Bawer received his B.A., M.A., and Ph.D. in English from the State University of New York at Stony Brook, where he also taught courses in literature and composition.
He moved from New York to Amsterdam in 1998, where he felt that he could live better as a gay man in a more liberal society. He then moved to Oslo in 1999, and throughout the years has translated several books from Norwegian to English. He currently lives with his male partner in Oslo, Norway.
Bawer's works have appeared in journals such as The New Republic, The Nation, Newsweek, The Wall Street Journal, The New Criterion, The American Spectator and The Hudson Review. He is the author of several books, including The Gay Individual in American Society, Essays On the Lives and Work of Modern Poets, How Fundamentalism Betrays Christianity, and How Radical Islam is Destroying the West from Within (ISBN 0-385-51472-7) which was nominated for the National Book Critics Circle Award for 2006 in the criticism category, a circumstance that led to controversy. Since 2009, Bawer has also been an associate of the Oslo-based organisation Human Rights Service.
His most recent book (2009) is Appeasing Islam, Sacrificing Freedom (ISBN 978-0-385-52398-1). Eliot Weinberger, one of the board members of the Circle, when he presented the list of nominations for the award, stated that Bawer's book was an example of "racism as criticism." Following that, the president of the Circle, John Freeman, declared that "I have never been more embarrassed by a choice than I have been with Bruce Bawer's 'When Europe Slept'. And claims its hyperventilated rhetoric tips from actual critique into Islamophobia." Bawer declared that comments such as those from Weinberger and Freeman came as no surprise, as he had been expecting a considerable amount of criticism from "politically correct" officials; in response, he stated that he had never criticized a race, only Islam as a "political ideology."
In A Place at the Table, Bawer argued for what he considers a centrist and mainstream political philosophy at odds with the gay left. In Stealing Jesus, Bawer leveled sharp criticism at evangelical, Pentecostal, and other strains of modern Christianity, including premillennialism and evangelical apologism for capitalism.
In While Europe Slept, Bawer writes that Europe's politically correct culture defends and protects the Islamic fundamentalism that is preying upon its liberal social systems. Bawer argues that Islamists use welfare and religious grants to fund extremist mosques and support imams with a violent past. Once established in Western European nations, Bawer maintains, the Islamists avoid integration and answer only to sharia law, while avoiding the legal systems of their host nations, allowing abuse of women, gays, Jews and non-Muslims.
In his conclusion, Bawer states that rising Muslim birthrates and "refusal" to integrate will allow them to dominate European society within 30 years, and that the only way to avoid such a disaster is to abolish the politically correct and multicultural doctrine that, according to him, is rife within the continent. He also suggests a physical solution for the problem he perceives: "European officials have a clear route out of this nightmare. They have armies. They have police. They have prisons. They're in a position to deport planeloads of people everyday. They could start rescuing Europe tomorrow."
In a review, Stephen Pollard described Bawer's 2009 book, Surrender: Appeasing Islam, Sacrificing Freedom, as an argument that liberal appeasement is paving the way for a replacement of European civilization by Islamic culture.