Born in North Carolina, he was raised in Michigan, and graduated from the University of Michigan and Stanford University with degrees in mechanical engineering, and from the Iowa Writers' Workshop. He has worked in forensic engineering and accident reconstruction.
He has published 4 books of fiction: The Reconstructionist, Articles of War, Mad Boy , and In the Electric Eden: Stories.
Articles of War was listed by Esquire magazine as one of the best books of the year and was awarded the Rosenthal Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the W. Y. Boyd Literary Award for Excellence in Military Fiction from the American Library Association, and the Colorado Book Award. He is also the recipient of a Michener Fellowship and an Isherwood Foundation Grant.
- In the Electric Eden: Stories. New York: Penguin Books, 2003. ISBN 0142002569 OCLC 50503312
- Articles of War. New York: Doubleday, 2005. ISBN 0385512775 OCLC 55502462
- The Reconstructionist. New York: Harper Perennial, 2012. ISBN 9780061995163 OCLC 730414075
- Mad Boy: An Account of Henry Phipps in the War of 1812. Europa Editions, 2018. ISBN 978-1609454586
- Vidimos, Robin (2007-09-23). "Denver Post, "War, fate can be hard to tell apart," 9/21/2007-". Retrieved 2008-04-07.
- "The New Yorker, "Along the Highways," 5/9/2005-". Retrieved 2008-04-07.
- "Nick Arvin".
- "W.Y. Boyd Literary Award for Excellence in Military Fiction".
- "Nick Arvin | NEA". Nea.gov. Retrieved 2014-04-22.