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Ironically, these aspects are what the reading public loved, and what is widely acclaimed now by literary critics. East of Eden became an instant bestseller in November 1952, a month after it was released, and is now considered one of Steinbeck's finest achievements. About 50,000 copies of the novel are sold each year, yet its popularity skyrocketed once again in 2003 after being named Oprah's Book Club pick. It gained the second spot on the best-seller list and remains exceedingly popular with the general reading public. 
Steinbeck and Ricketts were not only friends, they were collaborators. Steinbeck had been interested in marine biology since his days at Stanford University. In 1940, just after Steinbeck's epic novel The Grapes of Wrath was published, Steinbeck and Ricketts embarked on a six-week marine expedition to the Gulf of California. During the trip, which covered 4,000 miles of coastline, they discovered 35 new marine species. The following year, the book based on their expedition, Sea of Cortez , was published. It was co-written by Steinbeck and Ricketts.