Biography

Michael Downing grew up in the Berkshires, graduated from Harvard College, and spent a year on a fellowship in England. After that, he worked as a contributing editor for the Italian art monthly FMR, the science journal Oceanus, and Harvard Magazine. In addition to his books, he has written two plays, premiered by the Triangle Theater of Boston and San Francisco’s New Conservatory Theatre. His essays and reviews appear in the New York TimesWashington PostWall Street Journal, and other periodicals.

Michael’s novels include the national bestseller Perfect Agreement, named one of the 10 Best Books of the year by Amazon.com and Newsday, and Breakfast with Scot, a comedy about two gay men who inadvertently become parents. An American Library Association honor book, Breakfast with Scot was adapted as a movie that premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival.  The movie won the endorsement of the National Hockey League and the participation of the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Michael’s nonfiction includes Shoes Outside the Door: Desire, Devotion, and Excess at San Francisco Zen Center, hailed by the New York Review of Books as a “dramatic and insightful” narrative history of the first Buddhist monastery outside of Asia, and by the Los Angeles Times as “a highly readable book, important for the healing it invites in giving voice to the thoughts and feelings of Zen Center members who have remained silent until now.” Spring Forward: The Annual Madness of Daylight Saving Time, is his history of clocks, Congress, and a century of international confusion that is “perceptive” (Wall Street Journal), “zany” (The New Republic), and “fun to read” (Associated Press).  His memoir, Life with Sudden Death: A Tale of Moral Hazard and Medical Misadventures, is a cautionary tale about genetic diagnoses and the dangers of life at the frontiers of modern medicine.

Michael teaches creative writing at Tufts University. He and his partner have lived together in Cambridge for more than 25 years.