US President George Bush has bestowed America’s highest civilan honour on reclusive and notoriously shy author Harper Lee. The Presidential Medal of Freedom is awarded annually "for especially meritorious contribution to (1) the security or national interests of the United States, or (2) world peace, or (3) cultural or other significant public or private endeavors".
Lee has been recognised for her groundbreaking, and Pulitzer Prize-winning, novel To Kill A Mockingbird, a book which ‘helped focus the nation on the turbulent struggle for equality’. If Lee choses to personally accept the award she will attend a ceremony at the White House next week.
To Kill A Mockingbird is essential reading in over 70% of US schools, but it’s popularity is worldwide. Last year a World Book Day poll by the UK’s Libraries and Archives Council (MLA) put it at the top of the list: ‘The book that every adult should read before they die’.