Thursday, December 3, 2009

Mockingbird by Charles J. Shields

Book Details
Mockingbird by Charles J. Shields
Hardcover, 352 pages
2006, Henry Holt and Co.
ISBN: 080507919X

Shields takes on the elusive writer in this first-ever biography of her. Without direct input from his subject, the author's extensive research combines sources in local-history collections, interviews and correspondence with Lee's acquaintances, and Internet resources to piece together the details of the writer's life. Starting with Lee's childhood in Monroeville, AL, Shields depicts the people and events that inspired To Kill a Mockingbird's characters. A picture develops of a girl who would face down any bully, a nonconformist whose sorority roommates kicked her out after one semester but who made an impact on the campus with her presence, a woman with a wicked sense of humor and a writer with a voice and themes of prejudice and justice that resonate.

I dislike biographies. In fact, I have never read a biography that I enjoyed even slightly. That all changed after reading Mockingbird: A Portrait of Harper Lee. I absolutely loved this book. I loved how the stories and anecdotes were woven to tell the tale of Harper Lee, one of America's most famous female authors. After reading this book I feel as though I know Lee on a personal level and I really like her. I very much enjoyed reading about her childhood, her friendship with Truman Capote, her journey as a writer and how fame has its price. Mockingbird is one of the very best non-fiction books I have ever read.


Charles J. Shields' website


  1. I am with you about biographies. You seemed to like this one, but I still don't know.

    I love you for nominating me, you made my day!

  2. I don't read very many biographies. As a matter of fact I've been trying to read Shirley Temple's biography on and off since I was 10 and I still haven't finished it! I do like some memoirs though but the only biography that I really, really liked was Dr. Seuss and Mr. Geisel.

  3. Wow! That is quite a testimonial -- I'm sold. :-) Thank you for reviewing this book

  4. A couple years ago, I read To Kill a Mockingbird for the first time with my oldest daughter. It deeply impressed both of us and became her favorite book for quite a while. For me, I fell in love with Atticus as a father and, in some ways, wished he'd been mine.

    It's cool to come across your review of this book, because I was just talking to someone the other day about Harper Lee. I didn't know there was a biography about her, and like you, I detest biographies. I'll have to add this to my black hole of a wishlist :-)