Some argue that without John Grisham, the legal thriller genre would not be where it is today. A lawyer by profession and an author by fame, Grisham’s portfolio includes over 30 titles, nine of which have been adapted into movies. His first book, “A Time to Kill,” was rejected by 28 publishers before it hit the market but that didn’t stop him from writing more quality material. After releasing his first bestseller, “The Firm,” Grisham has published a book every year, even re-releasing “A Time to Kill” as a New York Times bestseller.
A Peggy V. Helmerich, Galaxy Bristish Books, Library of Congress and Harper Lee Prize awardee, Grisham’s books have been translated into 42 languages and published worldwide. He is one of only three authors to sell two million copies on a first printing, the other two being Tom Clancy and J.K. Rowling. Suffice it to say, Grisham has enjoyed a tremendously successful career that can be summed up by 10 of the best John Grisham books:
A Time to Kill (1989)
The list of the best John Grisham books would not be complete without “A Time to Kill.” When 10-year-old Tonya Hailey is raped and murdered by a pair of drunken rednecks, her father, Carl Lee, exacts vengeance and kills them. Put on trial for the crime, it falls upon his lawyer Jake Brigance to plead Lee’s case.
“A Time to Kill” is a poignant story that tackles difficult subjects like child rape and race. This is without a doubt one of the best John Grisham books ever written.
The Partner (1997)
After stealing $90 million and running away to Brazil, Patrick Lanigan, a young Mississippi lawyer, returns home to face the secrets that haunt him. This is as on the edge of your seat as a book can get. It reads like a Tarantino movie, keeping you glued to the page with many twists and turns. Praised in many circles as one of the best John Grisham books, “The Partner” has succeeded because of the sensational nature of its story.
The Firm (1991)
His first bestseller, selling over seven million copies worldwide upon release, “The Firm” tells the story of Mitch McDeere, a young lawyer who accepts an offer that is too good to be true and finds himself intertwined with the mob. The book explores greed and the manner in which an individual’s upbringing can impact the choices they make. “The Firm” made Grisham an overnight sensation and became a force to be reckoned with in fiction. Considered his most widely-recognized novel, “The Firm” was adapted for both film and television.
The Last Juror (2004)
Not many people think about “The Last Juror” when discussing the best John Grisham books. This could be because the courtroom drama doesn’t appeal to readers in certain circles. “The Last Juror” was set several years after “A Time to Kill” and features the two best characters from the first book.
The Client (1993)
Some Grisham fans think “The Client” is a little too ridiculous, which is why they would oppose the idea of ranking it as one of the best John Grisham books. The novel tells a story that intertwines the lives of two young boys, a savvy female lawyer and a dead senator. The contrived plot and predictable ending do not make “The Client” any less of a page turner. It may even pique the interest of those readers that typically don’t care much for Grisham’s work.
The Testament (1999)
“The Testament” tells the story of a self-made billionaire who kills himself. His children debate over his fortune only to discover that he left everything to his daughter, Rachel, a missionary in Brazil, who is estranged to her father. The lawyers set on a mission to locate Rachel (which is not an easy task) while the ‘supposed-to-be’ heirs are circling like vultures in the process. The story is suspenseful, heartwarming and beautifully written. The ending is also quite surprising. Hidden within is a commentary about society’s perception of wealth and the wealthy.
The Pelican Brief (1992)
A law student and a newspaperman outmaneuver the FBI and a world renowned hitman to solve the brutal murder of two Supreme Court justices. “The Pelican Brief” is reminiscent of “Three Days of the Condor”. Unrealistic as the plot might be, the breathless pacing and intrigue make this a very fun and memorable read. It most definitely belongs in the category as one of the best John Grisham books.
The Rainmaker (1995)
“The Rainmaker” subverts typical Grisham tropes by discarding the Ivy League Overachiever (Rudy Baylor) at a big firm in favor of an ordinary graduate (Leo Drummond) simply struggling to find a job. A classic David vs. Goliath battle, “The Rainmaker” is saturated with themes of love, despair, and optimism, making the book a personal favorite for many readers.
The Street Lawyer (1998)
When a homeless man takes a group of lawyers hostage for no apparent reason, an affluent lawyer begins to ask why. His quest for answers ultimately leads him to question his entire career. As one of the first books in which Grisham tried to teach a message, “The Street Lawyer” is surprisingly subtle.
A Painted House (2001)
Grisham took a break from legal stories with “A Painted House.” Though it’s a small town mystery, it still carries the trademark Grisham brand of twists and turns. In the book, Grisham takes more time than usual to build his characters and explore their situations, making it a slow read for some.
With more than three dozen books under his belt, assembling a list of the best John Grisham books is quite the task. Despite the repeating themes, Grisham’s books are very varied, distinct in their tone and, hence, appealing to specific circles of readers.