Attwooll was born in 1949 in Twickenham, in the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames, to Derek Attwooll, a civil engineer, and Dorothy Hunt Attwooll. He grew up in Thames Ditton until age 13, when he went to Lancing College in West Sussex. There he played cricket and formed his first band, The Blues Roar.
In 1967, Attwooll earned a scholarship to study English at Pembroke College, Cambridge, where he became the first person in his immediate family to go to university. There he joined an early incarnation of Henry Cow with fellow students, playing with the band in late 1968 and early 1969. Later in life, he drummed with a street band.
Attwooll began a publishing career in 1970 at Oxford University Press, starting as a trainee editor. He rose to editorial director of trade and reference books, but moved to Century Hutchinson (later part of Random House) in 1989 to be the managing director of their paperback division. From 1992 to 2002, he was managing direct of Helicon, which he had founded as a management buyout of Random House's reference books. The company was later sold to WH Smith by Attwooll at a price of £5.6 million.
Attwooll then set up Attwooll Associates, offering licensing and consultancy business for the publishing industry. The company won the Independent Publishers Guild GBS Award for Services to Independent Publishers, in 2009 and 2011.
His short collection Surfacing won a 2012/3 Poetry Business pamphlet prize. He won the Havant Poetry Competition first prize in 2015.
- Ground Work (Black Poplar, 2014), with illustrations by Andrew Walton
- The Sound Ladder (Two Rivers Press, 2015)
- Otmoor (Black Poplar, 2016), with illustrations by Andrew Walton
- Surfacing (smith/doorstop)
Poems appear in the following anthologies:
- Ghost Fishing: An Eco-Justice Poetry Anthology (University of Georgia Press, 2018)
- Oxford Poets 2013 An Anthology (2013)
- CAST: The Poetry Business Book of New Contemporary Poets (smith/doorstop, 2014)
- Live Canon 2015 Anthology
- Ghost Notes (Albion Beatnik)
- Sounds of Surprise (Albion Beatnik)
- The Land Between (The Mullet Press)
- Hands and Wings (Poems in Aid of Freedom from Torture)
Poems appeared in magazines including: 14 Magazine, Agenda, The Cannon's Mouth, The Interpreter's House, Magma, The North, Paris Lit Up, Poetry Salzburg Review, The Reader, The Rialto, Smiths Knoll and Under the Radar.
- Debretts' People of Today. Debretts. p. 56. Retrieved 8 August 2017.
- Liverpool, University of; 7zx, L69. "Obituary: David Attwooll – University of Liverpool News – University of Liverpool". Retrieved 21 August 2016.
- "Liverpool University Press chair David Attwooll dies – The Bookseller". Retrieved 21 August 2016.
- Keown, Callum (24 November 2016). "Renowned publisher, poet and drummer dies". The Oxford Times. Retrieved 8 August 2017.
- "My Biggest Mistake: David Attwooll". 29 May 1993. Retrieved 21 August 2016.
- "HENRY COW / Chronology". Retrieved 21 August 2016.
- "Ground Work: An Interview with Andrew Walton & David Attwooll". 21 April 2014. Retrieved 21 August 2016.
- Attwooll, David. "Reviews – David Attwooll Poetry". Retrieved 21 August 2016.
- Attwooll, Kate (16 November 2016). "David Attwooll obituary". The Guardian. Retrieved 8 August 2017.