the kindhearted giant as having an intellectual or learning disability. The two of them are traveling to a new town in order to find work (and to escape from an incident that occurred at their last job site). Lennie is incredibly strong, but does not comprehend his own strength, which often gets the pair into trouble. Despite the setbacks, George and Lennie have a dream of saving their money and buying a farm of their own, a place where they are free to just live, never having to worry about getting fired, or being chased out of town. But, when a tragedy occurs at their new job site, everything the pair has been working for is jeopardized.

Read this if you Enjoy…

  • Stories of male friendship
  • Beautiful writing
  • A real tear-jerker
  • Tales set during the Great Depression

Final Thoughts

Of Mice and Men is a beautiful, hopeful, but ultimately tragic story that will warm your heart and then break it. Without giving anything specific away, the ending made me cry like a baby. Also, this book contains strong, outdated language that modern readers might find distasteful or even offensive. Do I still think the book is worth reading? Absolutely yes. But, it’s a book that I would approach with this information in mind. As for me, reading this book was the start of a love affair with Steinbeck’s writing that is still going strong. I’ve read most of his short novels and have really enjoyed them. Steinbeck’s writing is incredibly beautiful, even though the topics he writes about are often difficult and sad. For this reason, he remains one of my favorite authors.

Erin

I'm the Reader's Advisory Librarian at WPPL. My interests include old horror films, classic novels, manga and anime, paper-crafting, and plants. If you like my suggestions, you can request personalized recommendations from me on My Librarian page.