To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee

The Big Read 2015

To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee


I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It’s when you know you’re licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and see it through no matter what.

Atticus Finch, To Kill A Mockingbird

Every year we select a different title as our Festival Big Read, and this year, we are delighted to share Harper Lee’s wonderful work To Kill a Mockingbird with you through our Big Read Book Groups and special Big Read events.

Truman Capote said of To Kill a Mockingbird – ‘Someone rare has written this very fine novel, a writer with the liveliest sense of life and the warmest, most authentic humour. A touching book; and so funny, so likeable’. By making it this year’s Big Read we hope to encourage people to rediscover, or indeed read for the first time, this important novel, which explores with exuberant humour the irrationality of adult attitudes to race and class in the Deep South of the thirties. It’s the perfect book to read before delving into Go Set a Watchman.
Emma Finnigan, Publicity Director
William Heinemann and Windmill Books

Set in Depression era rural Alabama, many of the issues the book raises are as relevant today as they were when the book was written. The plot and characters are loosely based on Harper Lee’s observations of her own family and neighbours, and the story’s narrator, Jen-Louise Finch, known as Scout, is one of the most widely celebrated female heroines in fiction. The novel is renowned for its warmth and humour, despite dealing with the serious issues of rape and racial inequality.

To Kill a Mockingbird is one of the most iconic books of the twentieth century. First published in 1960, it was an instant success, winning the Pullitzer Prize. Until recently, it was believed that this was the only surviving work of Lee. It was therefore with great excitement that July 2015 saw the publication a companion volume, Go Set a Watchman. Written in the mid-1950s, and set two decades later than To Kill a Mockingbird, it imparts a fuller, richer understanding and appreciation of Harper Lee. It not only confirms the enduring brilliance of To Kill a Mockingbird, but also serves as its essential companion, adding depth, context and new meaning to a classic.

If you’ve never read To Kill a Mockingbird, now is the time. If you have, then now is the time to re-read it. We’re running book groups during the Festival, and will have various activities taking place on site, including the Harper Lee Celebration event on Saturday 3rd October.

Download the To Kill a Mockingbird reading guide

Download the first chapter of Harper Lee’s new book Go Set A Watchman