World Book Day is a celebration! It’s a celebration of authors, illustrators, books and it’s a celebration of reading. In fact, it’s the biggest celebration of its kind, designated by UNESCO as a worldwide celebration of books and reading, and marked in over 100 countries all over the world.
To celebrate, Great Lakes USA is showcasing some of the most influential and popular authors of our region.
Our first stop is in Minnesota and with Sinclair Lewis. Lewis was the first American to win the Nobel Prize for Literature and grew up in Sauk Centre. After graduating from Yale, Lewis sought various writing jobs not finding himself until 12 years later with a novel about hypocritical and back-stabbing behaviours in a small town. The novel, “Main Street” was an instant success. Lewis followed up with another satirical novel,“Babbit” a broadside of the American commercial culture. Following this formula, he wrote 28 novels in all.
Fellow Minnesota resident F. Scott Fitzgerald is the author of a house hold name. “The Great Gatsby” was Fitzgerald’s third of five novels and it brought this St. Paul native acclaim as a literary giant, but only posthumously. The book did not sell many copies while Fitzgerald was living, but became a staple in high school reading and generated five films. His late fame arose from the realization that Fitzgerald’s creations captured the essence of an era gone by which he aptly coined “The Jazz Age.”
Heading south into Wisconsin and to the natural world with Aldo Leopold. Considered by many to be the father of wildlife ecology and the United States’ wilderness system, Aldo Leopold was a conservationist, forester, philosopher, educator, writer, and outdoor enthusiast. A little more than a year after his death, Leopold’s collection of essays, “A Sand County Almanac”, was published. With more than two million copies sold, it has become one of the most respected books about the environment ever published, and Leopold has come to be regarded as the most influential conservation thinker of the 20th century.
As we follow the mighty Mississippi down into Illinois we discover the authors influenced by the Land of Lincoln. Ernest Hemingway is one of the most famous American writers of the 20th century born in Oak Park, Illinois. Hemingway’s books include “The Sun Also Rises”, “A Farewell to Arms” and his classic novel of the Spanish Civil War, “For Whom the Bell Tolls”. His short novel “The Old Man and the Sea” won the Pulitzer Prize in 1953, and Hemingway was given the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1954.
A specialist in science-related thrillers, Michael Crichton, a fellow Illinoisian, wrote some of the most popular mass-market novels of the 1980s and 1990s. Perhaps Crichton’s most famous novel is “Jurassic Park”, which sore in popularity following the release of the movie inspired by the book directed by Steven Spielberg.
Indianapolis, Indiana is world famous for fast cars, but they also know how to take it slow, and relax with a good book. One of its most famous sons, Kurt Vonnegut, was one of the most influential writers in America in the 20th century. He blended satire, black comedy and science fiction into well-known works such as “Slaughterhouse-Five”, “Cat’s Cradle” and “Breakfast of Champions”. Prior to launching his writing career, Vonnegut served in the U.S. Army, where he was captured in Europe and held as a prisoner of war. Those experiences definitely influenced his writing.
Heading East to Ohio, The Buckeye State, where we begin to get shivers with R.L Stine, the author of the popular children’s books“Goosebumps”. Like J.K. Rowling, Stine has been credited with encouraging young readers, while at the same time he has weathered criticism for writing stories based on the occult. Stine began the Fear Street series in 1989, and then launched the Goosebumps series in 1992. The Goosebumps books, with titles like “Brain Juice”, “My Hairiest Adventure” and “It Came From Beneath the Sink!”, were an international success and the series was turned into a syndicated TV series in 1995.
Our final stop on the literary tour of the Great Lakes USA region is slightly north into Michigan. We stay in the children’s world with the author of“The Polar Express” and “Jumanji”, Chris Van Allsburg. Van Allsburg won Caldecott Medals for his lavishly illustrated books. Van Allsburg’s books are known for their mysterious stories and whimsically dreamy images, all meticulously illustrated.
It’s not all about the kids in Michigan, Glendon Fred Swarthout wrote many novels across genres, including dramas, comedy and mysteries. Some of his best known novels were made into films of the same title, “Where the Boys Are”, “The Shootist” and “They Came To Cordura”. Swarthout was twice nominated for the Pulitzer Prize in Fiction and won many writing accolades during his career.
This is the 20th year there’s been a World Book Day, and on 2nd March 2017 we invite you to curl up with a good book, and lose yourself in a world inspired by the Great Lakes USA.