Philipp Meyer grew up in a working class neighborhood in Baltimore, where he dropped out of high school and got a GED. After five years working as a bike mechanic and an orderly in a trauma center, he decided to attend college, attending various local universities before being admitted into Cornell University. He graduated with a degree in English and headed to Wall Street as a derivatives trader. After paying off his student loans, Meyer left Wall Street hoping write full time, but after years of failure and two unpublished apprentice novels, he moved back into his parent’s basement in Baltimore, taking jobs as an EMT and construction worker. Eventually he received a fellowship from the University of Texas's Michener Center for Writers, and moved to Austin, Texas. Shortly after relocating to Austin, Meyer became one of the first EMT's to respond to Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, arriving approximately as the eye of the storm was passing through the city, an experience he wrote about in Salon.

In 2009, Meyer published American Rust, which won a Los Angeles Times Book Prize, was an Economist Book of the Year, a New York Times Notable Book, and a Washington Post Book of the Year. Meyer was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Dobie Paisano Fellowship, and named as one of the New Yorker magazine’s twenty best writers under forty.

Meyer’s second novel, The Son, has been a bestseller in a dozen countries and was published in twenty-five languages. It was runner up for the Pulitzer Prize. In France, The Son won the Prix Littérature-Monde as well as the Lucien Barrière Prize and in 2017, Meyer was given the title of Chevalier (Knight) in France's Ordre des Arts et des Lettres.

Meyer has adapted both his books for Hollywood and is working on various other projects. In 2017, The Son premiered as an AMC original, starring Pierce Brosnan.  

Meyer has served as a volunteer firefighter in Baltimore County, Maryland and in rural New York State, and he’s been licensed as an Emergency Medical Technician in several states. He currently lives in Austin, Texas.