“Shoot all the bluejays you want, if you can hit ’em, but remember it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.” A lawyer’s advice to his children as he defends the real mockingbird of Harper Lee’s classic novel – a black man charged with the rape of a white girl. Through the young eyes of Scout and Jem Finch, Harper Lee explores with rich humor and unswerving honesty the irrationality of adult attitudes toward race and class in the Deep South of the 1930s. The conscience of a town steeped in prejudice, violence, and hypocrisy is pricked by the stamina and quiet heroism of one man’s struggle for justice. But the weight of history will only tolerate so much.
If you liked Harper Lee’s classic 1960 novel To Kill a Mockingbird, you’re not alone. The book is considered an American masterpiece, and has been used by more states, cities and communities for their “One Book — One City” projects than any other work of fiction (over 40 to-date). This book includes several major elements: History, Racism, the Legal System, Southern setting, Mystery, Courtroom Drama, Morality, The Father as Hero, and a strong youthful narrative voice. The titles and authors listed below include many of these same elements, although some of the authors listed may write works that are similar to To Kill a Mockingbird in only tangential ways. We recommend reading the jacket blurbs on any of these authors’ works before you commit to an entire novel. The individual book titles are hotlinked to their holdings in our catalog, so that you may check on the availability of those titles in print format.
William Armstrong‘s Sounder [Focuses on the experiences of a black family in the days of “Jim Crow”.] David Baldacci‘s Wish You Well [young Lou and Oz Cardinal must move to the Appalachians and be raised by their great-grandmother, when an accident claims their father; when land developers come after their property, it all climaxs in a court battle] Olive Ann Burns‘ Cold Sassy Tree [Told from a child’s point-of-view of an adult situation. Set in the South.] Mark Childress‘ Crazy in Alabama [Told from a boy’s point-of-view of growing up in the 1960s-1970s.] Leif Enger‘s Peace Like a River [Heroic, mystical father figure in an atmospheric tale told by a young narrator] Ernest J. Gaines‘ A Lesson Before Dying [A young man who returns to 1940s Cajun country to teach visits a black youth on death row for a crime he didn’t commit; Together they come to understand the heroism of resisting] John Grisham‘s A Time to Kill [A white lawyer defends an African-American man on trial for murder in the state of Mississippi.] David Guterson‘s Snow Falling on Cedars [a novel set on a small island in the Puget Sound, that is “at various moments a courtroom drama, an interracial love story, and a war chronicle”] John T. Lescroart‘s A Certain Justice [A mystery that has heavy black-white legal tension. The author’s earlier “Dismas Hardy” books (starting with Dead Irish) all include black-white tensions, but are set in San Francisco.] Robert McCammon‘s A Boy’s Life [A child’s view of life in the south. Same sense of age/innocence as TKAM. There are some racial themes to complete the analogy. If the fantasy elements bother you, they really are not a major part of this story.] Jill McCorkle‘s Ferris Beach [Two girls from different backgrounds grow up together, sharing secrets until a fateful Fourth of July when they discover that life’s little surprises can’t always be ignored and that the hard parts don’t get better, just easier to live with…] Alan Paton’s Cry the Beloved Country [Set in South Africa, involving a murder and the trial and defense of a non-white man by a white lawyer. Apartheid and the resulting relationships that resulted among South Africans of all colors is a main focus of this story.] Marjorie Kinnon Rawlings‘ The Yearling [A coming-of-age tale with the additional theme of father-as-hero.] Grif Stockley‘s Probable Cause [A white lawyer defends an African-American psychologist who is on trial for manslaughter, in a setting of enflamed racial tensions.] Mildred D. Taylor‘s Let the Circle Be Unbroken [Four black children growing up in rural Mississippi during the Depression experience racial antagonisms and hard times, but learn from their parents the pride and self-respect they need to survive]