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Harper Lee

My copies of Harper Lee’s novels. Can you tell I read To Kill A Mockingbird a lot?

Wow.What a shock to hear that this inspirational woman and writer passed away today. Even though she wasn’t a public figure, the way many other authors are, I think it is undeniable that she had an incredible impact on the reading landscape as we know it today.

I first read To Kill A Mockingbird as part of my GCSE English Literature course, all the way back in 2007. It was the first time I truly became aware of what true creative genius was; how a single novel could combine so much vivid imagery, solid characterisation, powerful social messages, witty and intelligent dialogue, and still remain a highly enjoyable and engaging story.

It was the first time I saw how important literature could be. Some of the messages in this novel are still so relevant to us today:

“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view… Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.”

This book literally changed the way I looked at the world and the people around me, and I often find myself reminded of quotes such as the above one when I see the prejudices and injustices that still exist in our society. Compassion, understanding, acceptance: if more people exercised these qualities, there might be less tension, unrest and violence in our world. That is what this book shows, as we follow Scout, and the many of the residents of Maycomb, through a journey into maturity and tolerance.

As long as they are causing nobody else any harm, let people live their lives as they see fit, even if that way of life seems completely alien to you.

Reading this book, seeing the depths of meaning that could be reached through fiction, has led me to pursue English Literature courses at A-Level, Undergraduate and Postgraduate Level. It made me want to read as much as possible, to see what other writers achieve with their imaginations, to see how literature resonates across cultures and generations. It produced that fascination in me, and now I am pursuing a career in publishing, so I can make some sort of contribution to the reading market, bringing these wonderful creations to today’s readers.

I read To Kill A Mockingbird at least once a year, and there has not been one time that I haven’t enjoyed reading it. One of the things I love most about this book is that reading has such a high value placed upon it by the three principal characters, Scout, Jem and Atticus. They love reading just as much as I always have, and that always makes me smile.

If anything, Harper Lee proved that it is not the quantity of work you produce in your lifetime that matters; rather it is the quality and sincerity put into that work that truly determines your success. One novel and one first draft of a novel have been published under Harper Lee’s name, and yet she will always be one of the most celebrated literary figures from the twentieth century.

Thank you for everything, Harper Lee.


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