Jón moved to Keflavík when he was 12 and returned to Reykjavík in 1986 with his highschool diploma. From 1975 – 1982 he spent a good deal of his time in West Iceland, where he did various jobs: worked in a slaughterhouse, in the fishing industry, doing masonry and for one summer as a police officer at Keflavík International Airport. Jón Kalman studied literature at the University of Iceland from 1986 until 1991 but did not finish his degree. He taught literature at two highschools for a period of time and wrote articles and criticism for Morgunblaðið newspaper for a number of years. Jón lived in Copenhagen from 1992 – 1995, reading, washing floors and counting buses. He worked as a librarian at the Mosfellsbær Library near Reykjavík until the year 2000. Since then he has been a full time writer.
His first published work, the poetry collection, Með byssuleyfi á eilífðina, came out in 1988. He has published two other collections of poetry and a number of novels. His novel Sumarljós, og svo kemur nóttin (Summer Light, and Then Comes the Night) won The Icelandic Literature Prize in 2005. Three of his books have also been nominated for The Nordic Council's Literature Prize.
He was the recipient of the Per Olov Enquists Prize for 2011, awarded at the book fair in Gautaborg in September 2011.
Jón Kalman Stefánsson is the author of books: Himnaríki og helvíti, Harmur englanna, Sumarljós og svo kemur nóttin, Hjarta mannsins, Fish Have No Feet, Saga Ástu, Trilogie : Hemel en hel ~ Het verdriet van de engelen ~ Het hart van de mens, Eitthvað á stærð við alheiminn, Skurðir í rigningu, Sumarið bakvið brekkuna