The rough first draft of Harper Lee’s uber-classic To Kill A Mockingbird, Go Set A Watchman, was released this past Tuesday. Unsurprisingly, it’s smashing sales records around the world, but it has also set off a wave of controversy. The situation surrounding Watchman‘s publication has left a very bad taste in many people’s mouths, and indeed there is much that is suspect in the tale.
Like countless others, To Kill A Mockingbird is my favorite novel, without question. There are others I love –A Prayer for Owen Meaney, The Corrections, Nicholas Nickleby, Wait Until Spring, Bandini, A Confederacy of Dunces, For Whom the Bell Tolls– but Mockingbird is the only one that’s perfect.
Personally, I’m going to forgo Go Set A Watchman, but all this talk of Mockingbird is making me hungry for more… Luckily there’s a cottage industry specializing in books spun off from Lee’s novel. Here we present a brief list of some of the best.
Three friends decide to pay tribute to their favorite teacher –an lover of Lee’s masterpiece– by attempting to entice as many people as possible to read To Kill A Mockingbird. They do so by endeavoring to make the book as scarce and difficult to find, knowing that people love to be a part of something exclusive. They misshelve the book in libraries and bookstores, and take to social media and set up a website (ikilledthemockingbird.com) to publicize their mission. With the help of Wil Wheaton, their work goes viral…
Erin’s mother died years ago, when Erin was too young to even get to know her. Now, all she has that connects her to her mom is a tattered, note-filled copy of To Kill A Mockingbird. Obsessed with the book for years, on her sixteenth birthday Erin decides to set out on a journey of discovery to learn as much about her mother as she can, and so she makes her way to Alabama to find the reclusive Harper Lee. Along the way she meets a menagerie of colourful characters… Think if it as a middle grade, literary Field of Dreams.
Read our interview with Loretta Ellsworth HERE.
I Am Scout is Charles J. Shields’ middle grade adaptation of his own biography of Harper Lee, Mockingbird. This book offers an engaging portrait of woman whose one (real) book is one of the most revered and widely read in the history of literature. From her days as a hard-headed tomboy in Alabama through her school years and the beginning of her writing career, struggling in New York, to the publication of her seminal work, I Am Scout is wonderful further reading for any young fan of To Kill A Mockingbird.
Kathryn Erskine’s National Book Award-winning tale concerns a young girl with Asperger’s Syndrome trying to deal with her emotions (or lack thereof) following the school shooting that claimed her brother.
Erskine mines much of the same ground as Lee, especially where the compromise of innocence is at play, and she makes many references to To Kill A Mockingbird throughout, both subtle and overt.
From the Try it If You Like… files we present John Kennedy Toole’s The Neon Bible. This book has no ties to To Kill A Mockingbird, save for circumstances: Written before his Pulitzer Prize-winning triumph, A Confederacy of Dunces, but not released until after not just Toole’s death (Dunces was released after his death as well, actually…) but also following his mother’s death. (Toole was just 16 when he wrote it.) Neon Bible was never meant for publication, and when she died, his mother left strict instructions that it should remain unpublished, which apparently meant nothing to her kin, who of course saw dollars in them thar pages. What separates Bible from Watchman is that it is wildly successful, furthering Toole’s legacy rather than detracting from it. Ironically, it bears more than a passing resemblance to Mockingbird in tone; in fact, were you to read it without knowing the author, and then were asked whose unpublished book it was, Harper Lee would be a much better guess than Toole.