To Kill a Mockingbird (J.B. Lippincott & Co., 1960)

An immediate success, To Kill a Mockingbird by author Harper Lee, is loosely based on Lee’s observations of her friends and family and of a local event that occurred in her hometown in 1936 when she was 10 years old.

The novel’s primary themes are of racial injustice and the destruction of innocence. It is standard in classroom teachings about tolerance. Yet, it is also hotly contested and has been subjected to numerous campaigns to remove it from public classrooms.

The story takes place during the Great Depression. Atticus Finch, a lawyer decides to defend Tom Robinson, a black man accused of raping a young white woman. This leads Atticus’ children Scout and Jem and their friend Dill to have to defend their father and the fallout if the trial.

An Oscar-winning film starring Gregory Peck was made in 1962. Since 1990, a play is performed annually in Lee’s hometown of Monroeville, Alabama.

Lee has never published another novel and refuses personal publicity for herself or the novel; she only responds to the novel’s impact. (This does not discourage tourists from making the trek to Monroeville to see the annual performance or to try to catch a glimpse of Lee herself.)