Harper Lee: American Masters

Harper Lee By the Numbers: The Writer and Her Novels

Harper Lee by the Numbers

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UPDATE February 19, 2016: Harper Lee (Apr. 28, 1926 – Feb. 19, 2016) died today in in Monroeville, AL.

Go Set A Watchman, by To Kill A Mockingbird author Harper Lee, was released to the public on July 14, 2015. In the prior week, press and social media erupted with early reviews, an explosive preview chapter (read chapter one on American Masters), and plot spoilers. What’s all the fuss about? Sort out the important facts with Harper Lee by the Numbers: The Writer and Her Novels.

• 55 Years, 4 Days
Time elapsed between publication of To Kill A Mockingbird (July 11, 1960) and Go Set A Watchman (July 14, 2015).

• 40 million plus
Copies of To Kill A Mockingbird sold since it first published on July 11, 1960.

• Two million
Number of copies in the initial print run of Go Set A Watchman. It is the most preordered book in the publisher HarperCollins’ history.

• 20 Years
Go Set A Watchman takes place 20 years after the events portrayed in To Kill A Mockingbird and features the same characters and setting. Lee wrote Watchman first, so it is not a sequel to Mockingbird.

• 2 Years
Amount of time Harper Lee spent in the late 1950s revising the manuscript titled Go Set A Watchman. Lee’s editors asked her to expand upon some of the childhood scenes in Watchman; the heavily revised manuscript was published as To Kill A Mockingbird. The novel published on July 14, 2015, is the original work, or, as Lee describes it, the “parent” of Mockingbird.

• 51 years
Since Harper Lee has agreed to an interview request.

• 89 Years
Nelle Harper Lee’s current age. Though hard of hearing and visually impaired after a 2007 stroke, she is, in her own words, “alive and kicking and happy as hell” about the publication of Go Set A Watchman. Lee’s longtime friend and benefactor Joy Brown asserts Lee “has all her marbles. . .she’s all for it being published.”

• Eight
Number of Academy Award nominations for the 1962 film version of To Kill A Mockingbird.

• Three
Number of Academy Awards received by the 1962 film To Kill A Mockingbird (Best Actor, Best Art Direction, Best Adapted Screenplay).

• One
According to a World Book Day poll conducted in 2006 by the Museum, Libraries and Archives Council (MLA), To Kill A Mockingbird is the #1 book to read before you die (beating out the Bible). In 1999, Library Journal called it “The Best Novel of the 20th Century.” Oprah Winfrey has described it as “our national novel.”