He was educated at the Royal High School of Edinburgh and Downing College, Cambridge, where he studied English. He became literary editor of The Spectator and the New Statesman. Miller resigned from the latter over a disagreement with the magazine's then editor Paul Johnson, over the extent to which the literary pages treated difficult subjects and also Johnson's disapproval of The Beatles and their fans (Berry 214).
He was then editor of The Listener (1967–73) and subsequently the London Review of Books, which he founded, from 1979 to 1992. He was also Lord Northcliffe Professor of Modern English Literature and head of the English Department at University College, London until 1992.
- Neil Berry (2002) Articles of Faith: The Story of British Intellectual Journalism, The Waywiser Press, ISBN 1-904130-08-9.
- Poetry from Cambridge 1952-4 editor
- Memoirs of a Modern Scotland, essays in honour of Hector McIver (1970), editor
- Cockburn's Millennium (1975) biography of Henry Cockburn, Lord Cockburn, which won Miller the James Tait Black Memorial Prize
- Doubles (1985) criticism
- Rebecca's Vest (1994) memoir
- Dark Horses (1998) memoir
- Electric Shepherd: A Likeness of James Hogg (2004) biography