A shy man. A class act. A visionary. An experimental writer. A socially engaged citizen. A "shameless magpie," as he described his habit of picking up on the sounds of people's speech, fragments of their stories. Although opinions vary on how to describe the man, John Steinbeck is one of America's most beloved and honored writers. Described as "the bard of the people" in a Centennial celebration of his birth that lasted a full year, he gave a voice to the downtrodden and dispossessed in America. His compassionate portraits of the human condition sell more than 700,000 copies every year, and many of his works are cherished by every generation that discovers them. As popular today as he was during his lifetime, nearly all of his works are still in print.