The John Grisham Challenge


If you were to ask me who my favorite fiction writer is, by default I would have to say John Grisham, probably because I’ve read more of his books than any other fiction author. That’s not to say others don’t live up.

Suzanne Collins hasn’t written as many books, even though I’ve read all eight (actually, nine) of her works.

Jeff Smith is a graphic novelist, so he can’t count as a fiction author.

And Stephen King just wasn’t the right fit for me.

Plus, I love courtroom action, and I think Grisham does it best.

But somewhere in the middle of his writing career, he kind of lost his touch. Sure, most of us can agree that his books set outside the courthouse are left wanting a little more substance (or plot), but the most recent trial books I’ve read by him haven’t necessarily lived up to par, either. I remember loving one of them immensely (The Broker, maybe?), but the ending was so sudden and unsatisfying that I ended up hating it.

So I want to find out what went wrong. At what point did America’s favorite storyteller lose his knack for captivating his john-grishamreaders? (Or hasn’t he?) You see, I want to avoid whatever mistakes he made, and capitalize on his strengths (and there are many), because I may or may not be writing my own courtroom book currently. And in order to do it well, I want to learn from the best.

I’ll be reading them in order of release from A Time to Kill, which I’m almost done with, to Rogue Lawyer. 

Some of them I’m very excited about revisiting, like The Firm, The Client, The Testament, and others not so much, like A Painted House and Playing for Pizza.

But we can’t expect a perfect 100 from someone’s who’s given us almost forty titles. So, Mr. Grisham, here’s to the next couple of years spent together in thrilling courtroom (and sometimes sports, rural, and Christmas) bliss.

Share your favorite John Grisham novel below!

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Published by Andrew Toy

Writer when I'm not being a husband or dad. So mostly just a husband and dad.

21 thoughts on “The John Grisham Challenge

  1. I first fell in love with Grisham’s writing through The Firm. Well, I didn’t like it at first bc of the small texts and short paragraph spacing.


  2. There are few writers who can change their writing style. If one doesn’t mix up his reading pleasures with other authors the old standbys go stale, and loose their surprises, in my opinion. John Steinbeck is one that comes to mind who could change his style from novel-to-novel.


  3. I recently saw Jurassic World on the day it was released. I saw it in the best theatre with the best surround sound and best visual quality. My heavy anticipation was it would beat the other first three. I love all three before World, but nothing compares to Park. At the end of World, I left the theatre thinking the movie was not as good as the others. World’s conclusion was anticlimactic and the dinosaurs scened were subpar. Pratt’s acting was exquisite and the children actors were ok. The raptors, as usual, were the interesting part. But in retrospect, unappreciative attitude was not validated I believe. I noticed my movie taste buds have shifted, preferring some Indie films to major box office blockbusters. The same with music. I am a huge fan of hip hop, but my tastes shifted from hip hop to soul, jazz, and some type of EDM folk music (I don’t fully understand the last one either). So this long explanation is a personal anecdote is being used to explain that maybe the writer is not issue. Maybe it is your literary tastes have expanded, shifted, or appreciation for a different style has arisen. Or maybe I AM WRONG, which is completely the case too. I tremendously enjoyed your post because it has reminded me of my current issues with the arts, media, and music.


    1. I loved this challenge. Which is partially why I’m going back to read his writings. Perhaps it IS just me, and I just don’t care for his books outside of his comfort genre.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I am also a huge Grisham fan, and I love his courtroom thrillers. I never felt he lost his touch in his thrillers. Did you read Gray Mountain? If not, I can’t wait until you do. It really opened my eyes to the abuses of the mining industry.


  5. I like many of John Grisham’s books but I like ” The Painted House” because it has a different direction from all his other books, I like the nostalgic feel of this story, it takes me back to the simple days of my youth.


  6. This is such a smart thing to do. I used to be a huge Grisham fan as well but lost interest after the last two or three books he produced. For the last one I read, when I wrote my review I put it along the lines of, “Read the first chapter, read the very last page of the book, and you’ll know what the entire story is all about it.” When writers get really big, like Grisham, publishing houses start betting on those writers and start (I imagine) pressuring them even more.

    Grisham publishes a book every October like clockwork. What if the book he’s working on gets away from him somehow, like he can’t quite reconcile his characters with his plot? What if he feels like he needs to do another draft or two before submitting it for editing? He probably doesn’t have that luxury.

    Several years ago I read an article in the Wall Street Journal about Mary Higgins Clark in which representatives from her publishing house revealed that they actually planned a sizable chunk of their budget every single year around her books. I don’t know if it’s true anymore, but it makes sense that writers like Grisham and others have that pressure hanging over them and that’s why occasionally they’ll release a turkey of a book. I miss the Grisham of old too!


  7. I’ve read three John Grisham novels – The Testament, The Rainmaker and Calico Joe. The Testament is one of my favorite books, and none of it actually takes place in a courtroom. If I were to ‘grade’ these three I would give Calico Joe a ‘B,’ The Rainmaker an ‘A,’ and The Testament an ‘A+.’


    1. I love all three. I’d agree with Calico Joe being a B because I feel like there could have been more to it, and I wish there was.


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