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Working Days: The Journals of The Grapes of Wrath

4.01  ·  Rating details ·  618 ratings  ·  88 reviews
John Steinbeck wrote The Grapes of Wrath during an astonishing burst of activity between June and October of 1938. Throughout the time he was creating his greatest work, Steinbeck faithfully kept a journal revealing his arduous journey toward its completion.The journal, like the novel it chronicles, tells a tale of dramatic proportions—of dogged determination and inspirati ...more
Paperback, 240 pages
Published December 1st 1990 by Penguin Books (first published January 1st 1989)
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Aug 13, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction

Steinbeck wrote his Pulitzer Prize winning novel The Grapes of Wrath in an exhausting period of intense creativity from June to October 1938. During that period and for some time thereafter, he kept a journal in which he wrote before he started work each day. Steinbeck set out what he expected to achieve on that day and recorded his hopes, dreams and frustrations. He repeatedly expressed his determination to make the book a good one, but also his fear that it wouldn’t be. Steinbeck reported on b
Aug 29, 2015 rated it really liked it
I read 'The Grapes of Wrath' first when I was a teenager. Recently, I re-read it, along with ‘Working Days: the journal of the Grapes of Wrath’, and I could understand this novel a lot better through the perspective of the author.

For example, I saw why Steinbeck separated the General Chapters from the Specific ones and why he alternated them, what was the role of the rain in the story, and why he built Ma Joad the way he did. I found reading the two books together moved me a lot more than before

I found this a very interesting read. I think that all authors, would-be-authors, and readers wondering about the process of creating a novel, would agree with me. Note: Some parts of Steinbeck’s journal entries are slightly repetitious, but each entry is short enough that I found it easy, and not at all distracting, to skim through such passages.

The book begins with a 57 page “Introduction” – lengthy, but with some interesting points to make:

- The Grapes of Wrath has been less judged as a nov
M. Sarki
Jul 09, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 5-star-wonders

The most private of men writes a diary, keeping it current on each day he actually sits down to work on a novel which would become The Grapes of Wrath. Keeping a journal was something John Steinbeck had attempted in the past to no avail. But it is our great fortune that he succeeded at the most important time of his life to practice the discipline that not only earned him great literary rewards but also secured his memory in our American consciousness.

Amanda G. Stevens
The main takeaway here is that Steinbeck lived in a quagmire of self-doubt the entire time he was drafting one of the greatest American novels of all time. But he went to work anyway. As a writer I take immense encouragement from his determined discipline and his desire to write “one good book” in his lifetime. Well, sir, you certainly accomplished more than one.

Favorite quote: “Here is a strange thing—almost like a secret. You start out putting words down and there are three things—you, the pe
Andrew Peacock
Mar 20, 2020 rated it it was amazing
What a fabulous book for a writer to read. If Steinbeck had all these worries about distraction and lack of self confidence maybe there is hope for the rest of us. The idea of writing down all the things that bother you about writing and then just writing is so inspiring. Time to go put something down on paper.
Jan 13, 2010 rated it really liked it
There is no better way to disabuse people of the notion that writing is easy than to hand them this book. Steinbeck fans will appreciate the journal's insights into his personal life, but any reader should come away from this with some sense of the determination and grinding discipline that writing projects demand. ...more
Kristi Duarte
Sep 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: writing
LOVE THIS BOOK!!!!! Grapes of Wrath is one of my favorite books ever, its language is so perfect, and as an author I aspire to reach that level (good luck with that, right?). Reading this book should be a must for any author, because it's so helpful to read that even geniuses doubt their talents, get tired of writing in the middle of a project, take more days than necessary off, etc. I recognized myself so much in his journal notes that I have recommended this book to everyone in my writer's gro ...more
Nicky Penttila
Sep 20, 2015 rated it it was amazing
A writer who talks about his feelings! Doubt, confidence, joy, worry, and the push to keep working as the world collides into him. I've had this book on my shelf for a decade, at least, always intending to re-read The Grapes of Wrath with it but never actually buying that book. Reading it the first time on its own, though, helped me concentrate on the writing process, without the distraction of the novel's tough content.

"I have the laziness and reluctance that is always present in the beginning.
Twila Newey
Jan 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I coupled this with my reading of The Grapes of Wrath, which was fascinating and supports my theory that something prophetic was going on with Steinbeck. There was a drive to write the book, to make it visceral and real, to preach his sermon on the greatness and failure of America as an ideal. Here is what stuck out for me:
1. one day at a time, 2 pages a day
2. the over all sweep and separate movements of the book all existed in Stienbeck's mind prior to writing
3. the way he often laid out the wo
Stephanie Ricker
Anyone who doesn’t think writing is hard work should read this collection, taken from Steinbeck’s daily writing notes. The poor man sweats bullets the whole time and pours blood, sweat, and tears into his manuscript. Even though Steinbeck had quite a few published works by this point, he angsts constantly about how he’s not a real writer, and soon everybody is going to find it out. He alternates between thinking his work is crap and hoping that it’s brilliant. He has to psych himself up to write ...more
Nov 19, 2009 rated it it was amazing
How did he do it? Steinbeck gave himself 6 months to write Grapes of Wrath (after several years of research), then sat down and penned the whole Pulitzer-winning manuscript in one concentrated burst--in two drafts mind you. How did he begin each day? What was he thinking? What obstacles did he face (plenty) & how did he deal with them? For a writer struggling through a manuscript, this diary is pure inspiration. Even Steinbeck had days when he felt like the world was about to discover what a los ...more
Nov 10, 2016 rated it really liked it
I love reading people's journals and I love John Steinbeck, so that explains the four stars. I hate that people can't or won't talk about the struggles they go through much of the time -- I know it can be depressing or considered selfish, but it's so alienating to feel something inside and see no traces of it in others. It's particularly fascinating to see inside the mind of someone who went on to become a Pulitzer and Nobel Prize winning author, and to discover he is just as unsettled, petty, w ...more
Victoria Mixon
Nov 23, 2010 rated it liked it
Again, Steinbeck's daily record of his struggles to sit down and write his novel is a gift to all writers. Obviously, he worked from a plan he'd previously spent a great deal of time and energy forming, and obviously his manuscript later went through editorial development with his editor and close friend Pat Covici. But the day-to-day professional attitude toward his job, toward the process of his craft---that's something no aspiring writer can ever hear enough about.

It takes a long time to beco
Sissy Van Dyke
May 09, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This is my favorite writing book. It's an intimate portrait of the writing mind and a great example of writing as hard, mental work. This, despite the fact that Steinbeck wrote Grapes of Wrath in five months! Steinbeck's National Book Award, Pulitzer Prize and, eventual Nobel Prize are confirmations of the value of fast and free-writing. When you tap into the Wild Mind, you lose control of the work, and I think that's a great thing. I believe that a spirit resides within me that is a much better ...more
Tyler Weaver
Aug 27, 2015 rated it really liked it
Five stars for the diaries, three for the editor's commentary. ...more
Margaret Madden
Dec 16, 2015 rated it it was amazing
His wonderful to have access to the inner thoughts, and insecurities, of one of the most talented writers of the 20thC...
Devin Murphy
Nov 23, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This is a really fascinating book as it reveals how down on himself he was during the writing of his masterpiece. It showed me the nature of all artistic endeavors being married to self-doubt.
Brent Ecenbarger
Dec 15, 2020 rated it really liked it
… but I am sure of one thing-- it isn’t the book I’d hoped it would be. It’s just a run of the mill book. And the awful thing is it’s the absolute best I can do. Now to work on it.” John Steinbeck - One week before finishing The Grapes of Wrath(pg. 90)

My copy of Working Days: The Journals of the Grapes of Wrath is 128 pages long. Of that, I’d say about 75 pages are journals, the rest is contextual notes provided by the author to explain what was going on in the time period Steinbeck wrote his m
Jan 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing
For writers, this book is REALLY good.

Steinbeck wrote this journal alongside his writing of The Grapes of Wrath. He used the journal as way of keeping himself honest. He required of himself that he write almost daily, around 2,000 words per day. He had already written "Of Mice and Men" and "Tortilla Flats" without the journal concept, and maybe he developed this journal idea as a way to start his writing every day, but also as a way to keep track of the time he began working each day, and partia
Dave Carroll
Oct 25, 2019 rated it liked it
Just finished Working Days: The Journals of the Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck.

Like Journal of A Novel: The East of Eden Letters, it is a posthumous work intended more for Steinbeck scholars and much too obsessed fans.

It was compiled by Steinbeck as a writing exercise to limber up his hand and mind before beginning each day's work on the novel.

It offers deep insight into the process and pries open the well sealed lid of privacy that Steinbeck had placed over his private life.

It is interes
Alan Gerstle
Aug 17, 2019 rated it really liked it
Ever wish you could enter the psyche of a writer while he/she was writing a novel and buzz around the brain and see what is really going on? Now through the miracle of Steinbeck's notebook (written coevally with Grapes of Wrath) you don't have to miniaturize yourself like i fantastic voyage. Instead of having to go inside, Steinbeck has done you the favor of kicking all his concerns, fears, worries, schedules, etc. Out the brain's doorway. Like a person with his possessions strewn on the front l ...more
Jacob Vahle
Jul 20, 2020 rated it liked it
The second diary of Steinbeck's I've read while reading a work. This one captures the mundane parts of life a bit more than the East of Eden diary. However, it still gives a window into his creation of the story. It especially shows the way Steinbeck was plagued by self-doubt his entire career, convinced that this book wasn't good enough to bring to light the plight of the Okies and that the book would be forgotten or laughed at. Spoiler alert: it was a rousing success, catapulting Grapes of Wra ...more
Joe Chan
Aug 19, 2019 rated it really liked it
This one is a strange one to rate: as the title says, it's John Steinbeck's journal entries from when he was writing The Grapes of Wrath, with a bit of historical context added by the editor, Robert DeMott. Having not read Grapes yet, I still enjoyed reading the entries and seeing how difficult Steinbeck's process was, and in a lot of ways it was comforting to see that even he struggled with impostor syndrome.

That being said, it IS primarily his journal entries, which is to say that it's not so
Alan French
Jan 29, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Whether you just like reading or you are a writer/reader, you will find this account of Steinbeck's journey in writing his most highly regarded novel fascinating.

Steinbeck had already authored several books by the time he began The Grapes of Wrath, but he was driven to write what ended up being his longest novel before East of Eden came about, and that drive is on display in this book.

In addition to his daily thoughts on various aspects of the novel and its overall progress, Steinbeck offers a g
Mar 01, 2020 added it
Shelves: life-s-too-short
I can't rate this. It's literally Steinbeck's diary while working on the book. The entries are interesting sometimes but it's literally his day to day thoughts. This would really be good for Steinbeck scholars, English majors, etc., but not for the common Steinbeck reader. People who want to know the trials and tribulations of how to write a masterpiece, but alas, that's not me. My goal was to read everything he wrote, but I'm not sure his diary/journal is really something I need to read for wha ...more
Stanley Turner
Oct 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
An interesting book, which is really the diary of John Steinbeck while he wrote The Grapes of Wrath. I enjoyed reading the diary portions of the work. I gave four stars as I thought the introduction was quite long. Some of the introduction was pertinent to the rest of the work and some could have been left out without harming the work. Overall I enjoyed this work and recommend it to all interested in writing or writers...SLT
Richard Canale
Oct 23, 2017 rated it liked it
If you watch The Walking Dead, you often get caught up in The Talking Dead. Huge fans of the show seek out a deeper connection to its background and characters.
I suppose I was looking for the same thing here. I remain a huge Steinbeck fan. I came away feeling like an interloper who had no right to read the diary of a man who relished his privacy.
Aug 27, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, reviewed
Working Days: The Journals of The Grapes of Wrath
This is the journal or diary that Steinbeck kept while he was writing The Grapes of Wrath. Much, even most, of the book is written by its editor. About 100 journal entries are daily thoughts, bits and pieces, sentence fragments, about the writing and other things that were going on in the Steinbeck's life at the time. After The Grapes of Wrath was published, and after a hiatus, he resumed writing in the journal. The entries were sporadic over a pe
Sep 27, 2020 rated it really liked it
Easy read after plowing through Grapes of Wrath. My daughter read GoW for summer reading, so I read it too. Followed it up with this to gain insight into Steinbeck’s process, life, trials and tribulations. Thought it would promote discussion with my daughter. Interesting to read he lived well yet with angst as he wrote of those living through troubled economic times.
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Steinbeck fans: Working Days 1 15 Sep 01, 2018 07:41PM  

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John Steinbeck III was an American writer. He wrote the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Grapes of Wrath, published in 1939 and the novella Of Mice and Men, published in 1937. In all, he wrote twenty-five books, including sixteen novels, six non-fiction books and several collections of short stories.

In 1962 Steinbeck received the Nobel Prize for Literature.

Steinbeck grew up in the Salinas Valley

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