Dan Brown is one of my favorite contemporary authors, and though he's only written a few books, they are great ones—thrillers that move at lightning speed and keep their readers riveted to their seats.
He was born in New Hampshire in 1964. His father was a math teacher at Phillips Exeter Academy (a boarding and day school for high school-level students). Brown grew up on campus there. His parents were also both musicians, particularly in the Episcopalian Church. Many of Brown's novels have a religious theme. He also grew up with codes and ciphers, which should be no surprise to anyone who has read his books. They all contain puzzles and symbols, codes, icons, or secret knowledge.
After graduating from Phillips Exeter, he attended Amherst Colllege. He spent some time in the music industry, and joined the National Academy of Songwriters. Blythe Newlon, the Director of Development gave Brown special assistance, and they developed a relationship, though she is twelve years older than him. They have been married since 1997. Brown also spent time in Spain, and speaks fluent Spanish.
He taught English for a while at Phillips Exeter, and began work on his first book, Digital Fortress in 1993, which was published in 1998. He quit teaching to write, but his books were not great sellers until The Da Vinci Code, which was hugely successful. This information is provided by Wikipedia.
Brown is best known for his "Robert Langdon" series, which comprise all but two of his books. Langdon (played by Tom Hanks in the movies) is a college professor and expert in religious symbology, but keeps getting mixed up in murder/terror scenarios in which ancient symbols play an important role. Thus, he unwittingly becomes the most likely person to unravel the case.
Brown's novels are a mix of fact and fiction, displaying his obvious attention to researching often controversial elements of religious issues. However, much of the information Brown claims as fact can be, and is disputed. In addition his attention to facts, especially trivia, is usually taken to the extreme, which results, in my opinion, in pros and cons when reading his novels, expecially the Robert Langdon thrillers. The "pros" are that one always learns such a great deal when reading his books, information one might never otherwise encounter unless doing specific research in a certain area, such as the number of artworks housed in the Vatican Museum. The "cons" are that the facts and figures can become annoying after a while, when, in a fast-paced race to stop a catastrophic event, the characters are standing there discussing historical facts. (This is not so true in the two "non" Robert Langdon novels, which is perhaps why I prefer them to the others.) Michael Crichton also interwove facts and trivia into his novels, but he did it more skillfully so that it enhanced, rather than detracted from the storyline. Still, Brown's novels are edge of the seat thrillers, and worth reading more than once. (This is the second time through for me, having read them before I created this website.) Incidentally, the movies don't follow the books, so if you plan to see the movies, do it before you read. If you're going to do one or the other, definitely choose reading rather than the movies. Please read the reviews for more information.