Johnathan Safran Foer was born in 1977, in Washington DC, and grew up with two siblings—Franklin, his older brother who is the editor of the New Republic, and Joshua, his younger brother who is a freelance science writer. At Princeton University, Foer majored in both philosophy and literature and won prizes for his undergraduate writing.
It was while he was still an undergraduate that he wrote the first draft of his first novel, Everything Is Illuminated. The novel was published in 2002 and was later adapted to film, which appeared in theaters in 2005. The story involves the search for a woman who saved the narrator's father during World War II when Nazis were murdering Jews. Everything Is Illuminated was very popular with readers despite the fact that critical opinions varied. Some reviewers found the novel gimmicky because Foer altered the basic form of the contemporary novel by using time warps and other post-modern devices. But most critics claimed that Foer had proven himself to be a young writer who should be watched.
In 2005, Foer published his second novel, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, which found even more favorable reviews than his first. There are also some interesting autobiographical details in Foer's novel. For example, Suzie MacKenzie, a writer for London's Guardian, interviewed Foer and discovered that in his youth, Foer had had a terrible experience. Foer was involved in an accident in a chemistry lab when he was nine years old, the same age as his protagonist Oskar in Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. Foer suffered serious burns on both of his hands, which also happens to Oskar's grandfather in the novel. Foer states that he suffered deep mental stress for several years afterward, which is similar to what Oskar experiences after the death of his father.
Today, Foer lives in Brooklyn, New York, with his wife, the novelist Nicole Krauss (author of The History of Love). They were married in 2004. The couple has one son.