Lutz grew up in Cedar Grove, New Jersey. He graduated from Greenwich (CT) High School. He received his B.A. in English and journalism from University of Massachusetts, and a master's degree and Ph.D in English from Stanford University.
Lutz taught creative writing at the California Institute of the Arts, University of Iowa, Stanford University, and the University of Copenhagen. He is currently Professor in the Department of Creative Writing at University of California, Riverside.
His writing has appeared in the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, The New Republic, Chicago Tribune, Die Zeit, ZYZZYVA, Exquisite Corpse, Salon.com, and Black Clock.
His books include Drinking Mare's Milk on the Roof of the World: Wandering the Globe from Azerbaijan to Zanzibar (2016), And the Monkey Learned Nothing: Dispatches from a Life of Travel (2016), Doing Nothing: A History of Loafers, Loungers, Slackers, and Bums in America (2007, American Book Award), Cosmopolitan Vistas: American Regionalism and Literary Value (2004; Choice Outstanding Academic Title), Crying: The Natural & Cultural History of Tears (1999; New York Times Notable Book), and American Nervousness, 1903: An Anecdotal History (1991, New York Times Notable Book), and have been translated into 12 languages.
- 2008 American Book Award
- "Think you know how to read, do you?". Salon. March 8, 2007.
- "The Summer Next Time". The New York Times. September 4, 2006.
- "Coda: Nostalgia", Iowa Journal of Cultural Studies, 2009
- Crying: A Natural and Cultural History of Tears. W.W. Norton. January 2001. ISBN 978-0-393-32103-6.
- American Nervousness, 1903: An Anecdotal History. Cornell University Press. 1991. ISBN 978-0-8014-2581-3.
- Cosmopolitan Vistas. Cornell University Press. 2004. ISBN 978-0-8014-8923-5.
- Doing Nothing: A History of Loafers, Loungers, Slackers, and Bums in America. Farrar, Straus and Giroux. May 2007. ISBN 978-0-86547-737-7.
- Drinking Mare's Milk on the Roof of the World: Wandering the Globe from Azerbaijan to Zanzibar. OR Books. May 2016. ISBN 978-1-682190-56-2.
- And the Monkey learned Nothing: Dispatches from a Life in Transit. University of Iowa Press. October 2016. ISBN 978-1-60938-449-4.
- Neal Schindler (June 28, 2006). "Doing Nothing: A History of Loafers, Loungers, Slackers and Bums in America". Seattle Weekly.
- Edward Rothstein (June 12, 2006). "In Tom Lutz's 'Doing Nothing,' Workaholics Are Closet Slackers (and Vice Versa)". The New York Times.
- Larry Sears (May 23, 2006). "Why does the couch potato make us so angry?". Christian Science Monitor.
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2015-07-21. Retrieved 2015-07-18.
- Martin, Cameron (October 26, 2011). "SO WHAT DO YOU DO, TOM LUTZ, EDITOR OF LOS ANGELES REVIEW OF BOOKS?". Mediabistro. Retrieved October 18, 2014.
- "Tom Lutz's Blog - The Los Angeles Review of Books - July 01, 2010 16:50". Goodreads.com. 2010-07-01. Retrieved 2017-04-25.
- "Tom Lutz | W. W. Norton & Company". Books.wwnorton.com. 2016-02-24. Retrieved 2017-04-25.
- "UCR Newsroom: Acclaimed Author Joins UCR". Newsroom.ucr.edu. 2006-09-20. Retrieved 2017-04-25.
- "CHASS: Tom Lutz is a Recipient of the 2008 American Book Awards". Chass.ucr.edu. 2009-01-22. Retrieved 2017-04-25.
- "UCR: Department of Creative Writing". Creativewriting.ucr.edu. Retrieved 2017-04-25.
- "About - Los Angeles Review of Books". Lareviewofbooks.org. Retrieved 2017-04-25.
- "Tom Lutz | Authors | Macmillan". Us.macmillan.com. Retrieved 2017-04-25.
- Faculty page at Univ of Calif-Riverside
- "Tom Lutz", Powell's Q&A
- "The Carefree Lives Of Slackers". CBS Sunday Morning. Aug 13, 2006.
- "Author Tom Lutz Appears On UI Radios Stations Sept. 8 And 12", University of Iowa News Release, Aug. 29, 2006
- An interview with Tom Lutz on Notebook on Cities and Culture