Salinger (book)

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Salinger is a New York Times best-selling biography by David Shields and Shane Salerno published by Simon & Schuster in September 2013. The book is an oral biographical portrait of reclusive American author J. D. Salinger. The book explores Salinger’s entire life including his military service in World War II, his writing career, and his retreat from fame. Salinger narrows in on the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder on his life and work as well as his religious affiliations, and his relationships with teen girls.

Salinger debuted at #6 on New York Times bestsellers list[1] and stayed on the list for three weeks. It was #1 on the Los Angeles Times bestsellers list.[2] Additionally, Salinger was named to the bestsellers lists for NPR,[3] Independent Booksellers,[4] and Barnes & Noble. Salinger was named the Amazon Best Book of the Month in September 2013.[5] The book received starred reviews from Kirkus Reviews[6] and Publishers Weekly[7] and was chosen as the Book of the Month Club Selection[8] and the History Book Club Selection for September 2013.[9]


Salinger is the 17th book by award-winning author David Shields and the first book by author, screenwriter, and producer Shane Salerno. Salerno's interest in J. D. Salinger began when he was a child. After reading all of Salinger's published work, he learned that J. D. Salinger had retreated from public life to live in a rural town in New Hampshire, where he wrote every day and vowed never to publish again.

Salerno began researching Salinger's life and was fascinated by the details. Salerno started production on his documentary film Salinger, and quickly realized that there was simply too much information for one film. He decided to write a book and collaborated with PEN/Revson Award-winner David Shields.

Salinger is the product of ten years of research including over 200 interviews with family, friends, lovers, military brothers-in-arms, neighbors, and professional colleagues. Interviews were conducted on five continents and hundreds of never-before-seen photographs and documents were discovered.


Published three years after J. D. Salinger's death, Salinger chronicles the author's life through the lens of his military service during World War II. The book explores the subjects of his writing, his relationships with friends and lovers, his marriages, his children, and his exploration of various religions. The book also examines the cultural impact of Salinger's work including the use of his work by Mark David Chapman as justification for his assassination of John Lennon. Never-before-seen photographs, documents, and letters appear throughout the text and offer details of the author's life that were previously unknown.


Scott Bowles, book critic for USA Today gave Salinger 3 ½ out of 4 stars, writing, "Salinger is a revelation, and offers the most complete picture of an American icon, a man deified by silence, haunted by war, frustrated in love—and more frail and human than he ever wanted the world to know."[10] Tina Jordan of Entertainment Weekly wrote "The book feels as close as we'll ever get to being inside Salinger's head."[11] Lev Grossman of Time called Salinger "vivid" and John Walsh of The Sunday Times (London) called the book "A stupendous work... I predict with the utmost confidence that, after this, the world will not need another Salinger biography."[12] Louis Bayard of The Washington Post wrote "Salinger is the thorny, complicated portrait that its thorny, complicated subject deserves... the book offers the most complete rendering yet of Salinger's World War II service, the transformative trauma that began with the D-Day invasion and carried through the horrific Battle of Hürtgen Forest and the liberation of a Dachau subcamp."[13] David Ulin of Los Angeles Times wrote "Salinger gets the goods on an author's reclusive life... it strips away the sheen of his exceptionalism, trading in his genius for something much more real."[14] Andrew Romano of The Daily Beast wrote "Salinger is full of fascinating revelations."[15]


  1. ^ Taylor, Ihsan. "Best Sellers - The New York Times". Retrieved 2013-11-20. 
  2. ^ "Shane Salerno - Bestsellers - Los Angeles Times". Retrieved 2013-11-20. 
  3. ^ Levin, Mark R. "Bestsellers: Hardcover Nonfiction, Week Of September 12, 2013". NPR. Retrieved 2013-11-20. 
  4. ^ "National Indie Bestsellers - Hardcover Nonfiction | American Booksellers Association". 2013-09-15. Retrieved 2013-11-20. 
  5. ^ "Salinger: David Shields, Shane Salerno: 9781476744834: Books". 2013-09-03. Retrieved 2013-11-20. 
  6. ^ Slawenski, Kenneth (2013-10-01). "SALINGER by David Shields, Shane Salerno | Kirkus". Retrieved 2013-11-20. 
  7. ^ "Nonfiction Book Review: Salinger by David Shields and Shane Salerno. Simon & Schuster, $37.50 (720p) ISBN 978-1-4767-4483-4". 2013-09-23. Retrieved 2013-11-20. 
  8. ^ Shields, David (1966-10-16). "Salinger | Book-of-the-Month Club". Retrieved 2013-11-20. 
  9. ^ Shields, David. "Salinger". The History Book Club. Retrieved 2013-11-20. 
  10. ^ "'Salinger' draws back author's thick veil of secrecy". 2013-09-02. Retrieved 2013-11-20. 
  11. ^ "Salinger review Review | News Reviews and News". 2013-08-30. Retrieved 2013-11-20. 
  12. ^ John Walsh (2013-09-08). "Salinger by David Shields and Shane Salerno". The Sunday Times. Retrieved 2013-11-20. 
  13. ^ Bayard, Louis (2013-08-30). "Review: ‘Salinger,’ a biography of the reclusive author, by David Shields and Shane Salerno - Washington Post". Retrieved 2013-11-20. 
  14. ^ "'Salinger' gets the goods on an author's reclusive life - Los Angeles Times". 2013-08-28. Retrieved 2013-11-20. 
  15. ^ Romano, Andrew (2013-09-09). "What We Really Know about J.D. Salinger". Retrieved 2013-11-20.