John Steinbeck: Famous Author Biography, About, Facts, & Stuff You Didn't Know

By Grace Taylor
Author John Steinbeck. (Peter Stackpole/The LIFE Picture Collection via Getty Images)

If you went to high school in the United States, you definitely know the name John Steinbeck.  Maybe you were annoyed when your teacher assigned you the 450-page The Grapes Of Wrath, but if you gave the book a shot, you probably learned a lot about the Great Depression, the Dust Bowl, and the deep impact it had on the lives of the American working class, as Steinbeck's work often dealt with the real world struggle of everyday people.

John Steinbeck's Early Life

John Steinbeck was born on February 27, 1902 in Salinas, California, an area that was known as the "Salad Bowl of America" thanks to its high production of lettuce. Living in this valley informed much of Steinbeck's writing, as he became deeply passionate about telling the often-ignored stories of the lives of blue-collar workers. Even in high school, Steinbeck was a prolific writer, often inviting his friends over to read his work and offer constructive criticism.

After graduating high school in 1919, Steinbeck enrolled at Stanford University. He studied creative writing, history, and marine biology, but after six years of failing to earn enough credits to graduate, he dropped out and picked up odd jobs to support himself while he pursued writing. In 1929, he released his first novel, Cup Of Gold, and soon after, he met his first wife, Carol Henning. It wasn't until 1935 that he released his first success, Tortilla Flat, and it took four more years to release his most revered work, The Grapes Of Wrath, about a Depression-era Oklahoma family on a road trip to escape the Dust Bowl and seek fortune in the golden plains of California.