John Steinbeck's novels reflect his deep-seated roots in Monterey County. He first received attention with a novel set just after World War I in Monterey, titled Tortilla Flat. Uniquely for the time, this book focused on Monterey residents of Mexican descent. His work at ranches and farms in Salinas informed his "California novels" set in the Depression-era farmland of the Central Valley, including Of Mice and Men and The Grapes of Wrath.
His friendship with noted marine biologist Ed Ricketts, meanwhile, provided the foundation for his novels Cannery Row and Sweet Thursday, both of which used Monterey's canning industry as their setting. Ricketts was also the driving force behind two of John Steinbeck's non-fiction works, Sea of Cortez: A Leisurely Journal of Travel and Research and The Log From the Sea of Cortez, both of which document a research trip Ricketts and Steinbeck took to the Gulf of California in 1940.
The National Steinbeck Center Museum in Salinas is a tribute to the life and work of Steinbeck. The interactive museum brings his stories to life, and gives visitors a full sensory experience as they walk in the author's footsteps. Recently the museum expanded, adding a wing dedicated to the history of the agricultural industry in the Salinas Valley. It is now a perfect marriage of John Steinbeck's writing and the history of the Salinas Valley's "green gold."
A few blocks away, volunteer docents at The Steinbeck House serve up gracious prix fixe luncheons daily at the author's boyhood home. Reservations are required for lunch, but browsing the gift shop is free.
Cannery Row featured prominently in two of John Steinbeck's most famous novels, Cannery Row and Sweet Thursday. You'll find a bronze bust of John Steinbeck in Cannery Row's Steinbeck Plaza, at Cannery Row and Prescott Avenue in Monterey. Live music is often played at this historic site that once bustled with sardine factory workers, and became the setting for one of John Steinbeck's most colorful novels, Cannery Row. The nearby Spirit of Steinbeck Monterey Wax Museum recreates scenes from California's past, including scenes from Steinbeck's novels.