Amitav Ghosh was born in Calcutta on July 11, 1956, to Lieutenant Colonel Shailendra Chandra Ghosh, a retired officer of the pre-independence Indian Army, and was educated at The Doon School; St. Stephen's College, Delhi; Delhi University; Alexandria; and St Edmund Hall, Oxford, where he was awarded a D. Phil. in social anthropology. His first job was at the Indian Express newspaper in New Delhi.
Ghosh lives in New York with his wife, Deborah Baker, author of the Laura Riding biography In Extremis: The Life of Laura Riding (1993) and a senior editor at Little, Brown and Company. They have two children, Lila and Nayan. He has been a Fellow at the Centre for Studies in Social Sciences, Calcutta. In 1999, Ghosh joined the faculty at Queens College, City University of New York, as Distinguished Professor in Comparative Literature. He has also been a visiting professor to the English department of Harvard University since 2005. Ghosh has recently purchased a property in Goa and is intending to return to India. He is working on a trilogy to be published by Penguin Books India.
He was awarded the Padma Shri by the Indian government in 2007. In 2009, he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature