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Ranking Author John Steinbeck’s Best Books (A Bibliography Countdown)

“What are John Steinbeck’s Best Books?” We looked at all of Steinbeck’s authored bibliography and ranked them against one another to answer that very question!

We took all of the books written by John Steinbeck and looked at their Goodreads, Amazon, and LibraryThing scores, ranking them against one another to see which books came out on top. The books are ranked in our list below based on which titles have the highest overall score between all 3 review sites in comparison with all of the other books by the same author. The process isn’t super scientific and in reality, most books aren’t “better” than other books as much as they are just different. That being said, we do enjoy seeing where our favorites landed, and if you aren’t familiar with the author at all, the rankings can help you see what books might be best to start with.

The full ranking chart is also included below the countdown on the bottom of the page.

Happy Scrolling!

The Top Book’s Of John Steinbeck

32 ) The Forgotten Village

The Forgotten Village Review Website Ranks:

  • Goodreads: 31
  • Amazon: 32
  • LibraryThing: 30

There have been several notable examples of this pen-camera method of narration, but “The Forgotten Village” is unique among them in that the text was written before a single picture was shot. The book and the movie from which it was made have, thus, a continuity and a dramatic growth not to be found in the so-called “documentary” films. The camera crew that, headed by Kline and with Steinbeck’s script at hand, recorded this narrative of birth and death, of witch doctors and vaccines, of the old Mexico and the new, spent nine months off the trails of Mexico.

31 ) Bombs Away: The Story of a Bomber Team

Bombs Away: The Story of a Bomber Team Review Website Ranks:

  • Goodreads: 32
  • Amazon: 31
  • LibraryThing: 27

A magnificent volume of short novels and an essential World War II report from one of America’s great twentieth-century writers On the heels of the enormous success of his masterwork The Grapes of Wrath-and at the height of the American war effort-John Steinbeck, one of the most prolific and influential literary figures of his generation, wrote Bombs Away, a nonfiction account of his experiences with U.S. Army Air Force bomber crews during World War II. Now, for the first time since its original publication in 1942, Penguin Classics presents this exclusive edition of Steinbeck’s introduction to the then-nascent U.S. Army Air Force and its bomber crew-the essential core unit behind American air power that Steinbeck described as “the greatest team in the world.”

30 ) Cup of Gold

Cup of Gold Review Website Ranks:

  • Goodreads: 30
  • Amazon: 26
  • LibraryThing: 31

From the mid-1650s through the 1660s, Henry Morgan, a pirate and outlaw of legendary viciousness, ruled the Spanish Main. He ravaged the coasts of Cuba and America, striking terror wherever he went. Morgan was obsessive. He had two driving ambitions: to possess the beautiful woman called La Santa Roja and to conquer Panama, the “cup of gold.” Steinbeck’s first novel and sole work of historical fiction, Cup of Gold is a lush, lyrical swashbuckling pirate fantasy, and sure to add new dimensions to readers’ perceptions of this all-American writer.

28 ) The Short Reign of Pippin IV: A Fabrication

The Short Reign of Pippin IV: A Fabrication Review Website Ranks:

  • Goodreads: 26
  • Amazon: 30
  • LibraryThing: 26

Steinbeck’s only work of political satire turns the French Revolution on its head, as amateur astronomer Pippin Heristal is drafted in to rule the unruly French. Enchanting comedy ensues as Steinbeck creates the most hilarious royal court ever around the brief, bold reign of the corduroy-clad Pippin, his social-climbing wife Maria, his star-struck daughter Clotilde and her Californian beau, Todd.

28 ) The Red Pony

The Red Pony Review Website Ranks:

  • Goodreads: 28
  • Amazon: 26
  • LibraryThing: 28

Raised on a ranch in northern California, Jody is well-schooled in the hard work and demands of a rancher’s life. He is used to the way of horses, too; but nothing has prepared him for the special connection he will forge with Gabilan, a hot-tempered pony his father gives him. With Billy Buck, the hired hand, Jody tends and trains his horse, restlessly anticipating the moment he will sit high upon Gabilan’s saddle. But when Gabilan falls ill, Jody discovers there are still lessons he must learn about the ways of nature and, particularly, the ways of man.

26 ) The Pearl

The Pearl Review Website Ranks:

  • Goodreads: 27
  • Amazon: 22
  • LibraryThing: 28

Like his father and grandfather before him, Kino is a poor diver, gathering pearls from the gulf beds that once brought great wealth to the kings of Spain and now provide Kino, Juana, and their infant son with meager subsistence. Then, on a day like any other, Kino emerges from the sea with a pearl as large as a sea gull’s egg, as “perfect as the moon.” With the pearl comes hope, the promise of comfort and of security… A story of classic simplicity, based on a Mexican folk tale, The Pearl explores the secrets of man’s nature, greed, the darkest depths of evil, and the luminous possibilities of love.

26 ) Burning Bright

Burning Bright Review Website Ranks:

  • Goodreads: 28
  • Amazon: 18
  • LibraryThing: 31

Written as a play in story form, this novel traces the story of a man ignorant of his own sterility, a wife who commits adultery to give her husband a child, the father of that child, and the outsider whose actions affect them all.

25 ) The Acts of King Arthur and His Noble Knights

The Acts of King Arthur and His Noble Knights Review Website Ranks:

  • Goodreads: 21
  • Amazon: 18
  • LibraryThing: 25

Steinbeck’s first posthumously published work, The Acts of King Arthur and His Noble Knights is a reinterpretation of tales from Malory’s Morte d’Arthur. In this highly successful attempt to render Malory into Modern English, Steinbeck recreated the rhythm and tone of the original Middle English.

24 ) Once There Was A War

Once There Was A War Review Website Ranks:

  • Goodreads: 15
  • Amazon: 22
  • LibraryThing: 19

Nobel laureate John Steinbeck’s bracing from-the-frontlines account of World War II-now with a new cover and introduction** In 1943 John Steinbeck was on assignment for The New York Herald Tribune, writing from Italy and North Africa, and from England in the midst of the London blitz. In his dispatches he focuses on the human-scale effect of the war, portraying everyone from the guys in a bomber crew to Bob Hope on his USO tour and even fighting alongside soldiers behind enemy lines. Taken together, these writings create an indelible portrait of life in wartime.

23 ) To a God Unknown

To a God Unknown Review Website Ranks:

  • Goodreads: 13
  • Amazon: 26
  • LibraryThing: 16

While fulfilling his dead father’s dream of creating a prosperous farm in California, Joseph Wayne comes to believe that a magnificent tree on the farm embodies his father’s spirit. His brothers and their families share in Joseph’s prosperity and the farm flourishes – until one brother, scared by Joseph’s pagan belief, kills the tree and brings disease and famine on the farm. Set in familiar Steinbeck country, To a God Unknown is a mystical tale, exploring one man’s attempt to control the forces of nature and to understand the ways of God.

21 ) Viva Zapata!

Viva Zapata! Review Website Ranks:

  • Goodreads: 25
  • Amazon: 18
  • LibraryThing: 11

A new volume which includes the original screenplay, with its copious director’s notes, and the narrative – this has followed on from a previously undiscovered manuscript by Steinbeck being found in the UCLA Research Library – the narrative treatment of the story on which he based his screenplay.

21 ) The Wayward Bus

The Wayward Bus Review Website Ranks:

  • Goodreads: 21
  • Amazon: 10
  • LibraryThing: 23

In his first novel to follow the publication of his enormous success, The Grapes of Wrath, Steinbeck’s vision comes wonderfully to life in this imaginative and unsentimental chronicle of a bus traveling California’s back roads, transporting the lost and the lonely, the good and the greedy, the stupid and the scheming, the beautiful and the vicious away from their shattered dreams and, possibly, toward the promise of the future. This edition features an introduction by Gary Scharnhorst. For more than seventy years, Penguin has been the leading publisher of classic literature in the English-speaking world. With more than 1,700 titles, Penguin Classics represents a global bookshelf of the best works throughout history and across genres and disciplines.

20 ) Tortilla Flat

Tortilla Flat Review Website Ranks:

  • Goodreads: 21
  • Amazon: 10
  • LibraryThing: 19

These “knights” are paisanos, men of mixed heritage, whose ancestors settled California hundreds of years before. Free of ties to jobs and other complications of the American way of life, they fiercely resist the corrupting tide of honest toil in the surrounding ocean of civil rectitude. As Steinbeck chronicles their deeds–their multiple loves, their wonderful brawls, their Rabelaisian wine-drinking–he spins a tale as compelling and ultimately as touched by sorrow as the famous legends of the Round Table, which inspired him.

19 ) A Russian Journal

A Russian Journal Review Website Ranks:

  • Goodreads: 6
  • Amazon: 25
  • LibraryThing: 16

Just after the iron curtain fell on Eastern Europe John Steinbeck and acclaimed war photographer, Robert Capa ventured into the Soviet Union to report for the New York Herald Tribune. This rare opportunity took the famous travellers not only to Moscow and Stalingrad – now Volgograd – but through the countryside of the Ukraine and the Caucasus. A RUSSIAN JOURNAL is the distillation of their journey and remains a remarkable memoir and unique historical document. Steinbeck and Capa recorded the grim realities of factory workers, government clerks, and peasants, as they emerged from the rubble of World War II. This is an intimate glimpse of two artists at the height of their powers, answering their need to document human struggle

18 ) The Winter of Our Discontent

The Winter of Our Discontent Review Website Ranks:

  • Goodreads: 11
  • Amazon: 22
  • LibraryThing: 13

Ethan Allen Hawley, the protagonist of Steinbeck’s last novel, works as a clerk in a grocery store that his family once owned. With Ethan no longer a member of Long Island’s aristocratic class, his wife is restless, and his teenage children are hungry for the tantalizing material comforts he cannot provide. Then one day, in a moment of moral crisis, Ethan decides to take a holiday from his own scrupulous standards. Set in Steinbeck’s contemporary 1960 America, the novel explores the tenuous line between private and public honesty that today ranks it alongside his most acclaimed works of penetrating insight into the American condition.

16 ) Sea of Cortez: A Leisurely Journal of Travel and Research

Sea of Cortez: A Leisurely Journal of Travel and Research Review Website Ranks:

  • Goodreads: 15
  • Amazon: 26
  • LibraryThing: 3

The collaboration of two friends-one a novelist, one a novelist, one a marine biologist-produced a volume in which fascinating popular science is woven into a narrative of man’s dreams, his ideals, and his accomplishments through the centuries. Sea of Cortez is one of those rare books that are all things to all readers. Actually the record of a brief collecting expedition in the lonely GUlf of California, it will be science to the scientist, philosophy to the philosopher, and to the average man an adventure in living and thinking.

16 ) In Dubious Battle

In Dubious Battle Review Website Ranks:

  • Goodreads: 15
  • Amazon: 10
  • LibraryThing: 19

This 1936 novel—set in the California apple country—portrays a strike by migrant workers that metamorphoses from principled defiance into blind fanaticism. For more than seventy years, Penguin has been the leading publisher of classic literature in the English-speaking world. With more than 1,700 titles, Penguin Classics represents a global bookshelf of the best works throughout history and across genres and disciplines. Readers trust the series to provide authoritative texts enhanced by introductions and notes by distinguished scholars and contemporary authors, as well as up-to-date translations by award-winning translators.

13 ) Of Mice and Men

Of Mice and Men Review Website Ranks:

  • Goodreads: 19
  • Amazon: 10
  • LibraryThing: 14

The compelling story of two outsiders striving to find their place in an unforgiving world. Drifters in search of work, George and his simple-minded friend Lennie have nothing in the world except each other and a dream–a dream that one day they will have some land of their own. Eventually they find work on a ranch in California’s Salinas Valley, but their hopes are doomed as Lennie, struggling against extreme cruelty, misunderstanding and feelings of jealousy, becomes a victim of his own strength. Tackling universal themes such as the friendship of a shared vision, and giving voice to America’s lonely and dispossessed, Of Mice and Men has proved one of Steinbeck’s most popular works, achieving success as a novel, a Broadway play and three acclaimed films.

13 ) The Log from the Sea of Cortez

The Log from the Sea of Cortez Review Website Ranks:

  • Goodreads: 21
  • Amazon: 7
  • LibraryThing: 15

An alternate edition can be found here. In 1940 Steinbeck sailed in a sardine boat with his great friend the marine biologist, Ed Ricketts, to collect marine invertebrates from the beaches of the Gulf of California. The expedition was described by the two men in Sea of Cortez, published in 1941. The day-to-day story of the trip is told here in the Log, which combines science, philosophy and high-spirited adventure.

13 ) The Long Valley

The Long Valley Review Website Ranks:

  • Goodreads: 14
  • Amazon: 10
  • LibraryThing: 19

This classic collection of short stories serves as the ideal introduction to Steinbeck’s work. Set in the idyllic Salinas Valley in California, where simple people farm the land and struggle to find a place for themeselves in the world, these stories reflect many of the concerns key to Steinbeck as a writer; the tensions between town and city, labourers and owners, past and present.

12 ) The Moon Is Down

The Moon Is Down Review Website Ranks:

  • Goodreads: 15
  • Amazon: 4
  • LibraryThing: 18

Taken by surprise, a small coastal town is overrun by an invading army with little resistance. The town is important because it is a port that serves a large coal mine. Colonel Lanser, the head of the invading battalion, along with his staff establishes his HQ in the house of the democratically elected and popular Mayor Orden. As the reality of occupation sinks in and the weather turns bleak, with the snows beginning earlier than usual, the “simple, peaceful people” of the town are angry and confused. Colonel Lanser, a veteran of many wars, tries to operate under a veil of civility and law, but in his heart he knows that “there are no peaceful people” amongst those whose freedom has been taken away by force. The veil is soon torn apart when Alexander Morden, an erstwhile alderman and “a free man,” is ordered to work in the mine.

10 ) The Pastures of Heaven

The Pastures of Heaven Review Website Ranks:

  • Goodreads: 7
  • Amazon: 18
  • LibraryThing: 7

Each of these delightful interconnected tales is devoted to a family living in a fertile valley on the outskirts of Monterey, California, and the effects that one particular family has on them all. Steinbeck tackles two important literary traditions here; American naturalism, with its focus on the conflict between natural instincts and the demand to conform to society’s norms, and the short story cycle. Set in the heart of ‘Steinbeck land’, the lush Californian valleys.

10 ) Working Days: The Journals of The Grapes of Wrath

Working Days: The Journals of The Grapes of Wrath Review Website Ranks:

  • Goodreads: 10
  • Amazon: 10
  • LibraryThing: 12

John Steinbeck wrote The Grapes of Wrath during an astonishing burst of activity between June and October of 1938. Throughout the time he was creating his greatest work, Steinbeck faithfully kept a journal revealing his arduous journey toward its completion.The journal, like the novel it chronicles, tells a tale of dramatic proportions—of dogged determination and inspiration, yet also of paranoia, self-doubt, and obstacles. It records in intimate detail the conception and genesis of The Grapes of Wrath and its huge though controversial success. It is a unique and penetrating portrait of an emblematic American writer creating an essential American masterpiece.

9 ) Journal of a Novel: The East of Eden Letters

Journal of a Novel: The East of Eden Letters Review Website Ranks:

  • Goodreads: 3
  • Amazon: 4
  • LibraryThing: 24

Each working day from January 29 to November 1, 1951, John Steinbeck warmed up to the work of writing East of Eden and a letter to the late Pascal Covici, his friend and editor of the Viking Press. It was his way, he said, of “getting my mental arm in shape to pitch a good game.” Steinbeck’s letters were written on the left-handed pages of a notebook in which the facing pages would be filled with the text of East of Eden. They touched on many subjects – story arguements, trial flights of workmanship, concern for his sons. Part autobiography, part writer’s workshop, these letters offer an illuminating perspective on Steinbeck’s creative process, and a fascinating glimpse of Steinbeck, the private man.

8 ) The Grapes of Wrath

The Grapes of Wrath Review Website Ranks:

  • Goodreads: 12
  • Amazon: 10
  • LibraryThing: 4

The Pulitzer Prize-winning epic of the Great Depression, a book that galvanized—and sometimes outraged—millions of readers. First published in 1939, Steinbeck’s Pulitzer Prize-winning epic of the Great Depression chronicles the Dust Bowl migration of the 1930s and tells the story of one Oklahoma farm family, the Joads—driven from their homestead and forced to travel west to the promised land of California. Out of their trials and their repeated collisions against the hard realities of an America divided into Haves and Have-Nots evolves a drama that is intensely human yet majestic in its scale and moral vision, elemental yet plainspoken, tragic but ultimately stirring in its human dignity. A portrait of the conflict between the powerful and the powerless, of one man’s fierce reaction to injustice, and of one woman’s stoical strength, the novel captures the horrors of the Great Depression and probes into the very nature of equality and justice in America. At once a naturalistic epic, captivity narrative, road novel, and transcendental gospel, Steinbeck’s powerful landmark novel is perhaps the most American of American Classics.

7 ) Cannery Row

Cannery Row Review Website Ranks:

  • Goodreads: 8
  • Amazon: 10
  • LibraryThing: 6

Cannery Row is a book without much of a plot. Rather, it is an attempt to capture the feeling and people of a place, the cannery district of Monterey, California, which is populated by a mix of those down on their luck and those who choose for other reasons not to live “up the hill” in the more respectable area of town. The flow of the main plot is frequently interrupted by short vignettes that introduce us to various denizens of the Row, most of whom are not directly connected with the central story. These vignettes are often characterized by direct or indirect reference to extreme violence: suicides, corpses, and the cruelty of the natural world. The “story” of Cannery Row follows the adventures of Mack and the boys, a group of unemployed yet resourceful men who inhabit a converted fish-meal shack on the edge of a vacant lot down on the Row. Sweet Thursday is the sequel to Cannery Row.

6 ) Steinbeck in Vietnam: Dispatches from the War

Steinbeck in Vietnam: Dispatches from the War Review Website Ranks:

  • Goodreads: 20
  • Amazon: 1
  • LibraryThing: 1

Although his career continued for almost three decades after the 1939 publication of The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck is still most closely associated with his Depression-era works of social struggle. But from Pearl Harbor on, he often wrote passionate accounts of America’s wars based on his own firsthand experience. Vietnam was no exception. Thomas E. Barden’s Steinbeck in Vietnam offers for the first time a complete collection of the dispatches Steinbeck wrote as a war correspondent for Newsday. Rejected by the military because of his reputation as a subversive, and reticent to document the war officially for the Johnson administration, Steinbeck saw in Newsday a unique opportunity to put his skills to use. Between December 1966 and May 1967, the sixty-four-year-old Steinbeck toured the major combat areas of South Vietnam and traveled to the north of Thailand and into Laos, documenting his experiences in a series of columns titled Letters to Alicia, in reference to Newsday publisher Harry F. Guggenheim’s deceased wife.

5 ) Travels with Charley: In Search of America

Travels with Charley: In Search of America Review Website Ranks:

  • Goodreads: 5
  • Amazon: 7
  • LibraryThing: 8

A quest across America, from the northernmost tip of Maine to California’s Monterey Peninsula To hear the speech of the real America, to smell the grass and the trees, to see the colors and the light—these were John Steinbeck’s goals as he set out, at the age of fifty-eight, to rediscover the country he had been writing about for so many years. With Charley, his French poodle, Steinbeck drives the interstates and the country roads, dines with truckers, encounters bears at Yellowstone and old friends in San Francisco. Along the way he reflects on the American character, racial hostility, the particular form of American loneliness he finds almost everywhere, and the unexpected kindness of strangers.

4 ) America and Americans

America and Americans Review Website Ranks:

  • Goodreads: 9
  • Amazon: 1
  • LibraryThing: 9

More than four decades after his death, John Steinbeck remains one of the nation’s most beloved authors. Yet few know of his career as a journalist who covered world events from the Great Depression to Vietnam. Now, this distinctive collection offers a portrait of the artist as citizen, deeply engaged in the world around him. In addition to the complete text of Steinbeck’s last published book, America and Americans , this volume brings together for the first time more than fifty of Steinbeck’s finest essays and journalistic pieces on Salinas, Sag Harbor, Arthur Miller, Woody Guthrie, the Vietnam War and more. This edition is edited by Steinbeck scholar Susan Shillinglaw and Steinbeck biographer Jackson J. Benson. For more than seventy years, Penguin has been the leading publisher of classic literature in the English-speaking world. With more than 1,700 titles, Penguin Classics represents a global bookshelf of the best works throughout history and across genres and disciplines. Readers trust the series to provide authoritative texts enhanced by introductions and notes by distinguished scholars and contemporary authors, as well as up-to-date translations by award-winning translators.

3 ) Sweet Thursday

Sweet Thursday Review Website Ranks:

  • Goodreads: 4
  • Amazon: 4
  • LibraryThing: 10

In Monterey, on the California coast, Sweet Thursday is what they call the day after Lousy Wednesday, which is one of those days that are just naturally bad. Returning to the scene of Cannery Row, the weedy lots and junk heaps and flophouses of Monterey, John Steinbeck once more brings to life the denizens of a netherworld of laughter and tears from Fauna, new headmistress of the local brothel, to Hazel, a bum whose mother must have wanted a daughter.

2 ) Steinbeck: A Life in Letters

Steinbeck: A Life in Letters Review Website Ranks:

  • Goodreads: 2
  • Amazon: 7
  • LibraryThing: 5

For John Steinbeck, who hated the telephone, letter-writing was a preparation for work and a natural way for him to communicate his thoughts on people he liked and hated; on marriage, women, and children; on the condition of the world; and on his progress in learning his craft. Opening with letters written during Steinbeck’s early years in California, and closing with a 1968 note written in Sag Harbor, New York, Steinbeck: A Life in Letters reveals the inner thoughts and rough character of this American author as nothing else has and as nothing else ever will.

1 ) East of Eden

East of Eden Review Website Ranks:

  • Goodreads: 1
  • Amazon: 1
  • LibraryThing: 2

In his journal, Nobel Prize winner John Steinbeck called East of Eden “the first book,” and indeed it has the primordial power and simplicity of myth. Set in the rich farmland of California’s Salinas Valley, this sprawling and often brutal novel follows the intertwined destinies of two families—the Trasks and the Hamiltons—whose generations helplessly reenact the fall of Adam and Eve and the poisonous rivalry of Cain and Abel. Adam Trask came to California from the East to farm and raise his family on the new rich land. But the birth of his twins, Cal and Aaron, brings his wife to the brink of madness, and Adam is left alone to raise his boys to manhood. One boy thrives nurtured by the love of all those around him; the other grows up in loneliness enveloped by a mysterious darkness. First published in 1952, East of Eden is the work in which Steinbeck created his most mesmerizing characters and explored his most enduring themes: the mystery of identity, the enecplicability of love, and the murderous consequences of love’s absence. A masterpiece of Steinbeck’s later years, East of Eden is a powerful and vastly ambitious novel that is at once a family saga and a modern retelling of the Book of Genesis

John Steinbeck’s Best Books

John Steinbeck Review Website Bibliography Rankings

BookGoodreadsAmazonLibraryThingOveral Rank
East of Eden 112 1
Steinbeck: A Life in Letters 275 2
Sweet Thursday 4410 3
America and Americans 919 4
Travels with Charley: In Search of America 578 5
Steinbeck in Vietnam: Dispatches from the War 2011 6
Cannery Row 8106 7
The Grapes of Wrath 12104 8
Journal of a Novel: The East of Eden Letters 3424 9
The Pastures of Heaven 7187 10
Working Days: The Journals of The Grapes of Wrath 101012 10
The Moon Is Down 15418 12
Of Mice and Men 191014 13
The Log from the Sea of Cortez 21715 13
The Long Valley 141019 13
Sea of Cortez: A Leisurely Journal of Travel and Research 15263 16
In Dubious Battle 151019 16
The Winter of Our Discontent 112213 18
A Russian Journal 62516 19
Tortilla Flat 211019 20
Viva Zapata! 251811 21
The Wayward Bus 211023 21
To a God Unknown 132616 23
Once There Was A War 152219 24
The Acts of King Arthur and His Noble Knights 211825 25
The Pearl 272228 26
Burning Bright 281831 26
The Short Reign of Pippin IV: A Fabrication 263026 28
The Red Pony 282628 28
Cup of Gold 302631 30
Bombs Away: The Story of a Bomber Team 323127 31
The Forgotten Village 313230 32