Thomas Richards was raised mostly in Minnesota. He went to Carleton College, the University of California at Berkeley, and Stanford University. He taught literature at Harvard for many years, and won a Guggenheim fellowship. He then moved to Hong Kong, where he lived for eleven years, receiving a degree in the Geological Sciences from the University of Hong Kong, going on many geological expeditions in Asia and Europe. He moved back to the United States in 2011 He lives in Swarthmore, Pennsylvania, with his wife and two daughters, both adopted from China.
He has written five other books. One novel, Zero Tolerance (FSG). Three cultural studies: The Commodity Culture of Victorian England (Stanford and Verso), The Imperial Archive (Verso), and The Meaning of Star Trek (Doubleday). And one on higher education: Admit One (Johns Hopkins).
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