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Biography John Grisham

2009 Library of Congress Creative Achievement Award for Fiction

John Grisham is America’s most popular writer of legal thrillers. Since first publishing “A Time to Kill in 1988,” he has written one novel a year, and all of them have become international bestsellers. Grisham was born in 1955 in Jonesboro, Ark. After giving up his dream of becoming a professional baseball player, Grisham focused his energies on obtaining a degree in accounting from Mississippi State University and a law degree from the University of Mississippi in 1981.

While practicing law at a small practice in Southaven, Miss., Grisham worked on his first novel, “A Time to Kill,” which, after being turned down by many publishers, was eventually picked up the small Wynwood Press in 1988; the book’s initial print run was 5,000 copies.

That inauspicious beginning could not have foretold the enormous success that was soon to come. As soon as the young novelist finished “A Time to Kill,” he was hard at work on his next book, “The Firm,” about a young lawyer who goes to work for a law firm that turns out to be not what he had bargained for. Grisham sold the rights to the novel, which became a Paramount film. “The Firm” went on to spend 47 weeks on the New York Times best-seller list and was the No. 1 novel of 1991.

From that time on, every book that Grisham has written has been an instant best-seller. He has sold nearly 300 million books in 40 languages. In addition to writing, Grisham devotes his time to charitable causes such as his Rebuild the Coast Fund, which gave $8.8 million to Hurricane Katrina disaster relief.

Selected Works at the Library of Congress