1902: Born February 27 in the Salinas family home.
1919–25: Graduates from Salinas High School. Attends classes at Stanford University over the course of six years, leaves without taking a degree. During this period, Steinbeck drops out for months at a time and is employed as a sales clerk, farm laborer, rancher and factory worker.
1925: Moves to New York City; working odd jobs to support himself while writing. Meets with a great deal of rejection or indifference to his work. Returns to California after he is unsuccessful getting any of his writing published.
1929: Publishes his first novel, a swashbuckler titled Cup of Gold, to a weak reception.
1930: Marries his first wife, Carol Henning, on January 14 and moves first to Los Angeles and then to the family home in Pacific Grove. His father supports the struggling couple. Meets Edward Ricketts, who becomes a lifelong friend.
1934: His mother dies in the Salinas home before he reaches any critical success as an author. A short story set in Monterey County titled "The Murder" wins the O. Henry Prize.
1935: His father dies just months before he reaches fame with the first of his Monterey novels, Tortilla Flat, which is published to instant success. With the death of his parents, he loses a strong tie to the Salinas Valley.
1936:In Dubious Battle, a novel about a strike in California, is published.
1947: Takes a tour of Russia with acclaimed photographer Frank Capa. Publishes the much-heralded novella The Pearl.
1948: Early in the year, he examines the files of old newspapers to research East of Eden. Divorces Gwyndolyn Conger. Moves from New York to Pacific Grove, wherehe is elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters.
1950: Marries third wife Elaine Anderson Scott; they will remain married for the rest of his life.
1952:East of Eden, his major work about the history of the Salinas Valley, is published. The film Viva Zapata!, directed by Elia Kazan, is released.
1955: Purchases a summer home in Sag Harbor, Long Island. Holiday magazine runs a series about author hometowns: Steinbeck writes an article, "Always Something to do in Salinas."
1960: Fashions a special truck with a cabin on the back to facilitate a 10,000-mile journey through America with his poodle "Charley" to write the amusing and reflective "Travels with Charley." Takes his last view of the Salinas Valley on the trip.
1962: Steinbeck accepts the Nobel Prize in Stockholm. He writes to a college friend, "This prize business is only different from the Lettuce Queen of Salinas in degree."
1963: Becomes an honorary consultant in American Literature to the Library of Congress.
1964: Is presented the United States Medal of Freedom by President Lyndon B. Johnson.
1966: A book of reflections on contemporary America, America and Americans, is published. Becomes a member of the National Arts Council.
1968: Dies of arteriosclerosis on December 20 in New York City.
1969: On March 4, his ashes are buried in the Garden of Memories cemetery in his family plot. A journal he kept during the composition of East of Eden is published posthumously.
1975:Steinbeck: A Life in Letters, selected correspondence edited by Elaine Steinbeck and Robert Wallsten, is published.
1984: A major biography by Jackson J. Benson, The True Adventures of John Steinbeck hits the stands.
1989: The journal Steinbeck kept during the writing of The Grapes of Wrath is published on the novel's fiftieth anniversary.
2002: Organized by the Mercantile Library in New York City and the Center for Stienbeck Studies at San Jose State University, more than a dozen organizations team up to host a year's worth of worldwide humanities events to commemorate Steinbeck's life and works. Honorary chairs include Steinbeck's son, writer Edward Albee and singer Bruce Springsteen. First collection of Steinbeck's nonfiction is published, America and Americans and Selected Non-fiction.