Mockingbird: A Portrait of Harper Lee: From Scout to Go Set a Watchman

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An extensively revised and updated edition of the bestselling biography of Harper Lee, reframed from the perspective of the recent publication of Lee's Go Set a Watchman

To Kill a Mockingbird—the twentieth century's most widely read American novel—has sold thirty million copies and still sells a million yearly. In this in-depth biography, first published in 2006, Charles J. Shields brings to life the woman who gave us two of American literature's most unforgettable characters, Atticus Finch and his daughter, Scout.

Years after its initial publication—with revisions throughout the book and a new epilogue—Shields finishes the story of Harper Lee's life, up to its end. There's her former agent getting her to transfer the copyright for To Kill a Mockingbird to him, the death of Lee's dear sister Alice, a fuller portrait of Lee’s editor, Tay Hohoff, and—most vitally—the release of Lee's long-buried first novel and the ensuing public devouring of what has truly become the book of the year, if not the decade: Lee's Go Set a Watchman.

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About the author

Charles J. Shields is the author of And So It Goes: Kurt Vonnegut, A Life (Holt 2011), a New York Times and Washington Post Notable Nonfiction Book. Also, Mockingbird: A Portrait of Harper Lee (Holt 2006), an acclaimed, bestselling biography, recently revised as Mockingbird: A Portrait of Harper Lee from Scout to Go Set a Watchman (Holt 2016). I Am Scout: The Biography of Harper Lee (Henry Holt Books for Young Readers 2008) is for young adults. He is also the author of nonfiction books for young people. He and his wife reside in Charlottesville, Virginia.
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Additional Information

Publisher
Henry Holt and Company
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Published on
Apr 26, 2016
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Pages
352
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ISBN
9781250119452
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Language
English
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Genres
Biography & Autobiography / Literary Figures
Biography & Autobiography / Women
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Available on Android devices
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Eligible for Family Library

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Winner • National Book Critics Circle Award (Biography)
Winner • Edgar Award (Critical/Biographical)
Winner • Bram Stoker Award (Nonfiction)

A New York Times Notable Book
A Washington Post Notable Nonfiction Pick of the Year
Named one of the Best Books of the Year by Entertainment Weekly, NPR, TIME, Boston Globe, NYLON, San Francisco Chronicle, Seattle Times, Kirkus Reviews, and Booklist

In this “thoughtful and persuasive” biography, award-winning biographer Ruth Franklin establishes Shirley Jackson as a “serious and accomplished literary artist” (Charles McGrath, New York Times Book Review).

 

Instantly heralded for its “masterful” and “thrilling” portrayal (Boston Globe), Shirley Jackson reveals the tumultuous life and inner darkness of the literary genius behind such classics as “The Lottery” and The Haunting of Hill House. In this “remarkable act of reclamation” (Neil Gaiman), Ruth Franklin envisions Jackson as “belonging to the great tradition of Hawthorne, Poe and James” (New York Times Book Review) and demonstrates how her unique contribution to the canon “so uncannily channeled women’s nightmares and contradictions that it is ‘nothing less than the secret history of American women of her era’ ” (Washington Post). Franklin investigates the “interplay between the life, the work, and the times with real skill and insight, making this fine book a real contribution not only to biography, but to mid-20th-century women’s history” (Chicago Tribune). “Wisely rescu[ing] Shirley Jackson from any semblance of obscurity” (Lena Dunham), Franklin’s invigorating portrait stands as the definitive biography of a generational avatar and an American literary genius.

Luminous and intensely personal, Art and Madness recounts the lost years of Anne Roiphe’s twenties, when the soon-to-be-critically-acclaimed author put her dreams of becoming a writer on hold to devote herself to the magnetic but coercive male artists of the period.
 
Coming of age in the 1950s, Roiphe, the granddaughter of Jewish immigrants, grew up on Park Avenue and had an adolescence defined by privilege, petticoats, and social rules. At Smith College her classmates wore fraternity pins on their cashmere sweaters and knit argyle socks for their boyfriends during lectures. Young women were expected to give up personal freedom for devotion to home and children. Instead, Roiphe chose Beckett, Proust, Sartre, and Mann as her heroes and sought out the chaos of New York’s White Horse Tavern and West End Bar.
 
She was unmoored and uncertain, “waiting for a wisp of truth, a feather’s brush of beauty, a moment of insight.” Salvation came in the form of a brilliant playwright whom she married and worked to support, even after he left her alone on their honeymoon and later pawned her family silver, china, and pearls. Her near-religious belief in the power of art induced her to overlook his infidelity and alcoholism, and to dutifully type his manuscripts in place of writing her own.
 
During an era that idolized its male writers, she became, sometimes with her young child in tow, one of the girls draped across the sofa at parties with George Plimpton, Terry Southern, Doc Humes, Norman Mailer, Peter Matthiessen, and William Styron. In the Hamptons she socialized with Larry Rivers, Jack Gelber and other painters and sculptors. “Moderation for most of us is a most unnatural condition . . . . I preferred to burn out like a brilliant firecracker.” But while she was playing the muse reality beckoned, forcing her to confront the notion that any sacrifice was worth making for art.
 
Art and Madness recounts the fascinating evolution of a time when art and alcohol and rebellion caused collateral damage and sometimes produced extraordinary work. In clear-sighted, perceptive, and unabashed prose, Roiphe shares with astonishing honesty the tumultuous adventure of self-discovery that finally led to her redemption.
In four haunting family stories, Ellen Douglas seeks to track down the truth--about herself, about her white Mississippi forebears, about their relationships to black Mississippians, and ultimately about their guilt as murderers of helpless slaves. Progressively searching further and further back in time, each of these four family tales involves collusion and secrets. In "Grant," a randy old uncle dying in the author's house is nursed by a beautiful black woman while his white family watches from a "respectful" distance. Who loves him better? When truth is death, who is braver facing it? In "Julia and Nellie," very close cousins make "a marriage in all but name" back in the days of easy scandal. The nature of the liaison never mentioned, the family waives its Presbyterian morality in the face of family deviance. In "Hampton," her grandmother's servant, who has constructed a world closed to whites, evades the author's tentative efforts at a meeting of minds. And finally, in "On Second Creek," Douglas confronts her obsession with the long-lost--or -buried--facts of the "examination and execution" of slaves who may or may not have plotted an uprising. Having published fiction for four decades, here she crosses over into the mirror world of historical fact. It's a book, she says, "about remembering and forgetting, seeing and ignoring, lying and truth-telling." It's about secrets, judgments, threats, danger, and willful amnesia. It's about the truth in fiction and the fiction in "truth." Praise for Ellen Douglas: "It's possible to think that some people were simply born to write. Ellen Douglas is just such a writer."--Richard Ford; "Proust wrote in one of his last letters, 'one must never be afraid of going too far, for the truth is beyond.' Ellen Douglas has taken this very much to heart and has sought the truth in a region beyond falsehood; through falsehood, in effect. It's a fascinating performance."--Shelby Foote.
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee is one of the best loved novels of the twentieth century. But for the last fifty years, the novel’s celebrated author, Harper Lee, has said almost nothing on the record. Journalists have trekked to her hometown of Monroeville, Alabama, where Harper Lee, known to her friends as Nelle, has lived with her sister, Alice, for decades, trying and failing to get an interview with the author. But in 2001, the Lee sisters opened their door to Chicago Tribune journalist Marja Mills. It was the beginning of a long conversation—and a great friendship.
 
In 2004, with the Lees’ blessing, Mills moved into the house next door to the sisters. She spent the next eighteen months there, sharing coffee at McDonalds and trips to the Laundromat with Nelle, feeding the ducks and going out for catfish supper with the sisters, and exploring all over lower Alabama with the Lees’ inner circle of friends.
 
Nelle shared her love of history, literature, and the Southern way of life with Mills, as well as her keen sense of how journalism should be practiced. As the sisters decided to let Mills tell their story, Nelle helped make sure she was getting the story—and the South—right. Alice, the keeper of the Lee family history, shared the stories of their family.
 
The Mockingbird Next Door is the story of Mills’s friendship with the Lee sisters. It is a testament to the great intelligence, sharp wit, and tremendous storytelling power of these two women, especially that of Nelle.
 
Mills was given a rare opportunity to know Nelle Harper Lee, to be part of the Lees’ life in Alabama, and to hear them reflect on their upbringing, their corner of the Deep South, how To Kill a Mockingbird affected their lives, and why Nelle Harper Lee chose to never write another novel.
When Stoner was published in 1965, the novel sold only a couple of thousand copies before disappearing with hardly a trace. Yet John WilliamsÕs quietly powerful tale of a Midwestern college professor, William Stoner, whose life becomes a parable of solitude and anguish eventually found an admiring audience in America and especially in Europe. The New York Times called Stoner Òa perfect novel,Ó and a host of writers and critics, including Colum McCann, Julian Barnes, Bret Easton Ellis, Ian McEwan, Emma Straub, Ruth Rendell, C. P. Snow, and Irving Howe, praised its artistry. The New Yorker deemed it Òa masterly portrait of a truly virtuous and dedicated man.Ó

The Man Who Wrote the Perfect Novel traces the life of StonerÕs author, John Williams. Acclaimed biographer Charles J. Shields follows the whole arc of WilliamsÕs life, which in many ways paralleled that of his titular character, from their shared working-class backgrounds to their undistinguished careers in the halls of academia. Shields masterfully recounts WilliamsÕs development as an author, whose other works include the novels ButcherÕs Crossing and Augustus (for the latter, Williams shared the 1972 National Book Award). Shields also reveals the astonishing afterlife of Stoner, which garnered new fans with each American reissue, and then became a bestseller all over Europe after Dutch publisher Lebowski brought out a translation in 2013. Since then, Stoner has been published in twenty-one countries and has sold over a million copies.

#1 NEW YORK TIMES, WALL STREET JOURNAL, AND BOSTON GLOBE BESTSELLER • NAMED ONE OF THE TEN BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY THE NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW • ONE OF PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA’S FAVORITE BOOKS OF THE YEAR • BILL GATES’S HOLIDAY READING LIST • FINALIST FOR THE NATIONAL BOOK CRITICS CIRCLE’S AWARD IN AUTOBIOGRAPHY • FINALIST FOR THE NATIONAL BOOK CRITICS CIRCLE’S JOHN LEONARD PRIZE FOR BEST FIRST BOOK • FINALIST FOR THE PEN/JEAN STEIN BOOK AWARD • FINALIST FOR THE LOS ANGELES BOOK PRIZE

NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY The Washington Post • O: The Oprah Magazine • Time • NPR • Good Morning America • San Francisco Chronicle • The Guardian • The Economist • Financial Times • Newsday • New York Post • theSkimm • Refinery29 • Bloomberg • Self • Real Simple • Town & Country • Bustle • Paste • Publishers Weekly • Library Journal • LibraryReads • BookRiot • Pamela Paul, KQED • New York Public Library

An unforgettable memoir about a young girl who, kept out of school, leaves her survivalist family and goes on to earn a PhD from Cambridge University

Born to survivalists in the mountains of Idaho, Tara Westover was seventeen the first time she set foot in a classroom. Her family was so isolated from mainstream society that there was no one to ensure the children received an education, and no one to intervene when one of Tara’s older brothers became violent. When another brother got himself into college, Tara decided to try a new kind of life. Her quest for knowledge transformed her, taking her over oceans and across continents, to Harvard and to Cambridge University. Only then would she wonder if she’d traveled too far, if there was still a way home.

“Beautiful and propulsive . . . Despite the singularity of [Tara Westover’s] childhood, the questions her book poses are universal: How much of ourselves should we give to those we love? And how much must we betray them to grow up?”—Vogue

“Westover has somehow managed not only to capture her unsurpassably exceptional upbringing, but to make her current situation seem not so exceptional at all, and resonant for many others.”—The New York Times Book Review
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