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 After paying off his student loans, Meyer left Wall Street hoping write full time, but after years of failure and two unpublished apprentice novels, he moved back into his parent’s basement in Baltimore, taking jobs as an EMT and construction worker.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, was published in twenty-five countries and was a bestseller in eight. It was runner up for the Pulitzer Prize and won the National Cowboy Museum's Western Heritage award. In France, The Son won the Prix Littérature-Monde as well as the Lucien Barrière Prize. In 2017, Meyer was given the title of Chevalier (Knight) in France's Ordre des Arts et des Lettres.

After the publication of The Son, Meyer decided to try his hand at Hollywood, adapting The Son into a show for AMC, starring Pierce Brosnan. After the first season premiered, Meyer decided to take a step back from television and return his focus to writing novels. He lives in Austin, Texas, where he is currently working on his third book.