Atticus Finch: The Biography

Atticus Finch: The Biography

Who was the real Atticus Finch? A prize-winning historian reveals the man behind the legend


The publication of Go Set a Watchman in 2015 forever changed how we think about Atticus Finch. Once seen as a paragon of decency, he was reduced to a small-town racist. How are we to understand this transformation?



In Atticus Finch, historian Joseph Crespino draws on exclusive sources to reveal how Harper Lee's father provided the central inspiration for each of her books. A lawyer and newspaperman, A. C. Lee was a principled opponent of mob rule, yet he was also a racial paternalist. Harper Lee created the Atticus of Watchman out of the ambivalence she felt toward white southerners like him. But when a militant segregationist movement arose that mocked his values, she revised the character in To Kill a Mockingbird to defend her father and to remind the South of its best traditions. A story of family and literature amid the upheavals of the twentieth century, Atticus Finch is essential to understanding Harper Lee, her novels, and her times.

Title:Atticus Finch: The Biography
ISBN:9781541644946
Format Type:

About Joseph Crespino


    Atticus Finch: The Biography Reviews

  • Matt

    First and foremost, a large thank you to NetGalley, Joseph Crespino, Perseus Books, and Basic Books for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased re...

  • Silas House

    Very well researched, beautifully written, and nuanced look at the creation of one of the most beloved literary characters of all time....

  • Janet

    I received a DIGITAL Advance Reader Copy of this book from #NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. From the publisher --- Who was the real Atticus Finch?The publication of Go Set a Watchman in 20...

  • Laura

    Excellent! Excellent! Readable and not boring! This is a must if you love Nelle Harper Lee’s writings. This book touches on a lot including Go Set a Watchman, To Kill a Mockingbird, the making of th...

  • Rama

    The Man Behind Harper Lee’s ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ This is the inspirational story of Atticus Finch, the father of author Harper Lee. Her celebrated work, “To Kill a Mockingbird’ narrates h...

  • Pam

    I won this book in a GoodReads Giveaway. The background details of the writing of To Kill a Mockingbird and Go Set a Watchman were very interesting. The book is a blend of history, biography, and soci...

  • Tiffany

    Using previously ignored sources, as well as countless additional resources, Joseph Crespino has produced a beautifully nuanced examination of the man that inspired Harper Lee's iconic Atticus Finch c...

  • McKinsey Crozier

    It has been some time since I have loved a book the way I love this deep, analytical analysis of one of the most well-loved characters in American literature. Crespino answers the questions readers st...

  • Bob H

    The title is somewhat misleading; this is not a novel about the life of Atticus Finch. Rather, it’s an intriguing and well-thought literary history of this character. It’s also, but only in part, ...

  • Alison Law

    Listen to my interview with Joseph Crespino about Atticus Finch: The Biography on Episode 38 of the Literary Atlanta podcast....