Franzen is known for his National Book Award-winning novel The Corrections, and his public spat with Oprah after she picked it for her book club.
Franzen grew up in St. Louis and graduated from Swarthmore in 1981. After spending a year in Berlin on a Fulbright Scholarship, Franzen and his new wife, Valerie Cornell, moved to Somerville, a suburb of Boston. After several years as a failing novelist, the couple moved to New York City, where Franzen managed to sell his first novel, 1988's The Twenty-Seventh City. He released his second book, Strong Motion, in 1992, but it, like The Twenty-Seventh City, failed to make much of a splash. In 2001, he finally hit it big with sprawling family saga The Corrections, the definitive portrayal of domestic dysfunction. The novel won the 2001 National Book Award for Fiction and, the same year, was picked as one of Oprah's Book Club's reads. After an interview in The Oregonian in which Franzen expressed fear that Oprah's seal of approval would dissuade men from picking up the tome, Oprah rescinded her invitation for Franzen to appear on her show. Though the book had received literary acclaim, Franzen's tiff with Oprah saw massive media exposure and, ultimately, bolstered book sales.
Franzen then took a nine-year retreat from writing novels and published a memoir, The Discomfort Zone, and a collection of essays, How to be Alone. He contributed short stories to The New Yorker, including excerpts from Freedom, the novel he was working on. All 576 pages of Freedom were published in 2010 to much fanfare including, surprisingly, Oprah's praise. In late 2010, during the final season of her show, Oprah invited Franzen onto her show, named Freedom an Oprah's Book Club choice, and ended the decade-long feud.
Franzen, now divorced from Valerie Cornell, lives in New York. [Image via Getty]