His work has appeared in The Nation, The New Yorker, and TomDispatch. The Fate of the Earth received the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, among other awards, and was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award, and the National Critics Award. He was most recently a Distinguished Fellow at the Yale Center for the Study of Globalization.
In the 1980s, Schell wrote a series of articles in The New Yorker (subsequently published as The Fate of the Earth), which were instrumental in raising public awareness about the dangers of the nuclear arms race. He has been a persistent advocate for disarmament, and a world free of nuclear weapons.
In 2002 and 2003, Schell was a persistent critic of the invasion of Iraq. He has since commented, "There doesn't seem to be a rush to find the people who were right about Iraq and install them in the mainstream media."
He is the younger brother of Orville Schell, former dean of the University of California, Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism. and current Arthur Ross Director of the Center on U.S.-China Relations at Asia Society in New York. He is a graduate of The Putney School in Putney, Vermont.
Writing in Foreign Affairs magazine, David Greenberg called The Fate of the Earth an “overwrought doomsday polemic.”  In Slate.com, Michael Kinsley characterized it as "an overheated stew of the obvious and the idiotic" and concluded that it “may be the silliest book ever taken seriously by serious people.” 
- The Village of Ben Suc (1967)
- The Military Half (1968)
- The Time of Illusion (1976)
- The Fate of the Earth (1982)
- The Abolition (1984)
- History in Sherman Park (1987)
- The Real War (1988)
- Observing the Nixon Years (1989)
- The Gift of Time: The Case for Abolishing Nuclear Weapons Now (1998)
- The Unfinished Twentieth Century (2001)
- The Unconquerable World: Power, Nonviolence, and the Will of the People (2003),
- A Hole in the World (2004)
- The Seventh Decade: The New Shape of Nuclear Danger (2007)
- Hugh Gusterson (30 March 2012). "The new abolitionists". Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.
- The Case Against War, The Nation, 2003 Retrieved February 20, 2011
- Reed, Jebediah (January 10, 2007). "The Iraq Gamble". Radar[dead link]
- UC Berkeley Journalism - Faculty - The journalism dean searches for intelligent life in the media
- Biography from the Yale Center for the Study of Globalization
- Biography from The Nation
- Biography from The Globalist
- 2007 Video Interview with Jonathan Schell about "The Seventh Decade" on The Alcove with Mark Molaro
- The Gift of Time
- Smoking Guns and Mushroom Clouds