Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Paper Chase” as Want to Read:
The Paper Chase
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Paper Chase

3.59  ·  Rating details ·  573 ratings  ·  48 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)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Paper Chase, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about The Paper Chase

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
3.59  · 
Rating details
 ·  573 ratings  ·  48 reviews

Sort order
Aug 27, 2017 rated it liked it
I have One L. by Scott Turow more than once because it is a really good book on the experience of Law School. Note: One L is non-fiction. Paper Chase is a novel. I have to admit, I was a little disappointed with Paper Chase.
Jim Cherry
Feb 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
“The Paper Chase” is John Jay Osborn’s 1971 novel of law school and the main character Hart’s mostly one sided psychic war with contracts professor Kingsfield.

Osborn started writing “The Paper Chase” in his first year at the Harvard Law School. The novel is formatted like a series of vignettes of law school linked together by Hart’s romance with Kingsfield’s daughter Susan, a relationship he finds every bit as challenging and frustrating as his relationship with her father.

I’ve probably come to
M.L. Rio
Read this in one day, and what an odd little book. I imagine many readers will be put off by the impenetrability of the characters, but personally I found this compelling because Osborn absolutely nails the many, many anxieties and insecurities of academia. A solid campus novel; I only wish it it had been a little longer and given the characters a little more room to breathe. (But also Susan is nuts and I love her.)
Joseph Samuel
Aug 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Excellent. I watched the movie going into Law School and enjoyed it. Reading this after 1L made me appreciate the story even more. I highly recommend this book to any future law student or anyone interested in getting a fairly accurate depiction of what life is like as a first-year law student. Several things have changed since this book came out, but overall, it does well in describing classmates, professors, and sentiments one encounters. This book is also an incredibly fast read.
Alon Shalev
Jan 31, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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.
Aug 10, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
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.
Oct 14, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
As I greatly enjoyed the film, I grabbed a copy of this book when I saw it in a used bookstore. It's very close to the movie, which I liked. The story focuses on the first year at Harvard Law School of a young man from the Midwest named Hart. The really interesting character, however, is Kingsfield, the intimidating law professor who ruthlessly uses the Socratic method with his students. Hart becomes obsessed with Kingsfield and even carries on a love affair with the professor's independent dau ...more
Donna LaValley
Sep 22, 2011 rated it did not like it
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!
Sep 24, 2017 rated it it was ok
The movie is better.
Oct 16, 2018 rated it liked it
An easy read and I got a rough feel about how stressful it was to be a law student back then. But I have to say it lacked any detail on what law school classes were like. Just a basic overview of how hard they studied and how they were intimidated by their professors. Very few scenes showing tension between the main character and the contracts I remember from the TV show.
Roger Smitter
May 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This read was just as good as my first read back in 1972. In many ways, the novel influenced my classroom teaching. I couldn’t teach like Kingsfield but I did find ways to make teaching a dialogue. And I ways to convince students that they could SPOILER ALERT throw their grades in the ocean.
Edward Woodward
Jan 23, 2018 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: John Woodward
A really good read about first year students at Harvard Law School. I may have been slightly prejudiced by watch all 4 seasons of the TV adaptation a number of years ago.
Feb 23, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Thought I'd read a book from long ago and see how it reads today. Not bad
Melanie Sorensen
I don’t get this book. Unless law school really does make everyone temporarily crazy, and focusing yourself, and ignoring the competition is the solution. But yuck.
Aug 04, 2012 rated it liked it
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
Mar 16, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition

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)
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
Aug 18, 2007 rated it it was ok
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
Lisa Davis
Feb 28, 2016 rated it liked it
Two good things:First, it is a good story. This is a story that needed telling. Second, the environment is described in a way that one can visualize it. Langdell Hall, the dorms, etc.

The distracting feature of this book is the style in which it is written. I describe it as "stilted," but I don't mean stiffly dignified; it is rather "stacked together." Too clipped at some points and the pacing seems very fast.

Overall, it is a fun read and, again, a good story. To quote ancient wisdom, "It is the
I think this i a little bit overly melodramatic. I feel that Scott Turow's One L is more realistic. However, I think the appeal of this book possibly has to do with its describing what you might call fantasies. The student who gives a party and no one comes, the students who sneak into the library in the middle of the night after it's locked, the professor who means a lot to you and can't remember your name, the students who check into a hotel for a couple of days in order to spend all day and n ...more
Jan 07, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
A quick read and one that was mostly enjoyable. There were a few things that felt pretty sexist but then the author portrayed Susan Kingsfield as a strong woman.

The movie adaptation is one of my favorites, with an impeccable cast: Timothy Bottoms as Hart, Lyndsey Wagner as Susan and the esteemed John Houseman as Kingsfield. The film follows the story mostly, but at times it changes scene order or attributes actions to Hart that were done by others. The Susan character was definitely dialed back
Ashley FL
Jun 16, 2010 rated it liked it
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.

Reread in July 2016: not even as good as I remembered it. Why did I bother?
Apr 25, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: haveread
Sonia Sotomayor had referred to this book in her autobiography. I had never read this, but it felt like I knew exactly what was going to happen throughout the entire story. I went to college at the same time that this story was set in. I guess nothing in it surprised me. Why does school have to be like this? Why is education often set up as a competition and such a challenge? Why does education involve pressures? Why does learning involve so much stress? And why does it continue in this way toda ...more
Mar 06, 2013 rated it really liked it
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.
Nov 24, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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.
Nick Desantis
May 22, 2013 rated it did not like it
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. :(
Jun 29, 2013 rated it liked it
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.
Feb 20, 2013 rated it liked it
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.
Jan 13, 2008 rated it really liked 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.
Aug 24, 2008 rated it it was ok
Shelves: past-books, reviews
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.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Anatomy of a Murder
  • The Making of Kubrick's 2001
  • Cracking Your Church's Culture Code: Seven Keys to Unleashing Vision and Inspiration
  • Completely Mad: A History of the Comic Book and Magazine
  • The Life and Death of Fritz the Cat
  • The Making of The Empire Strikes Back (Star Wars:  The Making of, #2)
  • The Reformed (Burn Notice, #4)
  • Is That Thing Diesel?: One Man, One Bike and the First Lap Around Australia on Used Cooking Oil
  • Kubrick: The Definitive Edition
  • The Citizen Kane Book
  • The House That Hugh Laurie Built: An Unauthorized Biography and Episode Guide
  • No Angel: The Secret Life of Bernie Ecclestone
  • Notes from the Hard Shoulder
  • Final Cut: Art, Money, and Ego in the Making of Heaven's Gate, the Film That Sank United Artists
  • The Genesis Machine
  • The Second Son
  • The Homecoming
  • The Short-Timers
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
“Through my questions, you will learn to teach yourselves.” 4 likes
“The trouble with entering the upper echelon is you have to work harder to stay there.” 3 likes
More quotes…