"The art and science of asking questions is the source of all knowledge."
Born in 1924 to Thomas Charles (a public school business manager) and Mildred Berger, Thomas Louis Berger grew up in a small neighborhood just north of Cincinnati called Lockland. He attended public school there for twelve years. While in high school, he worked at a branch of the public library. Berger graduated high school, and then, after a short trial at college, joined the army. In 1946, he reentered college at the University of Cincinnati, where he earned a bachelor's degree, with honors, just two years later.
In 1950, he began graduate school at Columbia University; that same year he also married artist Jeanne Redpath.
Berger worked his way through high school and college at local libraries; he worked as a librarian while enrolled at Columbia as well. Although Berger took all of the requisite classes for Columbia's Master of Arts program, he never finished his thesis; in 1951, Berger gave up on both his library career and his graduate studies and took a staff job at the New York Times Index instead. One year later, he became an associate editor at Popular Science Monthly; however, that job, too, lasted just one year.
Finally, in 1958, Berger published his first novel, Crazy In Berlin. A critical success, Crazy was based loosely on his experiences abroad while in the army and ended up sparking Berger's career as a professional writer.
Known widely for his comedic and satirical portrayals of life in America, Berger has been compared to classic American author Mark Twain. Further, the London Times Literary Supplement has called Berger "one of the century's most important writers." To date, Berger has written twenty-two novels; his best-known include Little Big Man, "a marvelous yarn about the Old West as seen through the eyes of the 111-year-old Jack Crabbe, the only soldier who survived the battle of the Little Big Horn" (1964), and Neighbors, an examination of the absurdities of suburban life, published in 1980. Berger won both the Western Heritage Award and Richard and Hinda Rosenthal Award (National Institute of Arts and Letters) in 1965 for Little Big Man; he was also nominated for a Pulitzer Prize in 1984 for his book The Feud, about an overblown fight and the life-altering, destructive, and vengeful acts it spawned. Both Little Big Man and Neighbors were later adapted for the screen. In 1999, Berger created a sequel to his literary classic with The Return of Little Big Man.
Berger's career as a writer is long and varied; in addition to novels, he has written plays, academic texts, and a collection of short stories. He has also been published in major magazines across the country, and he even served briefly as film critic for Esquire Magazine in the 1970s.
Berger's twenty-second novel, Best Friends, was published in 2003.