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My Friend, John

The Love of John Grisham

In December 2022 I completed my 45th John Grisham book. I wish I had started keeping a reading list as soon as I started reading (something I have encouraged my children to do), so I could remember which was the first novel by him that I read. The Firm was published in 1991 so I think I must have jumped on the bandwagon pretty close to the beginning of his stellar writing career. I own more books by John Grisham than any other author - and I own a lot of books. I enjoy the feel of learning a little something about the ins and outs of our legal system all while being entertained and engaged in a good “page turner”. Over the years he has published books other than legal thrillers and for the most part I haven’t picked those up.

Then a few years ago during my January goal-setting for books (the only goals I even make for myself anymore), I decided that I wanted to read everything that he had written. So I Googled his books by publication date and wrote them down in my reading notebook. I’d missed a couple of his legal thrillers (but only a couple) over the years during the time when my children were very young, but by and large I could already mark as read a pretty nice number of his works. Still, going in order, I started checking the books out of the library and reading to complete my list.

Here’s what I discovered: he is a master story-teller. I do love his legal thrillers but I learned that I loved his stories. He writes beautiful stories with people that I relate to, or maybe don’t relate to at all, but can still learn from. He has come to have very strong feelings toward the death penalty and reading his books and interviews regarding it I have come to see things from a new perspective and examine my own feelings toward this complicated issue.

I was only a few pages into Skipping Christmas when I realized that this is where Christmas with the Kranks comes from. A Painted House is another all-time favorite book and also has nothing to do with the law. If you love football, Bleachers and Playing for Pizza are both great reads. Basketball? Sooley is a magnificent, heart-breaking book. Don’t have time for a novel? Ford County is a collection of short stories as is Sparring Partners. You can even start with a single story, both Fetching Raymond and Partners were sold as Kindle Singles.

Grisham also has a series for kids called Theodore Boone: Kid Lawyer. These are for 9-12 year-old readers. Full disclosure, I have not yet read a book from this series. I’m planning on 2023 being the year that I get to start on this series. My goal to “finish a list” has brought unexpected rewards and uncovered new favorites in my reading life. In some books the characters can feel like old friends, and in some cases the author can feel like that friend. For me, John Grisham feels like a friend. I’m always happy to see the next book appear. I don’t love every single book at the same level but I’m never bored, every book is enjoyable, and I never feel like it wasn’t worth my time.

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