The daughter of a South-African born mother, Brockes read English at St Edmund Hall, Oxford University graduating in 1997 with a first. At Oxford, she was editor of the student newspaper Cherwell and won the Philip Geddes prize for journalism for her work. She worked briefly as feature writer on The Scotsman, before joining The Guardian in 1997. She has been recognised by the British Press Awards three times, winning the 'Young Journalist of the Year' award in 2001 and the 'Feature Writer of the Year' award in 2002. She was nominated as 'Interviewer of the Year' in 2006.
In 2005, an interview by Brockes in The Guardian was described by its subject Noam Chomsky as a "scurrilous piece of journalism". The Guardian later withdrew the article from the website, acknowledging "Ms Brockes's misrepresentation of Prof Chomsky's views on Srebrenica", and offering "an unreserved apology to Prof Chomsky" for Brockes's suggestion that Chomsky denied Srebrenica to be a massacre.
Historian Marko Attila Hoare derided the newspaper as "spineless" and the readers' editor's response as "grovelling" partly on the basis that Chomsky had defended the content of a book by Diana Johnstone, rather than solely her right to publish. An external ombudsman review determined that the "Readers' Editor was right to conclude that an apology and correction was deserved", though adding that "the removal of the original interview from the website was unnecessary and over responsive", a view that Chomsky himself shared. The text of the original can now be found on Chomsky's official website.
Brockes's first book What Would Barbra Do?  was published in 2007. The New York Times Book Review responded "Spirited, articulate and utterly devourable ... If I could offer [Brockes] any advice, it would be ... to write as many books on as many subjects as she can, as fast as is reasonably possible." Another book She Left Me the Gun: My Mother's Life Before Me (London: Faber) appeared in 2013.
She is now a freelance writer, but continues to write profiles of major public figures for The Guardian, as well as contributing her own work to The New York Times and other publications.
- Emma Brockes' blog New York, guardian.co.uk
- Emma Brockes "My mother's secret past", extract from She Left Me the Gun: My Mother's Life Before Me as published in The Guardian, 16 March 2013
- Emma Brockes "Bottoms up...", The Guardian, 5 March 2003
- "Emma Brockes", St Edmund Hall,
- "Emma Brockes", United Agents
- "Visiting Time - Context - The Author: Emma Brockes", British Council
- Steve Busfield "British Press Awards as they happened", The Guardian, 20 March 2006
- Stephen Brook "Guardian pulls Chomsky interview", The Guardian, 17 November 2005
- Noam Chomsky "Chomsky Answers Guardian", Znet, 13 November 2005
- "Corrections and clarifications: The Guardian and Noam Chomsky", The Guardian, 17 November 2005
- Marko Attila Hoare "Chomsky’s Genocidal Denial", FrontPage magazine, 23 November 2005
- John Willis "External ombudsman report", The Guardian, 25 May 2006
- Emma Brockes "The Greatest Intellectual?", The Guardian, 31 October 2005, as reproduced on Noam Chomsky's website
- "What Would Barbra Do?" Transworld Publishers Ltd. (2007) ISBN 0-593-05514-4
- Sunday Book Review, New York Times, 27 October 2007