To Kill a Mockingbird

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Suggestions for Further Reading

"You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view... Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it." (Chapter 3)

Ways to experience the story of To Kill A Mockingbird:

   * Read it! We have copies of the novel in the Adult and Young Adult fiction sections.
   * Listen to it! We have audio versions on on tape and CD
   * Watch it! We have the movie on DVD and video.

For more information on the novel as literature, try

Readings on To Kill A Mockingbird edited by Terry O'Neill

What's in a name?   Harper Lee chose the name of Atticus after Titus Pomponius Atticus,
a friend of the Roman   orator Cicero, who was renowed, as Lee said, as "a wise, learned
& humane man." Finch was one of Lee's mother's names. (So was Cunningham!)

About the Author

Nelle Harper Lee was born April 28, 1926, and won the Pulitzer Prize in 1960 for To Kill a Mockingbird -- her only major work to date. She was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2007 for her contribution to literature. Other past winners of the Medal of Freedom for literature have been Carl Sandburg, Ralph Ellison, John Steinbeck, and Tennessee Williams.

Learn more about Harper Lee in the biography by Charles Shields: Mockingbird: A Portrait of Harper Lee. Harper Lee was childhood friends with the writer Truman Capote and accompanied him to Kansas while he researched his book In Cold Blood. The character Dill in To Kill A Mockingbird is said to have been inspired by Capote as a child, and Lee in turn inspired the character Idabel in Capote's Other Voices, Other Rooms. Try also The Complete Stories of Truman Capote, some of which are autobiographical, or the fictionalized account of Nelle and Truman's relationship in the novel Capote in Kansas by Kim Powers.

What do you think?  Harper Lee loved 19th-century British authors best, and once said that
her ambition was to become "the Jane Austen of Southern Alabama." What do you think of the

Novels Dealing with Civil Rights & Justice

  • Blood on the Leavesby Jeff Stetson :an African American prosecutor in Jackson, Miss. finds himself prosecuting a civil rights leader accused of killing whites that were acquitted of hate crimes.
Set in the South in the 1950's, four friends find their lives changed forever when a carefree summer takes a violent turn.

Justice for Noneby Gene Hackman and Daniel Lenihan -- On the run from the law after being falsely accused of murder, a troubled WWI veteran joines forces with an African American who has also been wrongly accused.

A Lesson Before Dying by Ernest Gaines -- In 1948 Louisiana, a young teacher, asked to impart his pride and learning to a young black man awaiting execution, comes face to face with his own cyicism and hopelessness.

Your Blues Ain't Like Mine by Bebe Moore Campbell -- A racist beating in a small Mississippi town riples through generations, changing the lives of everyone involved with the incident.

Wolf Whistle by Lewis Norton

If Beale Street Could Talk by James Baldwin Lane Cake Stephanie Crawford has been after Miss Maudie for her recipe for Lane Cake for thirty years. Lane Cake, a white or yellow layer cake covered with cocnut, nuts, and dried fruits, is said to have originated in Clayton, Alabama, when its creator, Emma Rylander Lane, won a prize for it in the state fair in the 1890's. For a recipe for this type of cake and other delicacies that the bridge ladies might have enjoyed, look in non-fiction 641.5975 for cookbooks with Southern recipes. Edna Lewis' Gift of Southern Cooking has a recipe for Lane Cake.

Novels Dealing with Race & Identity In Rural or Small-Town Southern Settings

"The one place where a man ought to get a square deal is in a courtroom, be he any color of the rainbow." (Chapter 23) Cloverby Dori Sanders -- Interracial marriage in the rural south of today as seen through the eyes of 10-year-old Clover, who is raised by a white step-mom despite protests from relatives. My Last Days as Roy Rogers by Pat Cunningham Devoto -- Growing up in Alabama in the 1950's, two inseparable 10-year-old girls, one black and one white, discover the theft of money meant for polio victims and expose a racial injustice. The Secret Life of Beesby Sue Monk Kidd -- After her "stand-in-mother" insults the three biggest racists in town, Lily Owens and bold, black Rosaleen escape to Tiburon, South Carolina where they are taken in by bee-keeping sisters. Meridian by Alice Walker . Strange Fruit by Lillian Smith. The Angels of Morgan Hill by Donna Vanliere

Similar Coming of Age Novels

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith.

Annie Dunne by Sebastian Barry.

Montana 1948 by Larry Watson

Wish You Well by David Baldacci

"Mockingbirds don't do one thing but make music for us to enjoy. They don't eat up people's gardens, don't nest in corncribs, they don't do one thing but sing their hearts out for us. That's why it's a sin to kill a mockingbird." (Chapter 10)

Did You Know? Thomas Jefferson kept pet mockingbirds while at the White House and at Monticello. One favorite, whom Jefferson named Dick, rode around on his shoulder.

Mockinbirds in the United States are of the species Mimus polyglottos and are known for mimicking other birds' songs. If you want to know more, try Know Your Bird Sounds: Songs and Calls of Yard, Garden and City Birds by Lang Elliott or try field guides to North American birds in nonfiction under 598.2

Historical Context

"Cry about the simple hell people give other people -- without even thinking. Cry about the hell white people give colored folks, without even stopping to think that they're people, too." (Chapter 20)

In the book, Scout is the same age as Harper Lee was in the early 1930's, during the trial of the "Scottsboro Boys." This case and that of Emmett Till both display prevalent Southern attitudes about race during this time period. Scottsboro

   The Scottsboro Boys by James Haskins
   Stories of Scottsboro by James Goodman

Emmett Till

   Death of Innocence by Mamie Till=Mobley & Christopher Benson
   The Murder of Emmett Till (on DVD)
   Getting Away With Murder: The True Story of the Emmett Till Case by Chris Crowe
   The Lynching of Emmett Till, a Documentary Narrative ed. by Christopher Metness

More about the time period and Civil Rights

   Alabama: a History by Virginia Van der Veer Hamilton
   Eyes on the Prize: America's Civil Rights Years, 1954-1965 by Juan Williams

Or browse in nonfiction 323 for more Civil Rights material.

The Movie The movie To Kill a Mockingbird was released just a year after the book came out. Gregory Peck played Atticus Finch and won the Oscar for Best Actor in 1962. Learn more in Gregory Peck: a Charmed Lifeby Lynn Haney. The film was nominated for Best Picture but lost to Lawrence of Arabia which is also available at the library.

Share the To Kill A Mockingbird experience with younger readers with these books which explore similar themes: In Young Adult Fiction by Author

   The $66 Summer by John Armistead
   Burning Up by Caroline B. Cooney
   Mississippi Trial, 1955 by Chris Crowe
   Dangerous Skiesby Suzanne Staples
   Let the Circle Be Unbroken by Mildred Taylor
   Sonny's House of Spiesby George Ella Lyon
   Spite Fencesby Trudy Krisher

In Juvenile Fiction by Author

   Sounder by William Armstrong
   From Miss Ida's Porchby Sandra Belton
   The Watson's Go To Birmingham, 1963 by C.P. Curtis
   Francieby Karen English
   Darby by Jonathan Scott Fuqua
   My Louisiana Skyby Kimberly Willis Holt
   Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cryby Mildred D. Taylor
   Dovey Coeby Francis O'Rourke Dowell

Literary Allusions

  1. The novel's main character Scout is extremely well-read for a first grader, which causes her teacher much consternation. She alludes to Mr. Jingle from The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens during Mayella Ewell's testimony at the trial and Bulfinch's Mytthology.
  2. Jem, Scout & Dill act out stories from Tarzan by Edgar Rice Burroughs, The Rover Boys by Victor Appleton, Tom Swift books, and books by Oliver Optic.
  3. Jem reads Ivanhoe to Mrs. DuBose.
  4. Scout learns to write by copying passages from the Bible. And Calpurnia teaches her son Zeebo to read from Blackstone's Commentaries.