Rinaldi is the son of Pierre-François Rinaldi and Antoinette Pietri; after growing up in Corsica he became a journalist. He initially worked as a reporter and court correspondent for the newspapers Nice-Matin and Paris-Jour and soon acquired a reputation as a writer and a sharp-penned literary critic. As a critic, he worked for L'Express, Le Point and Le Nouvel Observateur before becoming literary editor of Le Figaro, which he remained until his retirement.
Rinaldi is Corsican, and his books often contain detailed observations of Corsica and of the town of Bastia where he grew up.
He has received the Prix Pierre de Monaco for his body of work.
- 1969 La Loge du Gouverneur (awarded the Fénéon Prize)
- 1971 La Maison des Atlantes (Gallimard)
- 1974 L'Éducation de l'oubli (Denoël)
- 1977 Les Dames de France (Gallimard)
- 1980 La Dernière Fête de l'Empire (Gallimard)
- 1985 Les Jardins du Consulat (Gallimard)
- 1987 Les Roses de Pline (Gallimard)
- 1990 La Confession des collines (Gallimard)
- 1993 Les jours ne s'en vont pas longtemps (Grasset)
- 1997 Dernières nouvelles de la nuit (Grasset)
- 1999 Service de presse. Chroniques (Plon)
- 2000 Tout ce que je sais de Marie (Gallimard)
- (in French) L'Académie française