Best John Grisham Books of All Time

Sonia Akavan
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NameCategoryProduct
A Time to Kill: A NovelBest OverallA Time to Kill: A Novel
The Firm: A NovelBudget PickThe Firm: A Novel
A Painted House: A NovelUpgrade PickA Painted House: A Novel

1. A Time to Kill: A Novel

Our rating: 9 / 10

A Time to Kill: A Novel

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Seth Hubbard is a wealthy man dying of lung cancer. He initiates a plot to fake his own death and leave his fortune to his young, black housekeeper. Doing so, however, would leave his family destitute.

The rape trial of Carl Lee Hailey, black and white, rich and poor, justice and injustice is the backdrop for a well-written story. Some view it as a veiled criticism of the death penalty. Ultimately, justice is served and the reader must determine whether justice is the same thing as revenge.

2. The Firm: A Novel

Our rating: 9 / 10

The Firm: A Novel

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Pros:

  • The plot is pure Grisham
  • It made a ton of money and is a classic courtroom thriller
  • Believable characters
  • Suspenseful
  • Pages can turn very quickly
  • Startling twist at the end

Cons:

  • Character development
  • Starts out slowly

The Firm is by far John Grisham’s most famous, and best selling novel. Grisham has sold about nine billion copies of this book, so trust us when we say that he knows what he’s talking about.

The Firm is about a young man, Mitch McDeere, who leaves behind his simple and middle class life to enter a world of high finance with a big law firm in Memphis.

McDeere lands a high paying job with Baulder & Company, which he quickly learns is a fake law firm set up by the Mafia. Despite his attempts to leave, he is trapped and manipulated by those around him.

3. A Painted House: A Novel

Our rating: 9 / 10

A Painted House: A Novel

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Pros:

  • Great for traveling
  • Affordable

Cons:

  • Shallow characters

A Painted House is the story of seven-year-old Luke Chandler and his family, who live out the last days before the explosive growth of post-war America on a drought-stricken cotton farm one season. There were good crops and the family was living well. Now, crops are failing, and unemployment is beginning to close in on them with more and more families having to move to better climates.

This book is remarkable for its age and it’s lack of popularity even after all these years. It could be enjoyed by adults by themselves. It is not a child’s book. It has short chapters that mean you can read it a chapter at a time. Best of all, it’ll leave you with a sense of how far we’ve come and what a hard time it must have been in the early agricultural days.

4. Sycamore Row: A Novel

Our rating: 9 / 10

Sycamore Row: A Novel

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5. The Pelican Brief: A Novel

Our rating: 7 / 10

The Pelican Brief: A Novel

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Pros:

  • Epic Thriller
  • Third Highest Grossing Film Adaptation
  • Covered in The Quiz Bowl Bible
  • The Movie is Completely Required Viewing in Most High School English Classes
  • As Confusing as the Book is, the Film is Even Better
  • One of the Fakest Finales in the History of Fiction
  • The Only Film that Julia Roberts was able to Pick up an Oscar Nomination
  • Addresses Majorly Important Social Topics
  • An Amazing Courtroom Drama
  • Humorous Love Scenes

The Pelican Brief is a fantastic mystery thriller that shows the ability of Grisham to produce such a great story. The Pelican Brief tells the story of a young law student, Darby Shaw, who is consulting with her friend attorney for a case. He has been murdered, and she is targeted to find who killed him.

6. A Time to Kill: A Jake Brigance Novel

Our rating: 7 / 10

A Time to Kill: A Jake Brigance Novel

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Pros:

  • Great for a rainy day
  • Easy to follow
  • Easy to read fast

A Time to Kill is my number one pick for best John Grisham novel simply because it is a must-read for every fan of John Grisham.

Based on a real-life murder of two young boys by local factory boss, the novel follows hotshot attorney Jake Brigance in his attempts to save his client from the death penalty. The story begins with a brutal rape and murder of 11-year-old Tonya Hailey, the daughter of Jake's co-worker and friend. The case becomes high profile, and the trial soon receives a great deal of publicity.

This was Grisham's second novel. Though most critics compared it unfavorably to his earliest work, his fans regard A Time to Kill as his best work.

7. The Firm

Our rating: 7 / 10

The Firm

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8. The Rainmaker: A Novel

Our rating: 6 / 10

The Rainmaker: A Novel

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Pros:

  • Grisham’s first novel
  • Amusing murder mystery

One of John Grisham’s first novels, The Rainmaker is a thought-provoking story about a young lawyer who takes on a hit-and-run case that takes him on a journey that will teach him a lot about life, especially the price of doing the right thing.

One of the things that struck me was how Grisham shows how McCarthyism was practiced in the 1950s and 60s … not just by the government for those who remember the time, but by the American people.

9. The Street Lawyer: A Novel

Our rating: 6 / 10

The Street Lawyer: A Novel

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10. The Summons

Our rating: 6 / 10

The Summons

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11. The Testament: A Novel

Our rating: 6 / 10

The Testament: A Novel

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Pros:

  • Compelling storyline
  • Well developed characters
  • Grisham overlays his experience as a lawyer
  • Intriguing plot twists

Cons:

  • The protagonists are not likable
  • Grisham's treatment of his secondary characters
  • Overblown, over-the-top prose

The Testament: A Novel is the first efforts of writer, John Grisham. The book was published in 1998 and was made into a movie four years later starring James Gardner and Cameron Diaz. The Testament: A Novel begins with the creation of the world's richest and most powerful man, Jason McCarty, who died in 1995. He left behind an amazing last will and testament. McCarty's vast wealth was divided into nine equal shares and distributed among people he met on his life's journey. The McCarty fortune has delighted, angered, seduced, and destroyed.

Five people who come into the McCarty inheritance each represent a different component of American society: a jilted lover, a black college student, a corrupt senator, a greedy business woman, and an idealistic crusader.

12. Sycamore Row

Our rating: 6 / 10

Sycamore Row

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Pros:

  • Well written
  • Brilliantly plotted

I can’t remember the last time I was completely addicted to a book. This book is riveting and it just doesn’t let you put it down. I love every single thing about this book, but what I love the most is that John manages to make you feel sorry for Chris “ the book’s antagonist “ even though you know he’s done deplorable things.

His writing is very sedate, easy to follow and laced with humour. If you are interested in crime thrillers, this is one book that you mustn’t pass. This book has jaw-dropping twist and turns that will totally reorient your entire perspective with regards to the events of the story.

This is one of the best Grisham books of all time.

13. The Last Juror: A Novel

Our rating: 6 / 10

The Last Juror: A Novel

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14. The Broker

Our rating: 6 / 10

The Broker

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We may be cheating a little with this one as the book came out in 2008 and we didn’t review it with our usual guidelines in place, but this was just too good of a thriller not to include. It’s also one of Grisham’s most recent books.

The Broker is based around a Pakistani terrorist conspiracy plot to blow up New York City, told from the perspective of the terrorist, a man named Rashid.

There’s a heavy dose of moral conflict that gives the book its main platform. Rashid is one of the few men who actually stood up against the scheme, but the plot is so intricate, so detailed, and so far-reaching that he’s probably getting himself killed.

15. The Litigators: A Novel

Our rating: 6 / 10

The Litigators: A Novel

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Pros:

  • Top Former Trial Lawyer Turns in a Novel
  • Gritty, Hilarious, and Suspenseful Stuffs

When Michael Brock is disbarred in his mid-50s, he is unprepared for the harsh realities of life as a retired lawyer. Sandy Stern, one of his colleagues, takes him under her wing and pays for him to attend a continuing education course in Chicago. The informal class is led by two ruthless lawyers and taught at a dizzying pace.

Brock is fascinated and takes all the notes he can, but the pair's style of teaching is lacking in many ways. Without the benefit of books on law, this class is the only shot Brock has at getting back into practicing law. One of the two instructors is not exactly ethical in his approach to teaching and has his own agenda as to who will be the star student by the end of the final exam.

One of the outstanding aspects about this book is its clever, witty style. None of the characters are perfect, and their flaws are what keep the reader involved through the book. A novel by a former trial lawyer is always difficult to read, but this one surpasses its genre.

16. The Whistler: A Novel

Our rating: 6 / 10

The Whistler: A Novel

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The first novel by John Grisham, The Whistler is one of my favorites. It is the first book in the series featuring Judge Drear.

Judge Roy “Rudy” Drear is a no-nonsense judge who is tenacious and firm in his convictions. He is on the fast track to becoming a circuit court judge, but he faces a unique problem: when he retires to go to the higher court, the new judge after him will be a young African American man who is the son of a former client of his. In this book, Judge Drear makes some mistakes that could jeopardize his future career as a circuit court judge.

17. Camino Island: A Novel

Our rating: 5 / 10

Camino Island: A Novel

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Pros:

  • Grisham's most exciting adventure story yet
  • Exuberant group of characters
  • Enjoyable workplace banter
  • Daring plot
  • Attempt at literary fiction raises interesting questions

Cons:

  • Two utterly unbelievable and unnecessary flourishes
  • Deviations from Grisham formula are rough
  • In short, it's much longer than it should be
  • Purposefully slow at times

"Camino Island" is the best John Grisham novel in ages, but it's also his most predictable and traditional. Set in Florida in the 1950s, "Camino Island" is a highly engaging caper story.

The novel is narrated in 1989 by Teddy Fay, now retired from the life of a spy. Grisham has always been concerned with the motives of this old man, who's as mysterious as the rest of the novel. Teddy tells us how he scammed a famous writer from hiding out in a resort town, exposing his latest manuscript to be a fake.

The unhinged, demanding author who's leading the chase is David, with a hankering for an author who's better known today: Hemingway. Hemingway's making a cameo appearance, but the novel traces back to one of his lesser-known contemporaries: Scott Donaldson, author of "Not a Hawk, Not a Dove," published in 1949.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What John Grisham book should I read first?

We recommend starting with the first book in the popular series, The Client.

What is the order of John Grisham books?

John Grisham is one of the most prolific American authors ever, specializing in crime/ courtroom novels. He wrote his first novel A Time to Kill in 1988, and has been published at least once a year since then. His books are almost always bestsellers and have been translated into 43 languages, including Finnish, Norwegian, Korean, and German. Here’s the order of his books, both in publication order and the order of the Matthew McConaughey movies (Family Law is the only one not yet made into a film, but Hollywood is working on it).

How many books does John Grisham have out?

If you're an avid John Grisham reader, then you probably know that he has 23 novels and 1 non-fiction book, "The Innocent Man". Grisham has also contributed to 9 short stories that have 4 in his collection "Ford County" and 5 in a collection called "The Rooster Bar". Another contribution includes the novel "A Painted House" that was put out in 2001. Interestingly enough, although Grisham has two films based on his books, he hasn’t had any standalone books made into films.

What is the best book ever?

That’s totally a matter of opinion, and we’ll leave it to you to debate the matter with your friends, social media contacts, and dinner party guests.

Instead, we’d like to address a more important question that we think is missing from the John Grisham book conversation: what is the best John Grisham book ever for our a specific type of un-American activity?

If you’re like us, you’re an un-American who indulges in plenty of activities that are illegal or at least frowned upon by those patriotic squares who like to start Facebook groups protesting their neighbors activities with peaceful vigils. These activities range from having a man cave to walking your dog in circles to secretly wishing you could make the world a better place by ruining the environment in some way. You’re not alone, though.

Conclusion

Grisham's attorneys do a great job of getting him inside federal institutions, where he conducts extensive research on prison life. Getting into the, this is just the beginning of a Grisham thriller that is both thrilling and terrifying at the same time. For anyone who's interested in law or prison life, this book might be of interest to you.

Our Recommendation

NameCategoryProduct
A Time to Kill: A NovelBest OverallA Time to Kill: A Novel
The Firm: A NovelBudget PickThe Firm: A Novel
A Painted House: A NovelUpgrade PickA Painted House: A Novel