Osborne was educated at Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge and at Harvard, and has since led a nomadic life, residing for years in France, Italy, Morocco, the United States, Mexico, Thailand, and Istanbul.
He is the author of the novel Ania Malina; a book about Paris, Paris Dreambook; the essay collection The Poisoned Embrace; a controversial book about autism called American Normal; and three subsequent travel books published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux between 2004 and 2009: a book about wine, The Accidental Connoisseur; The Naked Tourist; and an account of expatriate life in Bangkok called Bangkok Days. His short stories have appeared in many American magazines. His story "Volcano", originally published in Tin House, was selected for inclusion in The Best American Short Stories 2012. His novel The Forgiven was published in 2012 to widespread acclaim. It was selected by The Economist as one of the Best Books of the Year for 2012. Osborne's next book, The Wet and the Dry, a travelogue about Islam and alcohol, was published in 2013. It was included in the Top 10 Books of 2013 by the New York Times Book Review critic, Dwight Garner.
Osborne has been published widely as a long-form journalist in the United States, most notably in the New York Times Magazine, The New Yorker, Gourmet, Salon, Playboy, and Condé Nast Traveler. He has also been an occasional Op-Ed columnist at Forbes.com and is a frequent contributor to Newsweek International, The Daily Beast, and The Wall Street Journal Magazine. His feature for Playboy, "Getting a Drink in Islamabad", won a 2011 Thomas Lowell Award for Travel Journalism.
A novel, The Ballad of a Small Player was published by Hogarth in spring 2014 to considerable critical acclaim, both in the United States and the United Kingdom. The New York Times selected it as one of its 100 Notable Books of 2014. NPR also included it in its Year's Best Books of 2014. Paul French in the "Los Angeles Review of Books" wrote that "Osborne's novel is the best on contemporary China since Malraux's."  Neel Mukherjee picked it as one of his Books of the Year in The New Statesman. In the London Sunday Times, Robert Collins wrote : "A modern Graham Greene.... into this relatively quiet period for British fiction, someone remarkable and unexpected has emerged fully armed with a formidable, masterly grip on the British novel. At precisely the point where most novelists start to show signs of flagging, Osborne has hit his creative, fictional stride...and has arrived as a thrilling, exceptional talent in British fiction's landscape."
His third novel,Hunters in the Dark, was published by Hogarth in May 2015, and received glowing reviews on both sides of the Atlantic. Arifa Akbar, literary editor of "The Independent" in London, selected it as one of her 15 Best Novels of 2015, and the novel was notably praised by Neel Mukarjee in "The Guardian"  and by Lee Child in the "New York Times Book Review". Nishant Dahiya reviewed it for NPR British critic David Sexton in the "Evening Standard" wrote "Those comparisons with Graham Greene aren't even flattering any more." Anita Sethi reviewed it in "The Guardian" with praise for its stylistic finesse
HIs most recent novel, "Beautiful Animals" was published by Hogarth in July 2017 and was featured on the cover of the "New York Times Book Review" with a review by the Japanese-American novelist Katie Kitamura. In her long review in of the novel in "The Washington Post" Lionel Shriver wrote : "So let's not mince words. This is a great book."
Screen adaptations of "The Forgiven" and "Beautiful Animals" are currently underway and Osborne has been asked by the Raymond Chandler estate to write the next Philip Marlowe novel, to be released in 2018.
As reported by the Hollywood Reporter, Osborne will sit on the jury of the 2017 Macau Film Festival.
- The Forgiven (2012)
- The Ballad of a Small Player (2014)
- Hunters in the Dark (2015)
- Beautiful Animals (2017)
- Only to Sleep (2018) A Philip Marlowe novel
- "Books by Members – Optima (p. 18)" (PDF). Fitzwilliam College. 2013. Retrieved 7 February 2014.
- Osborne, Lawrence. Ania Malina. Jonathan Cape, 1986; Scribner's; King Penguin.
- Osborne, Lawrence. Paris Dreambook. Bloomsbury Publishing PLC, 1990; Vintage Contemporaries.
- Osborne, Lawrence. The Poisoned Embrace. Bloomsbury, 1993; Pantheon.
- Osborne, Lawrence. American Normal. Copernicus Books, 2002. ISBN 0-387-95307-8 (hardcover, 224 pages).
- Osborne, Lawrence. The Accidental Connoisseur. Farrar Straus Giroux, 2004.
- Osborne, Lawrence. The Naked Tourist. Farrar Straus Giroux, 2006.
- Osborne, Lawrence. Bangkok Days. Farrar Straus Giroux, North Point Press, 2009.
- Osborne, Lawrence (30 October 2011). "Boxer, Godfather, Politician. Can Manny Pacquiao Do Everything?". Thedailybeast.com. Retrieved 29 December 2013.
- Osborne, Lawrence (25 September 2011). "Pedro Almodóvar on the Verge". Thedailybeast.com. Retrieved 29 December 2013.
- New York Times Search: Lawrence Osborne
- Osborne, Lawrence. "Letter from New Guinea: Strangers in the Forest". The New Yorker, 18 April 2005, p. 124.