An American novelist and non-fiction author, he is particularly known for his rich characterizations and for his use of a stream-of-consciousness narrative style. His novels include The Mezzanine; Room Temperature; Vox; and The Fermata.
He studied English at Haverford College. He published his first novel, The Mezzanine, in 1988, and his debut non-fiction work, U and I: A True Story, in 1991.
He won the National Book Critics Circle Award for his 2001 work, Double Fold: Libraries and the Assault on Paper.
He grew up in Rochester, New York. He later settled in Maine with his wife and two children.
He received the San Francisco–based James Madison Freedom of Information Award.