Malcolm Jones was born January 8, 1952 in Lancaster, S.C., the only child of Malcolm Jones Sr. and Margaret Floyd Jones, with whom he moved to Winston-Salem, N.C., when he was two. When he was 12 years old, his parents divorced, and thereafter he lived with his mother until he went to college, first in Florida and then back in North Carolina, where he graduated from Wake Forest University with a BA in 1974.
While still in college, he went to work for the Winston-Salem Journal, starting as an intern writing obituaries and then as a part-time reporter. For the next decade, he worked at several North Carolina newspapers–the Twin City Sentinel in Winston-Salem, the Morning Herald in Durham and the Daily News in Greensboro. For all those papers he wrote editorials, feature stories and book reviews. In 1983, he moved to St. Petersburg, Fla., where he created the book section for the St. Petersburg Times. In 1984, he collaborated with the song writer and composer Van Dyke Parks and the artist Barry Moser on Jump!, a retelling of several Brer Rabbit stories. In 1989, he took a job writing book reviews and other stories in the arts and culture section of Newsweek, where he has worked ever since.
In 1987, he married Robin Lawrence, with whom he has two children, Susannah and Spencer. They live in Croton, N.Y., a small town on the Hudson River not far from New York City.