He was born in 1977 in Washington, D.C., the son of Albert Foer, a lawyer and President of the American Antitrust Institute, and Esther Safran Foer, a child of Holocaust survivors who was born in Poland and is now the Director of the Sixth & I Historic Synagogue. Foer is the middle son in this tight-knit Jewish family; his older brother, Franklin, is the former editor of The New Republic and his younger brother Joshua is a freelance journalist. Foer was a "flamboyant" and sensitive child who, at the age of 8, was injured in a classroom chemical accident that resulted in "something like a nervous breakdown drawn out over about three years," during which "he wanted nothing, except to be outside his own skin."
He earned his bachelor's degree at Princeton University. While an undergraduate, Foer earned creative writing prizes from Princeton all four years. Under the guidance of Joyce Carol Oates, he finished a manuscript of Everything is Illuminated before graduating in philosophy.
In 1995, while a freshman at Princeton, Safran Foer took an introductory writing course with author Joyce Carol Oates, who took an interest in his writing, telling him that he had "that most important of writerly qualities, energy". Foer later recalled that "she was the first person to ever make me think I should try to write in any sort of serious way. And my life really changed after that." Oates served as the advisor to Safran Foer's senior thesis, an examination of the life of his maternal grandfather, the Holocaust survivor Louis Safran
Before becoming abestselling author, Foer worked as a receptionist, an assistant in a mortuary, a mathematics tutor, a ghost writer, an archivist, and a jewelry salesman. Ironically, he was turned down every summer for a job in his local bookstore. Foer lives with his wife, writer Nicole Krauss, in the Park Slope neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York.
•Everything Is Illuminated (2002)
•Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (2005)
•Tree of Codes (2010)
•Eating Animals (2009)
•"The Very Rigid Search
•"If the Aging Magician Should Begin to Believe"
•"A Primer for the Punctuation of Heart Disease"
•"The Sixth Borough"
•"About the Typefaces Not Used in This Edition"
•"Room After Room"
•"Here We Aren't, So Quickly"
•"Imagining Giovanni's Gift", Review of Contemporary Fiction Vol. 20 (Spring 2000)
•"The Proximity of Brad to Bradford: A Brief Introduction to the Lifework of Bradford Morrow", Review of Contemporary Fiction Vol. 20 (Spring 2000)
•A Convergence of Birds: Original Fiction and Poetry Inspired by the Work of Joseph Cornell (2001),
•Sock Monkeys: 200 Out of 1,863 (2002), Contributor: "Il Fait Plus Froid Ailleurs"
•Lost Tribe: Jewish Fiction from the Edge (2003), Contributor: "The Very Rigid Search"
•The Future Dictionary of America (2004), Co-editor, with Dave Eggers, Nicole Krauss, and Eli Horowitz
•The Fixer, by Bernard Malamud (2004), Introduction.
•Masters of American Comics edited by John Carlin (2005), Contributor: "Breakdownable"
•The Unabridged Pocketbook of Lightning (2005), collects "A Primer for the Punctuation of Heart Disease" and an excerpt from Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
•"A Beginner's Guide to Hanukkah", The New York Times (December 22, 2005) Op-ed piece
•"My Life as a Dog", The New York Times (November 27, 2006)
•"La Vie on Pose", Vogue December 2008