Pears was born on 8 August 1955 in Coventry, England. He was educated at Warwick School, an all-boys public school in Warwick. He studied at Wadham College, Oxford, graduating with a Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree, and at Wolfson College, Oxford, graduating with a Doctor of Philosophy (DPhil) degree.
In 1985, Pears married Ruth Harris, a historian and academic. Together they have two sons. He currently lives with his wife and children in Oxford.
Before writing, he worked as a reporter for the BBC, Channel 4 (UK) and ZDF (Germany) and correspondent for Reuters from 1982 to 1990 in Italy, France, UK and US. In 1987 he became a Getty Fellow in the Arts and Humanities at Yale University.
Pears first came to international prominence with his best selling book An Instance of the Fingerpost (1997), which was translated into several languages. He is known for experimenting with different narrative structures, presenting four consecutive versions of the same events in An Instance of the Fingerpost, three stories interleaved in The Dream of Scipio (2002), three stories told in reverse chronological order in Stone's Fall (2009), and allowing the reader to switch between multiple narratives in the electronic book version of Arcadia (2015). He has also written a novel series featuring Jonathan Argyll, art historian.
Jonathan Argyll series (art history mysteries)
This series presents detective art historian Jonathan Argyll who works with two members of the (fictitious) Italian Art Squad: Flavia di Stefano (deputy) and General Bottando (head of the squad). Pears published seven books in the series:
- The Raphael Affair (1991)
- The Titian Committee (1992)
- The Bernini Bust (1993)
- The Last Judgement (1994)
- Giotto's Hand (1995)
- Death and Restoration (1996)
- The Immaculate Deception (2000)
- The Discovery of Painting (1989)
- "PEARS, Dr Iain George". Who's Who 2016. Oxford University Press. November 2015. Retrieved 24 October 2016.
- Iain Pears biography
- Virshup, Amy (21 May 2009). "Newly Released". The New York Times. p. 7. Retrieved 28 September 2011.
- Iain, Pears (1984). "The growth of interest in painting in England, 1680-1768". EThOS. The British Library. Retrieved 19 May 2017.
- Pears, Iain (20 August 2015). "Why you need an app to understand my novel".