I was totally unprepared for how great John Steinbeck’s East of Eden would be.
Steinbeck’s story tells the story of two families who settled in California’s Salinas Valley. If follows the families for three generations and nearly sixty years. It is Steinbeck’s masterpiece and an all-time classic book.
If you are looking for a book like East of Eden, here are some suggestions for you. I’ve organized the book recommendations into the following broad sections:
Family Saga Books
Most books I’ve encountered tell the story of characters in short time frames. East of Eden is more ambitious and tells the stories of generations.
One of the major writing devices used in East of Eden is the family saga. Family saga books highlight the vicissitudes of a family over generations, and how relationships change over long periods of time. Often, the families go through prosperous times and tremendous falls. There is also great friction between members of the family.
Some of the greatest books of all time have used the family saga to tell masterful stories. Here are 4 books like East of Eden that are family sagas.
One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez.
Like Steinbeck, Garcia Marquez was awarded a Nobel Prize for Literature. His masterpiece was One Hundred Years of Solitude. As the title suggests, the book looks at the Buendia family during a 100-year period.
The famous book critic William Kennedy said “One Hundred Years of Solitude is the first piece of literature since the Book of Genesis that should be required reading for the entire human race. Mr. Garcia Marquez has done nothing less than to create in the reader a sense of all that is profound, meaningful, and meaningless in life.”
The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky
The Brothers Karamazov, along with East of Eden, are two of my all-time favorite books. Both are powerful and complex. They teach about life and family relationships.
Written in 1879, The Brothers Karamazov was the final book of the famous Russian author Fyodor Dostoevsky. He spent 10 years developing this book. I’ve always loved this handwritten note by Dostoevsky, which contains some of his initial plot ideas for the book and how the subplots and characters would intertwine.
At its core, The Brothers Karamazov is a murder mystery. It’s about a family (the Karamazov’s) who have three sons who are all very different. Ivan is rational and intellectual. Dmitiri, who is imupslive. And Aloysha, who is likable and penitent. The story evolves as we learn more about each son, and how they are tangled up in a love triangle.
Dune by Frank Herbert
Dune is one of the greatest science fiction books of all time. It tells the story of a family called House Atreides. The family rules this great house that resides in a large intergalactic setting. Dune is a series that deals with large time frames within the Dune universe.
Hanto Yo: An American Saga by Ruth Beebe Hill
Hanta Yo tells the story of two families of the Teton Sioux. It takes place from the 1700s to the 1830s, before the arrival of white Europeans. It is based on an actual Mahto (a band of the Teton Sioux) document which tells the family story.
I was first introduced to this book by the great NBA basketball coach Phil Jackson. In one of his books, he talks about the powerful story of Hanto Yo. He taught the principles of this book to his superstars Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal.
Other Steinbeck Books
Steinbeck won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1962 because of his “realistic and imaginative writings, combining as they do sympathetic humor and keen social perception.”
Part of the reason I loved East of Eden so much is John Steinbeck’s writing style and voice. I’ve read 6 books by John Steinbeck, and I’ve loved each one of them. Each book has Steinbeck’s unique voice, which is unrivaled and inimitable.
Here are the 6 Steinbeck books that you might enjoy if you liked East of Eden. One of my favorites is his non-fiction book The Log From the Sea of Cortez. It tells the story of an expedition Steinbeck took with the famed marine biologist Ed Rickets.
Great American Books
East of Eden is an example of a great “American Novel.” Like, The Grapes of Wrath, Steinbeck’s novels talk about the American dream and what life was like in the early 1900s.
Millions of people flocked to America in the 1800s to chase the American dream. With the rise of the railroad and the discovery of oil, America rose to become the largest economy in the world. But the early 20th century was hard for many of these people. The first World War 1, The Spanish Flu, and the Great Depression broke many spirits and left many people poor.
The books that were written during this time captured the plights of these people. They comment on the culture and societal ills. Many of them are considered some of the greatest books of all time.
I find many of these books to be similar in tone and mastery, and are as powerful as East of Eden.