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The Paper Chase

3.45 of 5 stars 3.45  ·  rating details  ·  258 ratings  ·  27 reviews
When initially published, The Paper Chase was widely acclaimed as the first novel to realistically describe the experiences of students within American law schools. The film version appeared to sensational reviews, and John Houseman, playing Professor Kingsfield won an Academy Award. Then, with Houseman again playing Kingsfield, The Paper Chase appeared as a television ser ...more
Paperback, 249 pages
Published September 2nd 2004 by Whitston Publishing Co Inc (first published 1971)
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Community Reviews

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Alon Shalev
A great book with a timeless theme - the relationship between teacher and student - but with plenty of themes that make this a highly individualized novel.

Also, I loved the insight into the mechanics of an ivy league law school. Working with law students here on the West Coast only added to the spice of this crazy rite-of-passage.
This is a fabulous read. It's short, takes a day to read, and gets right to the point. It does the job so much more brilliantly and pungently than Turow's One L. This is the definitive book about the first year at the Harvard Law School. It really made me glad I went somewhere else.
Having never been in law school--nor ever interested in attending--any finer points regarding accuracy and stereotypes have fully passed me by.

But as a regular ol' English major, there were aspects of this which really appealed to me.

The Paper Chase reads much less like a novel and more like a series of sketches. They don't necessarily link from chapter-to-chapter, and even once the whole thing is said and done a number of the chapters still feel a bit haphazard. Few books could get away with do
Nick Mann
No book had more influence on me in writing “Forgetful” than “The Paper Chase.” The parts of my book that dealt with the seminar were difficult to write. But the knowledge that more than 40-years ago John Osborne had been able to vividly capture the feel of a 1st-year law class at Harvard made me know that it could be done. I just had to keep at it. Of course Osborne wrote from the viewpoint of Hart, the student, while I wrote from the perspective of Ben Parks, the professor. But still Osborne’s ...more

I guess it's almost inevitable that such a short novel(la) would operate in the stereotype-osphere, but allowing that doesn't make The Paper Chase any more enjoyable. I think there was a great nugget of an idea here, but Osborn was either too busy or young to fully develop it. I do hope, however, that the stereotypes in his novel were a reflection of the various sides and states of mind he was in while at Harvard Law...that would be a little redeeming. I had wondered (before reading his bio)
This book was disappointing. I have a fascination with Harvard Law School (not sure why) and was looking for some exposure to this world and I guess I got some.

The relationship between Hart and Susan, in my opinion, was never fully developed and I really didn't find myself caring what happened between them.

I found the ending to be bizarre and I didn't find it very satisfying.

I cannot recommend this book or the movie either.
Aug 18, 2007 Rob rated it 2 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: beginning law students (with a big grain of salt)
What I learned is that this book is over-hyped. I start law school in a few days and virtually all the books I've read about it say that law school is this horrible experience filled with awful people who engage in every sort of cutthroat tactic in order to get ahead of you in the curve. The Paper Chase is the quintessential example (and probably most famous) of these types of stories. From all the people I've talked to here at William & Mary and elsewhere, this type of behavior is quite rar ...more
Read this book to try to understand the law school phenomenon better. Nope, didn't help at all. Most of the book was the student freaking out about being ready to answer a question in his contracts class. Seriously, answer the damned question it doesn't effect your grade! That said it helps me kind of understand the psychology of a law student that thinks every word they say is all important. And it was short, and very readable, and a classic of law school. And I liked the ending.
Ashley FL
The edition I read had "deleted scenes" in it: what a mistake! They showed that the writer is actually a pretty BAD writer -- I guess he had a great editor!

This is a classic for law students, but I can't remember ever reading it. Parts were great, but parts seemed almost surreal? I debated between 3 and 4 stars. In the end, I decided, it is 4 stars for law students and prospective law students, 3 stars for everyone else.
I read this book around the time that the film and the television show had been very popular. It influenced me many years later when I was using real law libraries to do college research. I learned that much of the writer's perspective was distorted and vain. It was a good read at the time. I find it also very interesting that now that there is a new edition, no others are available.
Nick Desantis
Book NonRecommendation : Just finished "The Paper Chase" by John Jay Osborne Jr. The movie was incredible so it lead me to the book. Normally, the book smokes the movie, but not in this case. I give this book a 3 out of 10 and that is being very very generous. The author just seems to rush through so many issues that were great scenes in the movie. Bitter disappointment. :(
It's evolved into a horror story of sorts in the way it reveals how little legal education has changed since the 1960s, and I guess it's neat as a critique. The front cover includes a blurb from the New Yorker calling Osborn a "writer of wit and style", but I didn't find it particularly stylish or funny, and the descriptions of women made me sigh in dismay.
I was always a big fan of the Television series from the 70's and the movie. I just realized (duh) that it was based on a book. All the characters are here - in fact the show and movie followed the book wonderfully. I love Hart and have always identified with him. Good read that filled me with lots of nostalgia for the dreams of youth.
I read this before I went to law school. I can't remember why. I probably thought it would give me a leg up in law school - HAHAHAHA. About a group of Harvard law students in their first year of law school and how they deal with stress and expectations. Shows the ugly, competitive side of law there's a lot of truth in it.

I liked the book, it was very quickly paced and gave a good insight as to the insanity that goes on behind the scenes at a top notch law school. Similarly, I liked the underlying theme of what's important in life and the fact that the book addresses them and leaves you satisfied with the conclusion.
I miss the eponymous TV series of the late 1970's. I saw the 1973 film *after* I had seen the series. Lastly, I read the book, which I liked enough to read Osborn's other works, e.g., The Associates, which was mde into a short lived ABC sitcom starring Martin Short, Alley Mills and Joe Regalbuto.
Donna LaValley
One of the worst books I've ever read, back in the 1980's. It had a particularly unsatisfactory way of ending; I remember swiftly reading the last few pages and in one fluid movement closing the book and placing it in the trash. Then I quickly stood up, left the room and closed the door!
I remember the tv show fondly but had never read the original novel(la). Maybe if I went back to re-watch I'd be as dissatisfied as I was with the book. Maybe I'd be just as disappointed to re-live my college years in the 70's with that era's pervasive sexism.
I thought the book was great in the beginning and the middle. It grabbed you and kept you entertained. I personally hated the way it ended. I won't ruin anything so that you can make your own decision but I didn't like the way it ended.
Tommy Yeargin
I remember the show on TV when I was a kid; I never realized it began as a novel. A very good read. It doesn't bore you with a lot of courtroom lingo; it's just a good coming-of-age story about one man's first year in law school.
Encapsulates the first year of law school to a tee. Only difference is I did not care about impressing professors as much as Hart did when I was a law student, nor did I expect validation or respect from them.
John Moretz
Yes, the characters are stereotypes but the book still entertains.

My copy is the tie-in to the motion picture version and the image of Lindsay Wagner on the cover adds a lot to the book, I must say.
Jon Choi
Eccentric and depressing. A catalog of the slow descent into madness of a group of students at Harvard Law School in a bygone era. Just as weird as the movie--did people ever really act like that?
Jan 05, 2015 Ladybug marked it as to-read
Not sure why I read the whole thing. I was interested in the premise, but foul language is frequent and normally this would be a book I would quit reading because of that.
Charles Maranto
The Paper Chase was a great TV series, but the original book just ain't that good.

An unfocused story with characters that I had trouble caring about.
Sep 03, 2008 Simon rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: No
I thought it was okay. Not enough on the law, and the new material is not that great.
May 31, 2012 Jean rated it 2 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2012
I guess law school was a lot harder back in the day.
Stephen marked it as to-read
Jan 25, 2015
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John Jay Osborn, Jr. is the author of the bestselling novel, The Paper Chase, a fictional account of one Harvard Law School student's battles with the imperious Professor Charles Kingsfield. The book was made into a movie starring John Houseman and Timothy Bottoms. Houseman won an Oscar for his performance as contracts professor Kingsfield. The Paper Chase also became a television series. Osborn w ...more
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