Now I'm getting the chance to read books I didn't have time for before. Think of me whenever you see the slogan "So many books, so little time!" Now I've got the time.  Cheers, Fred.

The Short Novels of John Steinbeck

Book Number: 
Date Fred Read: 
August 2018
Fred's Rating: 
John Steinbeck
Total Pages: 
Penguin Classics

This 2009 Deluxe Edition doesn't include the 9-pp Introduction of the 1953 Viking edition (the one I've read). The six short novels by John Steinbeck (1902-1968), with publication dates in parentheses, are: Tortilla Flat (1935), The Red Pony (1933), Of Mice and Men (1937), The Moon Is Down (1942), Cannery Row (1945), & The Pearl (1948).

The website for Amazon’s Kindle edition is

[None of the ISBN-10, ISBN-13, or ASIN numbers on Amazon’s websites for the three editions (Kindle, hardcover, or paperback) are recognized by Amazon, thus the ‘no image Circle' appears. I think this new change by Amazon is not good. However, you can see the images of this book's covers at the website above.]

The home page has a paragraph about this collection. Only Tortilla Flat has a Preface. For detailed reviews I recommend two of the ‘Top customer reviews’ – by ‘John Michael Albert’ and ‘Amazon Customer.’ (Be sure to click on ‘Read more’ for each of these two reviews.) They both mention Steinbeck’s special long novels – The Grapes of Wrath and East of Eden – both were important for his widespread recognition and fame. I’ve also read The Winter of Our Discontent and Travels with Charlie, but that was a few decades ago. Thanks to the recommendation of my son, I’ve more recently read Steinbeck’s second ‘Cannery Row’ novel - Sweet Thursday (1954). It serves as a continuation of Cannery Row, with Doc (and other Cannery Row characters) described in more detail.

As have the Top customer reviewers mentioned above done, I’ve ranked the six short novels according to my taste and experience. By experience, after having read both Tortilla Flat and Cannery Row, when I first went to physics ’Fall’ meetings on the Monterey peninsula, I found the time, with a couple of physicist colleagues, to explore the topography of these two locations – the not-so-flat areas above Monterey, Pacific Grove, and Carmel, as well as the Monterey waterfront. We tried to imagine them when Steinbeck explored them, but much has changed, especially in the not-so-flat Tortilla Flat. Having been there and done that, I have to rate both Tortilla Flat and Cannery Row as the top two, followed by the Red Pony and Mice and Men, both of which have a special sadness at the heart of these stories. Fifth for me is The Pearl – a sadness that is easy to imagine but would be way too hard to live through. That leaves for sixth place The Moon Is Down – describes with deep feelings a fictional event of a Nazi takeover of a town in Europe early in the insanity of WWII, described well enough to be plausible.

In reading this book, I have now reread twice five of these six short novels, which gave me a deeper appreciation for John Steinbeck’s skill. I recommend anyone who, back in school days, had read some or all of them, to reread them and compare your current feelings about them with your earlier ones. The currently available 2009 book omitted the excellent 9-pp Introduction by Joseph Henry Jackson in the Viking Press edition of 1953. This costs the 2009 edition a star. Thus I rate this 2009 collection of stories at four stars.