Biography of Jonathan Safran Foer

Jonathan Safran Foer is an American author, best known for his two novels, Everything is Illuminated and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. Foer's style is marked by his use of visual storytelling in non-traditional ways.

Foer was born in 1977 in Washington D.C., to Albert Foer and Esther Safran Foer. As an undergraduate at Princeton University in the mid-1990s, Foer won the Creative Writing Thesis Prize four years running. Joyce Carol Oates, noted author and Creative Writing professor at Princeton, encouraged Foer to pursue a professional writing career, and proved a great influence on his final thesis project, which became his first published novel, Everything is Illuminated.

Foer graduated from Princeton University in 1999, with a BA in Philosophy. Before he found success as a novelist, Foer worked as an editor on the anthology A Convergence of Birds: Original Fiction and Poetry Inspired by the Work of Joseph Cornell, to which he contributed a short story. He also worked an assortment of odd jobs while publishing short stories in The Paris Review and Conjunctions. He won the esteemed Zoetrope: All-Story Fiction Prize in 2000.

Foer had traveled to the Ukraine as an undergraduate to research his family’s history, and he turned that experience into his first novel, Everything is Illuminated, which was published in 2002 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. It garnered great reviews, was a best-seller, and was named Best Book of the Year by the Los Angeles Times. The novel eventually won both the National Jewish Book Award and the Guardian First Book Prize. In 2005, the novel was adapted for the screen by Liev Schreiber, who directed Elijah Wood in the title role.

Foer’s second novel, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, was published in 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, to mixed reviews. The novel went on to become a New York Times Bestseller, an ALA Notable Book for Adults, and has been chosen by numerous colleges as first year reading material since its release.

In 2011, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close was adapted for the screen, and directed by Stephen Daldry. Starring Tom Hanks, Sandra Bullock, and Max von Sydow, it was nominated for two Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Supporting Actor in 2013.

In 2005, Foer wrote the opera Seven Attempted Escapes From Silence, and in 2009 published his first work of nonfiction, Eating Animals, to critical praise. His third novel, Tree of Codes, was published in 2010, to limited fanfare. It is a mixed-media work inspired by Bruno Schulz's Street of Crocodiles.

In 2008, Foer was hired as a Professor of Creative Writing by Yale University, and he currently teaches in New York University’s Graduate Creative Writing Program. His latest work of fiction, Escape from Children’s Hospital, will be published by Little Brown in 2014.

Foer is married to Nicole Krauss, author of The History of Love. They live in Brooklyn with their children.

Study Guides on Works by Jonathan Safran Foer