He graduated from American University, and from the University of Michigan Creative Writing MFA Program in 1998, where he studied with Charles Baxter and Lorrie Moore. He has taught at several American universities, including the University of Michigan, the University of Oregon and the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.
Shreve's first novel, The Obituary Writer, about a young journalist in 1989 St. Louis who gets in over his head when a young widow asks him to pursue her story, was a 2000 New York Times Notable Book, a Book Sense Pick, and a Borders Original Voices selection. The New York Times called the novel "an involving and sneakily touching story whose twists feel less like the conventions of a genre than the convolutions of a heart - any heart." Shreve's second novel, Drives Like a Dream, about an empty nest mother in Detroit who hatches a scheme to lure her far-flung children home, was a 2005 Chicago Tribune Book of the Year, a People "Great Reads" Selection and a Britannica Book of the Year. The Washington Post called Drives Like a Dream “a beautiful novel, carefully put together, full of charming secondary characters, charitable to all.”
Shreve's third novel, When the White House Was Ours, was published during the 2008 presidential campaign and touches upon previous election years, including 2000 and 1976. The Washington Post wrote, "Coming-of-age tales that hark back to lovable, quaint times all too often cover the landscape and the characters with a thick dusting of powdered sugar. But Shreve avoids sentimental sludge with the masterly voice of Daniel, the anxious boy historian who tries to keep order in his fractured life by soberly documenting it, zany detail by zany detail. As we recover from our own sugar high of the 2008 election, 'When the White House Was Ours' offers a perfect antidote. Turn off the TV pundits, turn down the thermostat, and slip on a comfy cardigan."
Shreve has also co-edited three essay anthologies with Susan Shreve: Outside the Law; How We Want to Live; and Tales Out of School; and three textbook anthologies with Bich Minh Nguyen.
- The Obituary Writer (2000)
- Drives Like a Dream (2005)
- When the White House Was Ours (2008)
- Outside the Law: Narratives on Justice in America (1997)
- How We Want to Live (1998)
- Tales Out of School: Contemporary Writers on Their Student Years (2000)
- The Contemporary American Short Story (2003)
- Contemporary Creative Nonfiction: I & Eye (2004)
- 30/30: Thirty American Stories from the Last Thirty Years (2005)
- Porter Shreve Website
- New York Times review of The Obituary Writer
- Washington Post review of Drives Like a Dream
- Houghton Mifflin page for When the White House Was Ours
- Washington Post review of When the White House Was Ours