Blog Archives

Who said, ‘The book to read is not the one that thinks for you but the one which makes you think’?

The curious origin of a famous quotation

‘The book to read is not the one that thinks for you but the one which makes you think’ is a quotation that is often attributed to Harper Lee, the author of the seminal work of twentieth-century American literature, To Kill a Mockingbird. But did Harper Lee originate this quotation?

Numerous websites give the credit to Harper Lee, it’s true. (See, for instance, these pages on Goodreads and Bustle, and this book.) It’s been shared numerous times on social media with Lee’s name attached to it. But it doesn’t feature in her Wikiquote page, and cannot be traced to any known interview she gave, nor to either of the two novels published in her lifetime, To Kill a Mockingbird or Go Set a Watchman. Did Lee actually say it? Read the rest of this entry


Five Fascinating Facts about Harper Lee

Fun facts about Harper Lee, author of To Kill a Mockingbird

1. Harper Lee based the character of Dill from To Kill a Mockingbird on the boy who lived next door to her as a child. That boy was Truman Capote. Harper Lee would later work as Truman Capote’s assistant on his novel In Cold Blood, and served as the model for one of the characters in Capote’s first novel, the 1948 work Other Voices, Other RoomsRead the rest of this entry

The Advent Calendar of Literature: Day 21

Our exploration of noteworthy facts involving Christmas presents and American writers continues today. Yesterday we revealed the odd items which were the only Christmas presents William Faulkner would accept from his family. Today, we look at how a generous Christmas gift led to one of the most popular and enduring works of twentieth-Presentscentury literature being written.

In December 1956, Nelle Harper Lee, better known as Harper Lee, the author of To Kill a Mockingbird, received a rather useful Christmas present from her friends, Michael Brown and Joy Williams Brown. It was a short note which read: ‘You have one year off from your job to write whatever you please. Merry Christmas.’ Enclosed were a year’s wages, which Lee could only accept on condition that she give up work and write for a year. She accepted. Over the next year, she wrote the novel that became To Kill a Mockingbird. It was published a few years later, in July 1960, and although its author expected it to sink without trace, it has gone on to become one of the most widely read novels of the twentieth century.

Lee has never written another novel, but then she hasn’t needed to. To Kill a Mockingbird speaks (and pays) for itself. To date, it has sold over 30 million copies, and in 1999, it was voted ‘Best Novel of the Century’ in a poll by the Library Journal. Some Christmas presents can really make a difference…

Image: Gift boxes, symbol of joy celebrated at Christmas, Creative Commons.