Begley is the son of Sally (Higginson) and novelist Louis Begley. He graduated from Harvard College, and from Stanford University with a Ph.D. in 1989. His work has appeared in The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, The Guardian, and the Financial Times.
He lives with his wife, Anne Cotton, and stepchildren, in Great Gidding, Cambridgeshire. He wrote a biography of author John Updike, published by HarperCollins in 2014,  and a biography of French photographer Nadar, published by Tim Duggan Books in 2017. He is a contributing interviewer to the Paris Review's Art of Fiction series.
- Literary Agents: A Writer’s Guide. Adam Begley, Debby Mayer, Penguin Books, 1993, ISBN 978-0-14-017215-7
- The Art of Fiction No. 135: Don DeLillo, Paris Review, 1993
- The Salon.com Reader's Guide to Contemporary Authors, Laura Miller, Adam Begley, Penguin Books, 2000, ISBN 978-0-14-028088-3
- The Art of Fiction No. 173: Ian McEwan, Paris Review, 2002
- The Art of Fiction No. 179: Jim Crace, Paris Review, 2003
- Certitude: A Profusely Illustrated Guide to Blockheads and Bullheads, Past and Present, Adam Begley, Christopher Hitchens, Illustrator Edward Sorel, HARMONY, 2009, ISBN 978-0-307-40804-4
- "Stendhal in Parma, Italy", The New York Times, December 27, 2009
- The Art of Fiction No. 204: David Mitchell, Paris Review, 2010
- Updike, Adam Begley, Harper-Collins, New York, 2014, ISBN 978-0-06-189645-3
- The Great Nadar, Adam Begley, Tim Duggan Books, New York, 2017, ISBN 978-1-10-190260-8
- "Marisa del Rosario and Adam Begley Are Planning to Be Married In June". The New York Times. 9 January 1983.
- http://neptune.observer.com/people/adam-begley[permanent dead link]
- "Adam Begley – Penguin Random House".
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2011-06-16. Retrieved 2010-06-07.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2010-04-21. Retrieved 2010-06-07.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
- "Former Biography Fellows".