Judith Guest has so far been something of a one-hit wonder. Ordinary People, her first novel, became one of the great bestsellers of the late 20th century. It was turned into a Robert Redford film which won several Oscars, including the Best Picture award for 1980. Since Ordinary People, however, Guest has not enjoyed serious commercial success. Her other novels include Second Heaven and the mystery novel Killing Time in St. Cloud, which she co-wrote with Rebecca Hill. She also wrote the screenplay for the film Rachel River, a movie based on the stories of Carol Bly. More recently, Guest published the major novel Errands, which did well on the bestseller list but did not rival Ordinary People.

Guest was born in Detroit, Michigan. She attended the University of Michigan and graduated in 1958. She has spent much of her life in the Midwest, and she currently resides with her family in Edina, Minnesota, a suburb of Minneapolis. Interested in writing throughout much of her life, Guest initially began by writing short stories. When a friend told her a story about a boy who was killed in an accident, she began to write a short story about a similar accident, and about the healing process that followed it. According to Guest, she eventually realized that her long story was quickly becoming a full-length novel.

When Ordinary People was published in 1976, Guest was hailed as a major new voice on the American literary scene. The novel was warmly received on a national level, instantly cementing Guest's reputation as a promising new American author. There have been no announcements about any upcoming novels by Guest.