navigation bar Houghton Mifflin Social Studies California Studies
Biographies Unit Biographies

John Steinbeck 1902–1968
Writer and Nobel Prize Winner

John Steinbeck wrote books about the lives of ordinary people in the United States. He was born in Salinas, California. Many of his books take place in California. Many are about the connection between people and the environment.

Steinbeck decided that he wanted to be a writer when he was 15 years old. He spent hours in his room writing stories and poems. He went on to study writing and literature at Stanford University. To earn money, he worked in factories or on ranches. These jobs taught him about the difficult lives of migrant workers and others who worked hard for little money.

Steinbeck became famous for his writing during the Depression. His best–known novel, The Grapes of Wrath, tells about a farm family that migrates from the Dust Bowl to California during the Depression. Many high school students today read The Grapes of Wrath. During his lifetime, Steinbeck wrote 16 novels, three plays, four screenplays, and dozens of stories and essays. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1962.

Comprehension Check

When did Steinbeck decide that he wanted to be a writer?

Critical Thinking

State one fact and one opinion about John Steinbeck.