Lemann is from New Orleans and he graduated from Harvard University in 1976, but has never attended a school of journalism. He is a journalist, editor, and author of several books on 20th century United States history. He has also been:
- Managing editor of the Washington Monthly
- associate editor and executive editor of the Texas Monthly
- a national staff reporter for The Washington Post
- a national correspondent for The Atlantic Monthly
- a staff writer for The New Yorker
- President of The Harvard Crimson
Lemann is a member of the Council on the Future of Media. This council is "championing a new global, independent news and information service whose role is to inform, educate and improve the state of the world- one that would take advantage of all platforms of content delivery from mobile to satellite and online to create a new global network."
Lemann has been married twice. His first wife was Dominique Alice Browning, who later became an editor in chief of House & Garden; they married on 20 May 1983, have two sons, Alexander and Theodore, and later divorced. His second wife is Judith Anne Shulevitz, who was a columnist for Slate and The New York Times Book Review; married on November 7, 1999, they have a son and a daughter.
 Selected publications
- New Yorker articles:
- The Big Test (1999) ISBN 978-0-374-52751-8 (The story of how standardized tests (such as the SAT) became very important in the United States)
- "None of the Above" Review, by Andrew Sullivan, The New York Times, Oct. 24, 1999.
- "BOOKS OF THE TIMES; What's Wrong With the SAT and Its Elite Progeny" Review by Christopher Lehmann-Haupt, The New York Times, Oct. 4, 1999
- The Promised Land : The Great Black Migration and How It Changed America (1991) ISBN 978-0-394-26967-2 (On the migration of millions of black people from the South to the North in the 1940s and 1950s)
- Redemption: The Last Battle of the Civil War (2006) ISBN 978-0-374-24855-0 (The story of Reconstruction in the South after the Civil War)
- Slate articles:
- 1992 PEN/Martha Albrand Award for First Nonfiction for The Promised Land
- Karen W. Arenson (April 16, 2003). "Columbia Names Dean for its Journalism School". The New York Times.
- Karen W. Arenson (May 14, 2003). "Driven by What He Wishes He'd Learned". The New York Times.
- Nicholas Lemann Agrees To Become Journalism Dean, Subject to University Trustees' Approval Columbia News Apr 18, 2003
- Kincaid, Cliff (February 9, 2009). "Global Television for Our Future Global Leader". Right Side News. Retrieved 2009-02-10.[dead link]
- "Dominique A. Browning Marries Nicholas Lemann". New York Times. 1983-05-21.
- "Judith Shulevitz, Nicholas Lemann". New York Times. 1999-11-07.
- Anne Stuart (Sep-Oct 2005). "The Press Professor". Harvard Magazine.
- Audio Interview with Sam Tanenhaus, the editor of The New York Times Book Review. (MP3 format)
- Lemann and Steve Shepard discuss future of journalism.
- Booknotes interview with Lemann on The Promised Land, May 5, 1991.
- A film clip "The Open Mind - "The further education of a journalist", Part I (2006)" is available for free download at the Internet Archive [more]
- A film clip "The Open Mind - "The further education of a journalist", Part II (2006) is available for free download at the Internet Archive [more]