Born in Cincinnati, Ohio, Berger was in Europe with the United States Army and then studied at the University of Cincinnati, and at Columbia University. He worked as a librarian and a journalist before publishing his first novel, Crazy in Berlin, in 1958. Berger may be best known for the movie made from his novel Little Big Man, which starred Dustin Hoffman. His 1980 novel, Neighbors, was also made into a film, Neighbors, starring John Belushi, Dan Aykroyd and Cathy Moriarty. In 1984 his book The Feud was nominated by the Pulitzer committee for fiction for the Pulitzer Prize, but the Pulitzer board overrode their recommendation and instead chose William Kennedy's Ironweed.