Ripley was born in Arizona and grew up in New Jersey. She graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Cornell University in 1996 with a B.A. in government. Her brother is the screenwriter Ben Ripley. She lives in Washington, DC, with her husband.
Amanda Ripley writes about human behavior and public policy for Time magazine and The Atlantic. She is currently an Emerson Fellow at the New America Foundation. Her 2008 book, The Unthinkable: Who Survives When Disaster Strikes - and Why explains how the brain works in disasters—and how we can do better. The Unthinkable was made into a PBS documentary called "Surviving Disaster".
Before joining Time, Ripley covered the D.C. court system for Washington City Paper and reported on Capitol Hill for Congressional Quarterly. In 2003, Ripley served as a Paris correspondent for TIME Magazine. She has also contributed to the New York Times Magazine, the Washington Monthly, Time Out, and Slate.
In August of 2013, she released a book about education systems around the world called The Smartest Kids in the World: And How They Got That Way, published by Simon & Schuster.
- "Learning to Be Your Own Best Defense in a Disaster" Tara Parker-Pope. The New York Times. August 5, 2008.
- "Identifying Who Survives Disasters — And Why" Neda Ulaby. NPR. July 22, 2008.
- "How to survive a disaster" Robert Crampton. The Times. June 21, 2008.
- "Q&A with Amanda Ripley, author of The Unthinkable: Who Survives When Disaster Strikes — and Why"
- "Interview with Diane Rehm" The Diane Rehm Show. June 18, 2008.
- "Answer Sheet: What Makes an Effective Teacher?" Valerie Strauss. The Washington Post.
- "Amanda Ripley Articles in The Atlantic"
- "Amanda Ripley Presents at FEMA's 2009 National Conference on Community Preparedness"