Louise Adler was born in Melbourne to Jacques and Ruth Adler, Jewish immigrants from Paris, France who arrived in Australia in 1949. Jacques joined the Jewish Resistance in World War II after his own father, Simon Adlersztejn, was rounded up and deported to Beaune-la-Rolande, eventually dying at Auschwitz. Ruth was taken to France as a seven-year-old by her parents fleeing from Nazi Germany,  but her extended family all perished in the Holocaust. In Melbourne, Ruth worked as a schoolteacher, and Jacques was a research fellow in the history department of the University of Melbourne.
Adler graduated with a Bachelor of Arts from University of Reading, and a Master of Arts and Master of Philosophy from Columbia University, studying under Edward Said. From 1988 to 1989 she was editor of the Australian Book Review. She has also worked as the Publisher at Reed Books, Arts and Entertainment Editor for The Age, Deputy Director (Academic & Research) at the Victorian College of the Arts and CEO and Publisher of Melbourne University Publishing.
Adler has also served on several boards, including as a member of the Monash University council, director on the Melbourne International Arts Festival board and director on the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art board. She is Chairperson of the board of Methodist Ladies' College in Kew, a suburb of Melbourne. In 2012, the MLC board, that Adler chaired, controversially terminated the employment of then principal of the college, Rosa Storelli.
- "Louise Adler – Profile (Panellist) Q&A". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 25 June 2012. Retrieved 26 June 2012.
- Fenella Souter, "Publish and be damned", Good Weekend, 19 November 2005, p. 33
- Louise Adler, "Louche links", review of Carmen Callil, Bad Faith: A Forgotten History of Family and Fatherland, Weekend Australian, Books, 22-23 April 2006, p. R14
- Shane Green, "Publisher Be Damned", The Saturday Age, 29-30 March 2013, Insight, p. 15
- Adler, Louise. "Chairperson". Retrieved 2012-09-22.
- The Age. "MLC parents demand board reinstate sacked principal".
- "Louise Adler,". Australian Government – "It's an Honour". Retrieved 29 March 2009.
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