Skip to: Content
Skip to: Site Navigation
Skip to: Search

Scout, Atticus & Boo

A 50th-anniversary celebration of ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ – America’s ‘national novel.’

By Yvonne Zipp / July 7, 2010

Scout, Atticus and Boo: A Celebration of Fifty Years of To Kill a Mockingbird By Mary McDonagh Murphy HarperCollins 224 pp., $24.99


In a time when fauxlebrities tweet every time they change their handbag, here’s a heartwarming tidbit: An octogenarian novelist made international headlines in June by feeding some ducks. (Take that, Kardashians.)

Skip to next paragraph

That Harper Lee isn’t just any novelist, and “To Kill a Mockingbird” not just any book can be seen by the headlines across England, the US, and Canada – mostly variants on “Harper Lee Speaks” – as a result of her “interview” with Britain’s Mail newspaper. (The interview consisted in its entirety of her thanking a reporter for a box of chocolates and a mention of the waterfowl-nourishment expedition.)

“To Kill a Mockingbird,” which turns 50 on July 11, remains a crowning achievement, and its narrator, Scout Finch, one of the most beloved tomboys in American literature. (You could argue whether she or Jo March deserves first place, but I couldn’t imagine my childhood without either.)

“By any measure, it is an astonishing phenomenon,” writes Mary McDonagh Murphy in her new book Scout, Atticus & Boo. “An instant best seller, winner of the Pulitzer Prize, a screen adaptation ranked one of the best of all time. Fifty years after its publication, it sells nearly a million copies every year – hundreds of thousands more than The Catcher in the Rye, The Great Gatsby, or Of Mice and Men, American classics that also are staples of high school classrooms. 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.”

Or, as Oprah Winfrey, who tried but failed to get Lee to come on her TV show, put it, “I think it is our national novel.”

To celebrate the 50th anniversary, Emmy-winner Murphy interviewed residents of Monroeville, Ala., which became Maycomb in the novel, as well as famous people who have said their lives were changed by reading the book. Interviewees include Winfrey, novelist Wally Lamb (who wrote the foreword), Tom Brokaw, Scott Turow, and Mary Badham, who played Scout in the Academy Award-winning movie. There also will be a documentary.


Read Comments

View reader comments | Comment on this story