Author of novels, short stories, poems, and essays and recipient of the National Humanities Medal. His best-known works include That Distant Land, Hannah Coulter, and A World Lost.
He grew up in Kentucky and worked on a farm as a child. He received bachelor's and master's degrees in English from the University of Kentucky and went on to attend Stanford University on a
His first novel, published in 1960, was titled Nathan Coulter.
He was born to John Marshall Berry and Virginia Erdman Berry. He married Tanya Amyx in 1957.
His poem, "Sabbaths II," inspired the film, Unforeseen, which was produced by Robert Redford.