Tom Bissell

Tom Bissell is a journalist, critic, and fiction writer. He was born in Escanaba, Michigan, in 1974, and graduated from Michigan State University before briefly serving in the Peace Corps in Uzbekistan.

His books include Chasing the Sea: Lost Among the Ghosts of Empire in Central Asia (2003); Speak, Commentary: The Big Little Book of Fake Dvd Commentaries (2003) (with Jeff Alexander); God Lives in St. Petersburg and Other Stories (2005); The Father of All Things: A Marine, His Son, and the Legacy of Vietnam (2007); Extra Lives: Why Video Games Matter (2010); Magic Hours: Essays On Creators and Creation (2012); and The Disaster Artist: My Life Inside the Room (2013) (with Greg Sestero). Bissell is a recipient of the Rome Prize and also a Guggenheim Fellowship. His short stories and journalism have also been anthologized in The Best American Short Stories, The Best American Travel Writing, and The Best American Science Writing. The many magazines he has written for include Harper'sThe New YorkerGrantlandThe New Republic, and GQ, among many others. 

The Disaster Artist was adapted to screen by James Franco, which won a Critics' Choice award and was nominated for an Academy Award for best adapted screenplay.

Creative Types, a short story collection, and a nonfiction book about film adaptation are forthcoming from Pantheon.



“Even if readers don’t care about the apostles, Bissell’s style is compelling on its own. His unforced humor is delightful, his wealth of research grounds this formidable apostolic project, and his crafty rhetoric and irresistible charm make it a must-read.” Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“A rich, contentious, and challenging book.” Kirkus (starred review) 

“By turns edifying and entertaining, this investigation into the lives of the Twelve Apostles mixes irreverent travelogue and earnest textual analysis. Bissell … proves an able guide through Biblical scholarship and legend.” The New Yorker

“Bissell, in delving into the lives of the twelve apostles, brings us the intrigue of the Bible without the religious agenda. Apostle is interesting history—replete with fun facts . . . Bissell traipses around apostle land with a rogue academic charm.” GQ 

“Expertly researched and fascinating… Bissell is a wonderfully sure guide to these mysterious men.… This is a serious book about the origins of Christianity that is also very funny. How often can you say that?”
The Independent (UK)

“At time when most discussion of religion in the public sphere is couched in impregnable certainty, mealy-mouthed apologetics or scoffing rationalism, Bissell’s voice is rare. He is properly caustic and profane about Christianity’s absurdities when necessary, but he is also vividly empathetic and conscious that this is not just one of the most significant stories ever told but also one of the most beautiful.” The Times (UK)

“The story glows with enchanting asides. … Bissell is a writer of magpie instincts, a man seeking enlightenment amid strangers in distant geographies. His entourage of translators, drivers, a monk, an archaeologist and assorted pilgrims are, like the apostles, colloquial and universal, restless and oblivious souls that are at once amusing and profound.” The Los Angeles Times

“Tom Bissell’s book is consistently fascinating about the stories that crept as inexorably as lichen over a gravestone around the people closest to Jesus. The travelogue elements make for a pleasant hike out of the archive and into surprising places.” The Guardian (UK)

 “This is no ordinary tourist trip through the Holy Land; rather, it’s a thoughtful journey and should be savored." —Booklist

“Well-documented, with an extensive bibliography, this is a full-bodied read for the religiously curious.” Library Journal



“A humorous yet sincere peek into the creation and creator of The Room.” – Jeffery Gleaves, Harper’s

Readers who seek even more chuckles at the expense of The Roomwill not be disappointed with this peek behind the camera, but the surprising turn in The Disaster Artist is how it capably, even affectionately, humanizes the individuals responsible for the film, particularly its creator, Tommy Wiseau.” – Doug Cornett, Propeller Magazine

The New York Times, RosedudMichael Ian Black, October 4, 2013 

The Los Angeles Review of Books, Wiseau's Folly, Scott Jacobson, October 31, 2014



“He writes these essays with a storyteller’s eye for detail. He can summon a setting in an adjective or two: the 'Viagral' cars and 'bespoke little mailboxes' of the Hollywood Hills, the 'hash-marked permafrost' of a football field in his hometown, Escanaba, Mich. About character, too, he can be funny and pithy and acute... This is not to suggest Bissell coasts on novelistic chops. He is also a diligent researcher with a genius for quotation. His greatest gifts as an essayist, though, resemble the more numinous attributes he imagines in an ideal travel writer: 'curiosity, a willingness to be uncertain, an essential emotional generosity." – Garth Risk Hallberg, The New York Times 

"A whip-smart, occasionally pugnacious collection of essays on culture from a wide-ranging critic... Stellar culture writing--Bissell has the knowledge and wit to earn his provocations." – Kirkus

The Rumpus Interview with Tom BissellApril 17, 2012

HarpersSix Questions for Tom BissellApril 17, 2012

Los Angeles Review of Books, Maria Bustillos on Magic HoursApril 18, 2012



 “[A]… fantastic new book… Extra Lives is a meditation on whether games can offer anything deeper than narcotic thrill.” – Farhad Manjoo, Slate

Extra Lives is the first truly indispensable work of literary nonfiction about society’s most lucrative entertainment medium. Bissell’s commentary is marvelously astute and his enthusiasm for games makes even his words on the printed page feel positively backlit.” – Jason Killingsworth, Paste



"...a book that combines the virtues of distance and immediacy--the cool perspective that comes from investigating a war that was pretty much over before the author was born and the searing immediacy of being raised by a troubled veteran of that lost war." – Joe Klein, The New York Times

"A penetrating look back at the Vietnam conflict, with Bissell alternatively guiding and following his veteran father... Big-picture politics take second place to the achingly personal in Bissell's heartfelt book." – Kirkus



“Bissell writes prose here as vivid and forceful as anything in his first book. The short story seems the right form for him; he artfully expresses the emotions stirred up by his own forays into the world outside America…Bissell reveals himself to be not only a subtle craftsman but also a mordant observer of a new generation lost in a complex and dangerous world.” – Pankaj Mishra, The New York Times

“It feels genuinely exciting to get a vivid insight into this shifty, bloodstained region from such a good writer… all the writing here is memorable; it engages the senses.” – Carrie O’Grady, The Guardian



“A literary, elegiac account of travels in the outback of Uzbekistan, tracing the origins and consequences of one of the world’s most devastating ecological disasters… First-rate in every regard: to be put alongside such classics on the region as Throuhg Khiva to Golden Samarkand and The Road to Oxiana.” – Kirkus