For the most part, The Grapes of Wrath was met with praise when it appeared; in 1939 it was the best-selling American novel, according to The New York Times. It sold more than 430,000 copies in February 1940, and it went on to become one of the most widely discussed books of the 20th century. Despite this tremendous success, Steinbeck's novel also ruffled feathers and caused controversy. Yet Steinbeck embraced this controversy and had even prepared for such backlash as he was composing the novel. As he famously declared before The Grapes of Wrath was published, "I want to put a tag of shame on the greedy bastards who are responsible for this. I've done my damnedest to rip a reader's nerves to rags."
The book was indeed banned in some schools, particularly in places where the Associated Farmers had a strong presence. In Kern County, California, the Associated Farmers began burning the book and had it banned from the local library. The librarian, Gretchen Knief, worked to overturn the ban; nonetheless, local prohibitions on the book held for 1 1/2 years. After this ban was eventually overturned, interest in censorship issues led to the creation of the Library Bill of Rights. Steinbeck's novel has continued to face some censorship, but for the most part the book is widely available and strongly celebrated.