Gold was born in Cleveland, Ohio in a Russian Jewish family, and raised in Lakewood, a community he was later to memorialize in his first book, Birth of a Hero, published in 1951 by Viking Press. He moved to New York City at age 17 after several of his poems had been accepted by New York literary magazines. While there, he studied philosophy at Columbia University and became involved with the burgeoning Beat Generation, which resulted in a lifelong friendship with writer Allen Ginsberg.
Gold won a Fulbright Scholarship and moved to Paris, where he finished his first novel. After that, he moved around as he wrote, traveling to Haiti and Detroit, and hitchhiking all over the United States. He married Edith Zubrin and had two daughters with her, Ann Gold (b. 1950) and Judith Gold (b. 1952). They later divorced, and he finally settled in San Francisco, where he became an important fixture in the literary scene.
Gold was married to Melissa Dilworth and had three children with her: daughter Nina Gold and twin boys Ari Gold and Ethan. After they divorced, she became involved with concert promoter Bill Graham, dying in the helicopter crash that took Graham's life in 1991.
He is a father of five (Ann, Judith, Nina, Ari, and Ethan), and a grandfather of six (Sarah, Sasha, and David Buscho, children of Ann; Sonia and Nora Heidenreich, daughters of Judith; and Ella, daughter of Nina).
- Birth of a Hero (1951)
- The Prospect Before Us (1954)
- The Man Who Was Not with It (1956) ISBN 0-912697-69-5
- The Optimist (1959)
- Fathers: A Novel in the Form of a Memoir (1967) ISBN 0-87795-550-6
- The Magic Will (1973) (short stories)
- The Young Prince and the Magic Cone (1973) ISBN 0-385-01519-4
- My Last Two Thousand Years (1972) ISBN 0-09-116910-0
- He/She (1980) ISBN 0-87795-264-7
- Bohemia (1994) ISBN 0-671-76781-X
- She Took My Arm As if She Loved Me (1977) ISBN 0-312-15653-7
- Haiti - Best Nightmare on Earth (2001) ISBN 0-7658-0733-5
- Still Alive!: A Temporary Condition (A Memoir)(2008) ISBN 1-55970-870-0
- Works by or about Herbert Gold in libraries (WorldCat catalog)
- Biographical article on Gold at the Wayback Machine
- Herbert Gold in News from the Republic of Letters:
- Finding Aid to the Herbert Gold Papers, 1942-2011, The Bancroft Library