Jeff Goodell was born and raised in Silicon Valley, where his family has lived for four generations. He has worked as a blackjack dealer, a glazier, a janitor, a bartender at a topless club, a professional motorcycle racer, an editor at a Russian literary journal, and a technical writer at Apple Computer. He has a BA from the University of California, Berkeley, and an MFA from Columbia University in New York.
In 1989, Goodell began covering crime and politics in New York City for7 Days, a weekly magazine that won a National Magazine Award for General Excellence in 1990. Since 1996 he has been a staff writer at Rolling Stone and a frequent contributor to the New York Times Magazine.
Goodell’s first book, The Cyberthief and the Samurai (Dell, 1996), told the story of the hunt for notorious computer hacker Kevin Mitnick. “Goodell’s propulsive narrative reads like a high-tech cousin of The Hot Zone yet presents a broad, balanced look at hacker culture,” critic Dwight Garner wrote. His next book, Sunnyvale (Villard, 2000), a memoir about growing up in Silicon Valley, was selected as a New York Times Notable Book. “Goodell’s story, despite, or maybe because of, its inexorability, is riveting,” novelist Sam Lipsyte wrote in the New York Times Book Review.
In 2001, after writing a cover story about the comeback of the U.S. coal industry for The New York Times Magazine, Goodell shifted his attention to energy and environmental issues. Our Story (Hyperion, 2002), his account of the nine miners trapped in a Pennsylvania coal mine for 77 hours, was a New York Times bestseller. He followed that up with Big Coal: The Dirty Secret Behind America’s Energy Future (Houghton Mifflin, 2006). Goodell spent four years researching and writing about the industry, traveling through the coal fields in West Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Wyoming, as well as making several trips to China and spending a month on an ocean research vessel in the North Atlantic. When Big Coal was published in 2006, the New York Times described it as “a compelling indictment of one of the country’s biggest, most powerful and most antiquated industries…well-written, timely, and powerful.”
How to Cool the Planet: Geoengineering and the Audacious Quest to Fix Earth’s Climate (Houghton Mifflin, 2010) is a journey into the scary, morally complex world of geoengineering. Goodell spent several years with the world’s top climate modelers, as well as with Cold War physicists, independent scientists, philosophers, politicians, and crackpot entrepreneurs, all of whom are involved with the development of technologies that might someday be used to manipulate the Earth’s climate to reduce the impacts of global warming. Juliet Eilperin of the Washington Post called How to Cool the Planet “a vividly written, thoughtful book…Jeff Goodell helps readers explore the audacious question of whether humans can use technology to fix the very problem it’s created.” How to Cool the Planet won the 2011 Grantham Prize Award of Special Merit, one of the highest awards in environmental journalism.
Goodell’s latest book is The Water Will Come: Rising Seas, Sinking Cities, and the Remaking of the Civilized World (Little, Brown, 2017). His reporting took him to 12 countries and many coastal cities in the U.S., as well as to Greenland and to Alaska with President Barack Obama. New York Times book critic Jennifer Senior called The Water Will Come “an immersive, mildly gonzo and depressingly well-timed book about the drenching effects of global warming, and a powerful reminder that we can bury our heads in the sand about climate change for only so long before the sand itself disappears.” The Water Will Come was picked as a New York Times Critics’ Top Book of 2017, as well as one of Washington Post’s 50 Notable Works of Nonfiction in 2017.
Goodell was a fellow at New America in 2016 and 2017 and is currently a Senior Fellow at Atlantic Council. As a commentator on energy and environmental issues, he has appeared on NPR, MSNBC, CNN, CNBC, ABC, NBC, Fox and The Oprah Winfrey Show. He was awarded a 2020 Guggenheim Fellowship in General Nonfiction.