The 10 Best John Grisham Books

If these aren't for you, there are dozens more.

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John Grisham has been penning bestseller after bestseller since his first book, "A Time to Kill," was first published in 1988. The indisputable king of legal thrillers, he has published 39 more books in the intervening decades, including "Camino Island" and "The Rooster Bar," both of which came out in 2017, and "The Reckoning," which came out in 2018. His books have appeared in 42 languages and have sold more than 300 million copies worldwide. He's one of only three mainstream authors to ever sell more than 2 million copies of a first printing.

Here's a list of some favorite Grisham novels if you're looking to get a taste of his work. Fortunately, his books don't have to be read in any particular order.

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A Time to Kill

A Time to Kill

 Courtesy of Amazon

This is the book that started it all, so any Grisham read-fest should begin right here. It wasn't exactly an instant success, though. It was rejected by numerous publishers before Wynwood Press picked it up and gave it a (very) modest print run. Grisham wasn't deterred and kept on writing. His second book, The Firm, fared much better, and Doubleday ended up republishing A Time to Kill as​ Grisham's "second" release. A lawyer himself, Grisham has said that the book was inspired by the courtroom testimony of a 12-year-old rape victim. In addition to the usual legal suspense and intrigue, A Time to Kill delves into racial violence and retribution. 

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The Firm

When The Firm was released in 1991, it quickly topped the bestseller lists and was made into a major motion picture starring Tom Cruise and Gene Hackman. His second book, it put Grisham on the map. It's the story of a law school ace who's lavishly recruited by a major firm only to find out that something decidedly crooked is going on behind closed office doors. The next thing the protagonist knows, the FBI is knocking on the door of the house that the firm so generously helped him purchase. 

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The Rainmaker

The Rainmaker, from 1995, brings humor to the fast-paced courtroom drama that Grisham is known for. The hero is an underdog—a lawyer, of course—who takes on a major insurance company. Think David and Goliath. The Rainmaker is a good, quick, and utterly enjoyable read.

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The Testament

Similar to Grisham's other novels in its legal suspense, The Testament adds a new spin by taking the main character on a dangerous journey through the remote regions of Latin America. This novel explores greed, materialism, sin, and redemption.

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The Summons

The Summons has a simple plot, but it will still keep you awake and turning pages long after you should have clicked the lights off. It's the story of two sons and their estranged father, whom they find dead in his Mississippi home. This is familiar Grisham territory—a large sum of money and a lot of lawyers—but if the formula isn't broken, why fix it? 

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The Broker

The Broker takes place in Italy, and the first half of the book is slower than some readers might like because it describes Bologna in detail. But then the pace quickens and Grisham provides a good roller-coaster ride right to the end. The action revolves around a presidential pardon, the CIA, and a good bit of international intrigue. 

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Rogue Lawyer

As the title would imply, Sebastian Rudd is not your average lawyer. Released in 2015, Rogue Lawyer tells the story of Rudd and his less-than-scrupulous criminal clients. It's gritty but fun—a must-read for Grisham fans. 

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The Whistler

Released in 2016, The Whistler is a tale of a corrupt judge and the lawyer who would like to bring him down. Greg Myers is no angel himself—he was previously disbarred. This is signature Grisham at his finest, with very human characters, eye-popping plot twists, and plenty of danger. 

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Camino Island

One of two Grisham books published in 2017 and one of his few non-legal thrillers, Camino Island features a female protagonist out to solve the mystery of some stolen F. Scott Fitzgerald manuscripts. The New York Times calls it, "...a resort-town tale that reads as if Grisham is taking a vacation from writing John Grisham novels." But they mean that in a good way: it's a veer from "type" but with Grisham's signature twists and turns and an eye for local color.

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The Rooster Bar

The second 2017 Grisham release, The Rooster Bar finds the author returning to familiar territory, only now he's taking aim at shady, third-tier law schools. When a handful of students at one of those schools, the comically named Foggy Bottom Law School (in D.C., natch), stumble upon a conspiracy theory involving Wall Street and their school, the action heats up fast.

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Your Citation
Miller, Erin Collazo. "The 10 Best John Grisham Books." ThoughtCo, Aug. 24, 2022, Miller, Erin Collazo. (2022, August 24). The 10 Best John Grisham Books. Retrieved from Miller, Erin Collazo. "The 10 Best John Grisham Books." ThoughtCo. (accessed March 23, 2023).