Illinois State Library

Illinois Center for the Book

Individual Author Record

General Information


Pen Name: None

Genre: C:ADULT Fiction Non-Fiction

Born: , in West Chicago, Illinois

Illinois Connection

Johnson was born in West Chicago. He graduated from the University of Chicago in 2002.

Biographical and Professional Information

Kirk Wallace Johnson is the author of The Feather Thief: Beauty, Obsession, and the Natural History Heist of the Century. His 2013 memoir, To Be a Friend is Fatal: the Fight to Save the Iraqis America Left Behind, covers his work coordinating the reconstruction of Fallujah and his subsequent efforts on behalf of Iraqi refugees as the founder of the List Project to Resettle Iraqi Allies.

His writing has appeared in The New Yorker, the New York Times, the Washington Post, among other publications, and his work has been profiled by This American Life, 60 Minutes, the Today Show, and The List, a feature-length documentary that premiered at the TriBeCa Film Festival.

As the founder of the List Project, Johnson’s advocacy led to the creation of a program for Iraqis that were imperiled as a consequence of working alongside U.S. diplomats and soldiers. His organization, which marshaled an army of pro bono attorneys to press their cases, helped nearly 2,500 Iraqi refugees reach America, where they are now citizens.

Prior to that, Johnson served in Iraq with the U.S. Agency for International Development in Baghdad and then Fallujah as the Agency’s first coordinator for reconstruction in the war-torn city.

He is a Senior Fellow at the USC Annenberg Center on Communication Leadership and Policy, and the recipient of fellowships from the American Academy in Berlin, Yaddo, the MacDowell Colony, and the Wurlitzer Foundation. Prior to his work in Iraq, he conducted research on political Islamism as a Fulbright Scholar in Egypt. Johnson graduated from the University of Chicago in 2002.

He lives in Los Angeles with his wife, son, and daughter.

Published Works Expand for more information

Titles At Your Library


-- """The Feather Thief""" *Amazon Best Book of 2018 *2019 Crime Writers Association Gold Dagger Award Nominee (Shortlist) *2019 Edgar Awards Nominee – Best Fact Crime *Oprah’s 20 Best True Crime Books of All Time *Goodreads Choice Awards Semifinalist *Andrew Carnegie Medal Nominee (Longlist) *Buzzfeed Best Books of 2018 *Outside Best Books of 2018 *Popular Mechanics Best Sci/Tech Books of 2018 *Forbes Best Books About Birds in 2018 *Mental Floss Best Books of 2018 *American Birding Association Best of 2018 *BookPage Best Books of 2018 *BookRiot Favorite Books of 2018 *Outside’s The Contemporary Adventure Canon *Oprah’s 20 Best True-Crime Books of All Time *The Paris Review (Staff Pick) *BOOKLIST (Starred Review) *Kirkus (Starred Review) *Publisher’s Weekly (Starred Review) *Bookseller (“Editor’s Choice, April 2018”)