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George Packer

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George Packer
George Packer at the 2013 Texas Book Festival
George Packer at the 2013 Texas Book Festival
Born1960 (age 63–64)
Santa Clara, California, U.S.
  • Journalist
  • novelist
  • playwright
Alma materYale University (BA)
Notable worksThe Assassins' Gate: America in Iraq
Notable awardsNational Book Award for Nonfiction in November 2013 for The Unwinding
SpouseMichele Millon (?-?)
Laura Secor (present)

George Packer (born ca. 1960) is an American journalist, novelist, and playwright. He is best known for his writings about U.S. foreign policy for The New Yorker and The Atlantic and for his book The Assassins' Gate: America in Iraq. Packer also wrote The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America, covering the history of the US from 1978 to 2012. In November 2013, The Unwinding received the National Book Award for Nonfiction. His award-winning biography, Our Man: Richard Holbrooke and the End of the American Century, was released in May 2019. His latest book, Last Best Hope: America in Crisis and Renewal, was released in June 2021.

Early life and education


Packer was born in California around 1960.[1] His parents taught at Stanford University: his mother, Nancy Packer (née Huddleston), was a Wallace Stegner Fellow in the Creative Writing Program and later professor of English, and his father, Herbert L. Packer, was a distinguished professor of law, and the author of numerous books and articles. Packer's maternal grandfather, George Huddleston, Sr., had served eleven successive terms (1915–1937) representing Alabama's 9th congressional district in the U.S. House of Representatives. His uncle, George Huddleston, Jr., succeeded to his father's seat in the House of Representatives from 1954 to 1964.[2] Packer's sister, Ann Packer, also is a writer. Their father's background was Jewish and their mother's Christian.[3] In a 2022 talk for House of SpeakEasy's Seriously Entertaining program, Packer shared that his father took his own life when he (Packer) was twelve years old, calling it "the big event of my childhood."[4]

Packer graduated from Yale College in 1982, where he resided at Calhoun College (now called Grace Hopper College).[5] He served in the Peace Corps in Togo.[2][4]

Packer is married to writer and editor Laura Secor. He was previously married to Michele Millon.



His essays and articles have appeared in Boston Review, The Nation, World Affairs, Harper's, The New York Times, and The New Yorker, among other publications. Packer was a columnist for Mother Jones and was a staff writer for The New Yorker from 2003 to 2018. He now writes for The Atlantic.[6]

Packer was a Holtzbrinck Fellow Class of Fall 2009 at the American Academy in Berlin.[7]

His 2005 book The Assassins' Gate: America in Iraq analyzes the events that led to the 2003 invasion of Iraq and reports on subsequent developments in that country, largely based on interviews with ordinary Iraqis. He was a supporter of the Iraq war. He was a finalist for the 2004 Michael Kelly Award.

In July 2013 the New Yorker Festival released a video entitled Geoffrey Canada on Giving Voice to the Have-nots, of a panel that was moderated by George Packer. Along with Canada, the panelists included Abhijit Banerjee, Katherine Boo, and Jose Antonio Vargas.[8]

The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America focuses on the ways that America changed in the years between 1978 and 2012. The book achieves this mainly by tracing the lives of various individuals from different backgrounds through the years. Interspersed are capsule biographies of influential figures of the time such as Colin Powell, Newt Gingrich, Elizabeth Warren, Jay-Z, and Raymond Carver.

In 2019, Packer released a book titled Our Man: Richard Holbrooke and the End of the American Century, a full-scale scholarly biography of Richard Holbrooke, one of the most influential U.S. diplomats of the late 20th Century.[9] Our Man was a finalist for the 2020 Pulitzer Prize Finalist in Biography.[10]

His 2021 book Last Best Hope: America in Crisis and Renewal describes the fragmentation of American society in recent decades into four mutually antagonistic "four Americas": "Free America" (economically liberal), "Smart America" (educated, affluent and socially liberal), "Real America" (white rural precariat) and "Just America" (urban, progressive and economically disadvantaged).

Awards and honors





  1. ^ Palmisano, Joseph M. (2007). Contemporary Authors. Detroit, MI: Gale. pp. 285–287. ISBN 978-1-4144-1017-3.
  2. ^ a b David Glenn, "Unfinished Wars", Columbia Journalism Review, September 2005.
  3. ^ Jack Hitt (August 27, 2000). "Keeping the Faith". The New York Times.
  4. ^ a b Seriously Entertaining: George Packer on "Life, Liberty & Other Pursuits", retrieved 2023-02-16
  5. ^ 1982 Yale Banner, p. 377.
  6. ^ "Finalist: George Packer (Biography)". The Michael Kelly Award. Archived from the original on 2007-06-08.
  7. ^ "George Packer". American Academy. Retrieved 2021-06-21.
  8. ^ "Geoffrey Canada on Giving Voice to the Have-nots", The New Yorker Festival.
  9. ^ Bloomfield, Steve (2019-05-02). "Our Man by George Packer review – Richard Holbrooke and American power". The Guardian. Retrieved 2019-08-26.
  10. ^ "Finalist: Our Man: Richard Holbrooke and the End of the American Century, by George Packer (Alfred A. Knopf)". Pulitzer Prize Board. Retrieved 2023-05-13.
  11. ^ "2005 OPC Award Winners". opcofamerica.org. April 20, 2006. Retrieved November 15, 2020.
  12. ^ Clare Swanson (November 20, 2013). "2013 National Book Awards Go to McBride, Packer, Szybist, Kadohata". Publishers Weekly. Retrieved December 3, 2013.
  13. ^ "James McBride, George Packer win National Book Awards". The Washington Post. November 21, 2013. Archived from the original on November 21, 2013. Retrieved November 22, 2013.
  14. ^ "Announcing the National Book Critics Awards Finalists for Publishing Year 2013". National Book Critics Circle. January 14, 2014. Archived from the original on January 15, 2014. Retrieved January 14, 2014.
  15. ^ Whiting Foundation. "2017 Whiting Creative Nonfiction Grantee: George Packer". Whiting.org. Retrieved 24 January 2018.
  16. ^ "2019 Prize". The Dennis & Victoria Ross Foundation.
  17. ^ Last Best Hope / George Packer. "author's page". Macmillan Publishers. Retrieved 13 June 2021.
  18. ^ a b "George Packer". us.Macmillan.com. Macmillan Publishers. Retrieved 20 October 2020.