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The Google Doodle book club: What to read, according to Google

Want to join Google’s book club? Look no further than its Doodles.

Since Google began adding illustrative flair to its search engine homepage, the tech company has featured more than 15 authors and their works. These have honored subjects from philosophy to fairytales, and works ranging from children’s books to literary canon. Taking a closer look at this digital reading list gives a bit of insight into Google's philosophy, plus what it has on its reading list. If you ever wondered what it would be like to take a peek at Google's bookshelf, now is your chance. Here's a sampling of Google's book club.

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Google honored author John Steinbeck Thursday.

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1. “The Grapes of Wrath” by John Steinbeck

If search engines could talk about the works of John Steinbeck would it comment on hardships faced by the Joad family in “The Grapes of Wrath”? Companionship in “Of Mice and Men”? Inherent worth in “The Pearl”? The John Steinbeck Google Doodle seems to suggest all three.

The Steinbeck Doodle, which first appeared on Feb. 27, 2014, in honor of what would have been the author’s 112th birthday, takes Googlers on an interactive journey through some of the author’s best-known works, including “The Grapes of Wrath,” “Of Mice and Men,” “Cannery Row,” “The Pearl,” and “Travels with Charley.”

Doodling the works of John Steinbeck offers a layered look into Google’s literary tastes. Environmentalist and writer Barry Lopez once said, “John Steinbeck brings together the human heart and the land,” and this Doodle certainly seems to suggest Google was struck by Mr. Steinbeck’s ability to capture the stark realities of life combined with the unforgiving ebb and flow of nature. The rotating illustrations have a rugged, woodblock-print quality about them, depicting Steinbeck characters overlooking stark plains, perched in urban grayscapes, and fighting fierce ocean currents, all in subdued rust tones. Quotes interspersed with illustrations bring up each novel’s key themes:

“In the souls of the people the grapes of wrath are filling and growing heavy, growing heavy for the vintage.” –The Grapes of Wrath

“…I got you to look after me, and you got me to look after you, and that’s why.” – Of Mice and Men

“Everyone in La Paz remembers the return of the family… it is an event that happened to everyone.” –The Pearl

This is a moderately advanced choice for Google; each novel is layered and complex in its own way. Perhaps Google felt it could identify with the hardships experienced by the Joad family as they headed west to what they hoped would be a better life. Or perhaps it feels its recent acquisitions are like the priceless pearl that brings Coyotito such hope and misery in “The Pearl.” Or perhaps a Google employee just really enjoyed reading “Of Mice and Men” in his/her high school English class. Only the Doodler knows.

But just as Google has refined its search engine algorithm over time, it's fair to say Google has refined its literary tastes. Read on for a look at Google’s steadily growing list of required reading over the years.

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