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“To Kill a Mockingbird” Still Inspires After 50 Years

51b3duDxivL._SL160_This year marks the 50th anniversary of Harper Lee’s Pulitzer Prize winning book To Kill a Mockingbird. To commemorate the milestone, Mary McDonagh Murphy has written Scout, Atticus & Boo: A Celebration of Fifty Years of To Kill a Mockingbird (Harper, 240pgs) in which twenty-six people are interviewed about their love of the book. Some of the interviewees are very well known, such as Oprah Winfrey, Anna Quindlen and Tom Brokaw, others like the author’s sister, Alice Finch Lee are less so. After 50 years in print, the novel is considered an American classic and still sells almost one million copies a year. “No other twentieth-century American novel is more widely read. Even British librarians, who were polled in 2006 and asked, “Which book should every adult read before they die?” voted To Kill a Mockingbird number one. The Bible was number two,” writes Murphy in an excerpt published on the The New Yorker‘s website. Murphy, who is also a filmmaker, has produced a documentary titled Hey, Boo to coincide with the book.

Unfortunately, Harper Lee is not among Murphy’s high-profile interviewees. The intensely private author, who has not given an interview since 1964, remains sort of an enigma. To Kill a Mockingbird is Lee’s only published work, and she has never answered publicly as to why she stopped after her hugely successful first novel. Perhaps this singularity makes the book more special and well loved, though it is not without its critics. An article by Janet Kinosian in The Los Angeles Times states that To Kill a Mockingbird “routinely makes the American Library Assn.’s Top 100 list of most requested books to be challenged or banned.” The novel has also been criticized for the use of racial slurs and the “derogatory and underdeveloped images of blacks.” As with any creative work, there will always be supporters and detractors, but very few can argue against the fact that since its debut 50 years ago, To Kill a Mockingbird has inspired generations of readers.

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