Most of us have read the classic, “To Kill A Mockingbird” by Harper Lee. In fact, we’ve probably had it assigned to us multiple times throughout the school years. While there are no arguments that this is a good, high-quality book with complex themes woven throughout the narrative… but is it worth all the hype?
To understand how this book became so popular, so quickly, it’s important to know the context of the time period. Harper Lee’s classic was published in 1961 by Penguin Books. You probably recognize their logo above. Penguin Books is a British publishing company that came up with the idea of paperback books as a cost-effective alternative to hardback books. The paperback books were not only cheaper to produce, but they were inexpensive for the customer as well. These books could be produced in greater quantities as well.
A lot of the first paperback books were considered “seethy,” with racy pictures of men and women in order to sell more. These books were mostly crime novels or romance novels. “To Kill A Mockingbird” was one of the first high-quality, non-seethy books to be published. That coupled with the fact that schools were now buying books by the bushel to have for their students, made sales for “To Kill A Mockingbird” sky rocket.
Harper Lee’s Reaction
When asked about the instant success of her book in her one and only radio interview, Harper Lee said, “My reaction to it was not one of surprise; it was one of sheer numbness.” Perhaps she knew her success was less about her writing and more about the boom of paperback books. When she died, her estate discontinued all prints of the book, which makes it harder to get a hold of a copy of this classic.
Learn more about “To Kill A Mockingbird” in the video below!