Jerome David Salinger is born in Manhattan. He is the second and last child of a Scotch-Irish mother named Miriam Jillich Salinger and a Jewish father named Sol Salinger.
Salinger's parents enroll him in Manhattan's exclusive McBurney School for ninth and tenth grades. He begins his writing career as a reporter for the school newspaper.
At age fifteen, Salinger transfers from McBurney to Valley Forge Military Academy in Wayne, Pennsylvania. He later uses the school as the model for Pencey Prep, Holden Caulfield's alma mater in The Catcher in the Rye.
Salinger enters New York University as a freshman.
Salinger drops out of NYU in the spring of his freshman year. In the fall he moves to Vienna, Austria, to study the meatpacking business.
With war looming in Europe, Salinger leaves Vienna and returns to the United States. A month later, on March 12, the Nazis take over Austria.
Salinger enrolls in a writing course at Columbia University that is taught by Whit Burnett, the editor of Story magazine. Burnett encourages the young writer's career, and becomes a friend and mentor.
Salinger publishes his piece of fiction, "The Young Folks," in Story magazine.
After several rejections, The New Yorker finally accepts one of Salinger's stories. "Slight Rebellion Off Madison," the first Salinger story to feature Holden Caulfield, does not appear in the magazine until five years later.
Salinger is drafted into the U.S. Army, where he has a distinguished military career as an interrogator. Among other accomplishments, he takes part in the Battle of the Bulge and, later, the liberation of the concentration camps. He also forges a friendship with war correspondent Ernest Hemingway. Salinger continues his writing career during the war, carting his typewriter around in his Jeep. His experiences in the war leave a deep impression on him.
On D-Day, Salinger lands on Utah Beach to participate in the invasion of Normandy, France.
Salinger marries a German woman named Sylvia (her last name and other personal details are not known). They live together only eight months, and the marriage officially ends in 1947.
After rejecting Salinger dozens of times, The New Yorker jumps on his story "A Perfect Day for Bananafish," the first to feature a character from the fictional Glass family. He signs a contract with the magazine, promising to let them have first crack at publishing any of his future stories.
My Foolish Heart, a film adaptation of Salinger's story "Uncle Wiggily in Connecticut," premieres. The movie is torn apart by critics. Salinger is so dissatisfied with the filmmakers' interpretation of his work that he never authorizes another film version of his work.
The Catcher in the Rye is published by Little, Brown and Company. The novel's success offers Salinger instant fame, just when he decides he doesn't want it. He begins to retreat from public life.
After practicing Buddhism for several years, Salinger becomes deeply interested in the texts of Advaita Vedanta Hinduism. His interest in religion spans his adult life, and he also dabbles in Christian Science and Dianetics, the precursor to Scientology.
Nine Stories, a book of short stories about the Glass family, is published. In the same year, Salinger moves from New York City to Cornish, New Hampshire, the small town where he still lives.
Salinger marries Claire Douglas, a student at Radcliffe College (which was the sister school of all-male Harvard). As a wedding present, he gives her a copy of a story about the character Franny Glass, who is based on his new wife.
The couple's daughter Margaret is born.
The couple's son Matt is born.
Franny and Zooey is published. The book consists of two long stories, one about Franny Glass (based on Salinger's wife, Claire) and the other about her brother Zooey.
Salinger publishes a book of two novellas entitled Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters and Seymour: An Introduction. It is the last book he publishes.
Salinger's short story "Hapworth 16, 1924" appears in The New Yorker. The story remains his last published work.
Salinger and Claire Douglas divorce after twelve years of marriage, finalizing a long separation.
Salinger reads an essay in The New York Times Magazine by a Yale University freshman named Joyce Maynard. Impressed, he begins a correspondence with her and the two begin a love affair. At the time of their relationship, Maynard is 18 years old and Salinger is 53.
After learning that critic Ian Hamilton is preparing to write a biography about him, Salinger sues Hamilton to block the book's publication. The biography, In Search of J.D. Salinger, eventually appears in 1988.
Salinger marries his third and current wife, Colleen O'Neill, who is forty years his junior.
Joyce Maynard auctions off letters Salinger wrote to her during their courtship. In the same year, she publishes her memoir At Home in the World, which contains detailed descriptions of her relationship with the extremely private writer.
Salinger's daughter Margaret publishes a memoir of growing up with the writer. The book, Dream Catcher, is sharply critical of Salinger, who cut off contact with his daughter when he learned she was writing the book. After its publication, Salinger's son Matt refutes his sister's account of their childhood.
At the age of 91, J.D. Salinger passes away in New Hampshire. The world mourns the loss of one of its most talented, and reclusive, voices.