Pendergrast was born in 1948 to Nan and Britt Pendergrast, the fourth of seven children. He was raised in Atlanta, Georgia. He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in English Literature from Harvard College, after which he taught for several years in public schools. Pendergrast later attended Simmons College in Boston, where he obtained a Master of Arts degree in Library Science. He worked as an academic librarian and freelance writer until becoming a full-time writer in 1991. Pendergrast lives in Colchester, Vermont.
Pendergrast has published fourteen books on various topics. Two are histories of caffeinated beverages: Coca-Cola (For God, Country and Coca-Cola) and coffee (Uncommon Grounds). He has written about a wide array of subjects, such as human memory and its malleability (Memory Warp; The Repressed Memory Epidemic; Victims of Memory), a history of mirrors (Mirror Mirror); a book about epidemiology and public health (Inside the Outbreaks); a book on the Jerry Sandusky case involving repressed memories (The Most Hated Man in America); a book about his birth city of Atlanta (City on the Verge), a book about Japan and its renewable energy policies after Fukushima (Japan’s Tipping Point); a book about a hill tribe in Thailand that grows coffee rather than opium poppies (Beyond Fair Trade). Several of his books have been translated into multiple languages.
His three children’s books are Jack and the Bean Soup; Silly Sadie; and The Godfool. He has also appeared in several documentaries, including Black Coffee and Cola Conquest, which were in part inspired by his books. Pendergrast also helped to edit and publish The Aftermath: A Survivor’s Odyssey Through War-Torn Europe, a Holocaust memoir by Henry Lilienheim, Shift, poems by Marylen Grigas; Neighborhood Naturalist, by Nan Pendergrast; and For Love of the British Isles, by Nan Pendergrast.
Pendergrast has also reviewed books for The Philadelphia Inquirer and Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He has contributed articles to the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, the Financial Analyst, The Sun, Vermont Life Magazine, Burlington Free Press, Vanguard, Sea History, Library Journal, Atlanta Magazine, Vermont Digger, Saporta Report, Fresh Cup, Tea & Coffee Trade Journal, Business People, Professional Psychology, Wine Spectator, and other publications.
He has spoken at scientific and journalism seminars, book festivals, public events, and on college campuses and has appeared on various television and radio programs, including The Today Show, All Things Considered, Marketplace, and Fresh Air. He writes a semi-regular column about coffee for the Wine Spectator.
Pendergrast is a member of the National Association of Science Writers, the Society of Environmental Journalists, the League of Vermont Writers, and the Authors Guild. He is a volunteer for the National Center for Reason and Justice, a nonprofit organization which works with innocent people falsely accused or convicted of child abuse (related to the subject of his book Memory Warp).
Joseph Stains reviews Pendergrast's 2017 book The Most Hated Man in America: Jerry Sandusky and the Rush to Judgement. Stain says it is "probably the most evenhanded and thoroughly documented volume on the topic". Pendergrast detailed the trial and did extensive research on the subject of Jerry Sandusky's 2012 guilty verdict for sexual abuse of young men at Penn State. Stains writes that Pendergrast made a compelling case that the small-town lawyer Sandusky chose to represent him and a prosecution that relied on repressed memories, no physical evidence and possible financial motives may have been the factors that led to the court finding him guilty. Stains states that Pendergrast "has done meticulous background work... and he provides material background for answering any question one may pose to him".
- Pendergrast, Mark (1996). Victims of Memory: Sex Abuse Accusations and Shattered Lives (2nd ed.). Upper Access. ISBN 0-942679-18-0.
- Pendergrast, Mark (2003). Mirror Mirror: A History of the Human Love Affair With Reflection. Basic Books. ISBN 0-465-05470-6.
- Pendergrast, Mark (2010). Uncommon Grounds: The History of Coffee and How It Transformed Our World (2nd ed.). Basic Books. ISBN 0-465-05467-6.
- Pendergrast, Mark (2010). Inside the Outbreaks: The Elite Medical Detectives of the Epidemic Intelligence Service. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. ISBN 978-0-15-101120-9.
- Pendergrast, Mark (2011). Japan's Tipping Point: Crucial Choices in the Post-Fukushima World. Nature's Face Publications. ISBN 978-0982900437.
- Pendergrast, Mark (2013). For God, Country, and Coca-Cola: The Definitive History of the Great American Soft Drink and the Company That Makes It (3rd ed.). Basic Books. ISBN 0-465-05468-4.
- Pendergrast, Mark (2015). Beyond Fair Trade: How One Small Coffee Company Helped Transform a Hillside Village in Thailand. Greystone Books. ISBN 978-1771640473.
- Pendergrast, Mark (2017). City on the Verge: Atlanta and the Fight for America’s Urban Future. Basic Books. ISBN 978-0465054732.
- Pendergrast, Mark (2017). Memory Warp: How the Myth of Repressed Memories Arose and Refuses to Die. Upper Access. ISBN 978-0-942679-41-0.
- Pendergrast, Mark (2017). The Repressed Memory Epidemic: How It Happened and What We Need to Learn from It. Springer. ISBN 978-3319633749.
- Pendergrast, Mark (2017). The Most Hated Man in America: Jerry Sandusky and the Rush to Judgement. Sunbury. ISBN 978-1620067659.
- Official website
- Works by Mark Pendergrast at Open Library
- Appearances on C-SPAN
- "Interview on CSPAN". www.booknotes.org. August 29, 1999. Retrieved March 7, 2018.
- "City on the Verge: Atlanta and the Fight for America's Urban Future". May 25, 2017.
- "For God, Country, and Coca-Cola: The Definitive History of the Great American Soft Drink and the Company That Makes It". July 24, 2013.
- "Inside the Outbreaks: The Elite Medical Detectives of the Epidemic Intelligence Service". Sep 25, 2010.
- "Uncommon Grounds: The History of Coffee and How it Transformed Our World". Jan 29, 2000.