Sip & Flip: Spend a Day with Harper Lee

June 16, 2014 | By | Comments (38)
The Mockingbird Next Door

The Mockingbird Next Door by Marja Mills; Photo: Chris Ellenbogen

Travel along with Chicago Tribune journalist Marja Mills as she embarks on a friendship with one of the South’s foremost literary icons Harper Lee and her sister Alice Lee in this month’s Sip & Flip selection, The Mockingbird Next Door. The pages of this memoir are ripe with details of the To Kill a Mockingbird author’s hometown of Monroeville, Alabama while also giving a glimpse into the relationships that Harper protected so fiercely. Reading The Mockingbird Next Door is like opening a window into Harper Lee’s private world. As the window closes on the last page, we’re left with nostalgia for one of literature’s greatest talents and the feeling we had the very first time we read her remarkable novel.

The Mockingbird Next Door won’t hit shelves until July 15, but enter for a chance to win signed copies for your book club today! Details below. For now, here’s our quick Sip & Flip guide to help you get the discussion started at your next book club gathering. We kept it brief to leave plenty of time for mingling.

  • What were you expecting Harper Lee to be like before you read The Mockingbird Next Door? Did the depiction of her surprise you?
  • Did Alice and Nelle Harper’s relationship remind you at all of the sibling relationship at the heart of Harper Lee’s classic, To Kill a Mockingbird?
  • Were you surprised by how normal the Lees’ life seemed to be, even with the incredible success of To Kill a Mockingbird? In what ways were their daily lives affected by that success, even decades later?
  • Alice and Nelle Harper are very typical Southern women in many ways. They love history, the land, reading, good food, and good friends. Did you identify with them? Did they remind you of women you know in your own community?
  • How did Alice and Nelle Harper live life on their own terms? Is that important to you? In what way?

Enter for a chance to win! Comment with your favorite Southern literature classic and why it tops your list for a chance to win 10 signed copies of The Mockingbird Next Door. Contest begins today and ends Monday, July 16. Official rules.


  1. Jan Mardis

    Gone With the Wind will always be my favorite!!!

    February 4, 2015 at 3:20 pm
  2. Breaking News: Harper Lee To Publish A Second Novel | Everything Country

    […] In the meantime, for more on Lee, read our guide to her hometown of Monroeville, Alabama, and learn about our July 2014 Sip & Flip Book: “Spend A Day With Harper Lee.” […]

    February 3, 2015 at 8:30 pm
  3. Breaking News: Harper Lee To Publish A Second Novel | Southern Living Blog

    […] In the meantime, for more on Lee, read our guide to her hometown of Monroeville, Alabama, and learn about our July 2014 Sip & Flip Book: “Spend A Day With Harper Lee.” […]

    February 3, 2015 at 9:54 am
  4. lauren

    To Kill a Mockingbird is my favorite classic, I collect hardcover copies with special covers! And The Help is my favorite “new release,” because it hits close to home with so many friendships of our family members growing up.

    June 21, 2014 at 11:21 pm
  5. Bonnie F. Horne

    From the opening page in To Kill A Mockingbird, the reader is hooked. How did Jem’s arm get broken, and who are Dill and Boo? I taught high school English for 14 years, and To Kill A Mockingbird never failed to enthrall my students. I remember one student, a freshman boy, who questioned why Miss Lee used “waked” instead of “woke” in the last sentence of the book. At the time, I didn’t have a good answer for him. Years later, I moved to Georgia and discovered the language of the Old South. “Waked up” was a part of the language and culture, and captured the poetic rhythm of the South. In short, it just sounds better. The fact that Miss Lee included that old usage made the novel even more true to its time and authentically Southern. The plot and the characters are all believable, but it is the wonderful writing that makes To Kill A Mockingbird my favorite Southern book. (Although Gone With The Wind is a close second, for many different reasons.)

    June 19, 2014 at 8:54 pm
  6. Lu L.

    My favorite Southern classic is Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café. I adore the female characters she writes about.

    June 19, 2014 at 8:44 pm
  7. Sharon Bartley

    To Kill a Mockingbird is my favorite; I read it every summer…

    June 18, 2014 at 8:56 am
  8. julie

    To Kill A Mockingbird and also works by Truman Capote, Walker Percy, Reynolds Price, Eudora Welty, and especially Pat Conroy….

    June 18, 2014 at 8:19 am
  9. Roxy Johnson

    This is amazing! TKAM is my husband and my favorite book so we named our firstborn daughter, Harper! I would love love signed copies for her nursery and cannot wait to read this!!!

    June 18, 2014 at 7:12 am
  10. Beth Rutkoski

    To Kill A Mockingbird

    June 18, 2014 at 6:24 am
  11. Pam Walrath

    Love “To Kill A Mockingbird”, also “South of Broad” by Pat Conroy!

    June 18, 2014 at 12:31 am
  12. Janet Turner

    To Kill a Mockingbird,has always been one of my favorites, but I am also a huge fan of It’s all over but the shouting. Rick Bragg caputers the feel of the South so well.

    June 17, 2014 at 10:21 pm
  13. Sarah Evans

    The Help; Gone with the Wind

    June 17, 2014 at 9:02 pm
  14. Cheryl Lawrence

    I taught To Kill a Mockingbird for many years as a public school English teacher. I learned something new about the story every year. The people of Scout and Jem’s world were just like the people of my grandmother’s small East Texas town that I spent so much time in growing up. I loved the southern style of living and told many of my own stories to my students as we read the book together. I feel we need to preserve this tale of 1930’s time to teach our history and the reason and necessity for kindness, acceptance, love of reading , family and God that today’s children do not see in the same way that Scout and Jem learned about them. The book is a story that I wish everyone could relate to from their own experiences, but if not, learn it from their own reading.

    June 17, 2014 at 8:41 pm
  15. Jennifer L.

    Without a doubt, To Kill a Mockingbird! I am obsessed with the book and will gladly argue with anyone about why it is THE Great American Novel. And I’m a Northerner, born and bred, and still love it!

    June 17, 2014 at 6:57 pm
  16. Susan Buice

    My favorite southern novel is “The Sound and the Fury” by William Faulkner. It shows the decline of the old south and of the family who clings so fiercely to their skewed ideals. All the while, there is Dilcey, the glue of the family who is epitome of unconditional love and loyalty. She is the center of the story – the true southern woman. She does, indeed, endure.

    June 17, 2014 at 6:40 pm
  17. Pam Roehl

    The answer here, for me, is easy. “To Kill A Mockingbird” is and always will be my favorite book and movie. My 23 year daughter shares my love for the book.

    June 17, 2014 at 6:03 pm
  18. Susan Brakefield

    Although I love ” To Kill A Mockingbird”, many of the southern writers take me on different journeys and stir many emotions. It is hard to pick the best. Rick Bragg, Pat Conroy, Harper Lee, Truman Capote, Cassandra King, and so many more. But the best for me is Margaret Mitchell. ” Gone With The Wind” It tell me my history, it shows me my ancestors, it explains my feelings, it is a beautiful story that shows us strength, character, loyalty, reality, beauty, ugliness, and to me is brilliant!

    June 17, 2014 at 5:47 pm
  19. Betsy Knight

    I love TKAM. It is an absolute favorite! My mothers family is from rural Alabama so I feel connected to the characters.

    June 17, 2014 at 5:37 pm
  20. Kathie Scott

    I read “To Kill a Mockingbird” as a very young adult and have seen the movie several times. It was one of the first books that truly sparked the love of a good book and I absolutely loved Atticus…probably shouldn’t admit this but some form of his name is often used as a password for me.

    June 17, 2014 at 4:54 pm
  21. Amy Kitting

    The Mitford collection… sweet characters in an a sweet location.

    June 17, 2014 at 3:38 pm
  22. Lisa Stevens

    I absolutely love “Gone With The Wind” as it portrays the elegant composure and strength of a southern woman amidst turmoil and challenges. These attributes I witnessed personally with the strong and beautiful southern women that surrounded me as an impressionable young lady.

    June 17, 2014 at 2:34 pm
  23. Suzie

    I’m a huge Pat Conroy fan. I’m sure reading To Kill a Mockingbird as a young girl had a huge impact on my love for southern literature!

    June 17, 2014 at 12:40 pm
  24. Jennifer Moore

    To Kill A Mockingbird is my favorite southern literary work because it is the ONE book all of my students will actually read! I would love to win the set of The Mockingbird Next Door to share with my students!

    June 17, 2014 at 12:01 pm
  25. Vicki Marsh

    I read “All the King’s Men” by Robert Penn Warren when I was in high school and I loved it. The depiction of corrupt politics in Louisiana was riveting to me at that time. I didn’t realize how close to reality the book was until years later when I lived for a time in Baton Rouge.

    June 17, 2014 at 11:50 am
  26. Robin Arnold

    I have always LOVED “To Kill A Mockingbird”!!! It is my all time favorite book and movie. It is truly a classic that will never go out of style! Harper Lee is a very talented writer to say the least. I would love a copy of Marja Mills new book!

    June 17, 2014 at 11:41 am
  27. Kristen Massey

    I love “To Kill a Mockingbird”! I also really enjoyed Donna Tartt’s “The Little Friend”.

    June 17, 2014 at 10:44 am
  28. Vicki Kertz

    To Kill A. Mockingbird is my all-time favorite novel. I longed to be Scout and have a father like Atticus.

    June 17, 2014 at 10:24 am
  29. Nita Risher McGlawn

    “To Kill A Mockingbird” is the quintessential Southern read. Read it first; then watch the movie. To me it’s more than a tale of bigotry and discrimination; it’s also about days gone by, a way of life, growing up, single parenthood, summer friends/adventures and basic human kindnesses. What person, raised in a small Southern town, doesn’t relate?

    June 17, 2014 at 10:04 am
  30. Carrie Rice

    My favorite Southern classic would have to be Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston. I love the character of Janie.

    June 17, 2014 at 9:51 am
  31. Kim Shields

    I grew up in the south. I love to read books that remind me of my simple childhood and places I know. Some of my favorites is To Kill a Mockingbird because of the summers Scout and her brother had. The simple things made a fun summer. It was a time of creating your own fun. Divine Secrets of the Ya Ya Sisterhood is another favorite. Again I can identify with the summers of playing with friends and cousins. I love love to read!

    June 17, 2014 at 9:44 am
  32. Elizabeth Brown

    “To Kill a Mockingbird” was my first Southern literature love and remains so to this day. Like so many girls, I grew up wanting to be Scout. I saw characteristics of Atticus in my father, grandfather and uncles. It helped that I grew up in a little town close to Monroeville so many things in the book just seemed like home to me.

    June 17, 2014 at 9:35 am
  33. Dr Dangelantonio

    while I’m a fan of Faulkner and O’Connor for “classic” Southern literature, I think Ron Rash is a real up-and-comer, as is Gin Phillips. That being said, Harper Lee’s Mockingbird has been able to transcend generations, appealing to readers of all ages, from all regions and walks of life – and for that reason, I’d make it my go-to for Southern reads

    June 17, 2014 at 9:33 am
  34. Denise Swain

    Absolutely love To Kill a Mockingbird. It was definitely my favorite assigned reading during high school and have read it several times since!!!

    June 17, 2014 at 9:28 am
  35. Janice Feaster

    I have to go with my first Southern read, “Gone with the Wind,” but “To Kill a Mockingbird” was my favorite to teach.

    June 17, 2014 at 9:26 am
  36. Suzanne

    Any book by Pat Conroy. To me, he is a true southern writer.

    June 17, 2014 at 9:16 am
  37. Nancy Miles

    Actually, “To Kill A Mockingbird” is my all-time favorite because it changed the way this Yankee, raised by a somewhat prejudiced man (he was only prejudiced in that he thought he was better than EVERYONE – not just a particular race or ethnicity!) thought about race, etc. I was so enraged by what happened to Tom Robinson that it really turned me around and made me certain that MY children would NOT have a parent like that.

    June 17, 2014 at 9:08 am
  38. Anna robertson

    “The Cove” by Ron Rash. I mean really anything by Ron Rash should be in the running. He is to the southern Appalachians what Rick Bragg is to Alabama, and by that I mean a national treasure. I just read “The Cove” and would love to introduce fellow Alabamian Harper Lee to my mountain women’s group. My mom was a preacher in Uriah, Alabama once upon a time and shared friends with Harper and Alice and I would love to add those stories to myountain book club.

    June 16, 2014 at 9:00 pm

Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s