I've only read three works of John Steinbeck (Of Mice and Men, The Pearl, East of Eden), but I know enough that he's one hell of an author.
In Salinas Valley, California in the late 1910's, Cal and Aron Trask both desire the attention of their father Adam. Aron gets most of the attention since he's the good son while Cal's the black sheep of the family. But Cal doesn't stop trying.
There's one part in the book and movie that made me get a lump in my throat. Cal gives his father a large sum of money he had earned. Adam refuses to accept the gift, asking Cal to be more like Aron. The refusal crushes Cal, failing to win the love of his father.
I actually connected with Cal since I could relate with him. Like him, I vie for the love and attention of my parents. But since my siblings are more active than me, I feel a little hurt when I don't get any recognition from my parents when I do something good. In fact, I started up this blog as a way to get more attention. But alas, it hasn't worked enough.
I love what Steinbeck said upon seeing James Dean ("Jesus Christ, that IS Cal Trask!"), and no surprise really. Dean's performance is riveting. As for the book, it's a brilliant piece of literature.
What's worth checking out?: I'd go with the book.