Born in Oregon to a family of wealthy industrialists, Jack Reed is best remembered as the author of Ten Days that Changed the World (1919). After passing the entrance exam on his second try, Reed matriculated to Harvard College in 1906, where he immediately embraced the thrills and activity of collegiate life. In particular, Harvard's Socialists Club greatly intrigued Reed, and left a lasting impression on his ethics and personal politics.

After graduating, Reed was able to secure a writing job through a contact he made at Harvard. Starting out by reading manuscripts and correcting proofs, he slowly began submitting his short stories to periodicals as a freelance writer. Within a couple of years, Reed had been published in a number of well-known magazines, and began writing increasingly about social causes such as the labor movements of the early twentieth century. 

The outbreak of WWI changed the political climate in the U.S. as a strong air of patriotism made Reed's radical politics very unpopular. In 1917, he set sail for eastern Europe and arrived in Petrograd, Russia where he eventually witnessed Lenin's Bolshevik revolution. His experiences during this time resulted in Ten Days that Shook the World, and also formed the basis of a lasting relationship between Reed and the Russian communist government.

Over the next few years, Reed became increasingly involved in the communist movement, and was even a leader in the Communist Party of America. He continued to share his time between the U.S. and Russia and eventually died of Typhus in Moscow in on October 17, 1920. He was buried under the Kremlin wall as a hero. Later, the Nazis burned his account of the Bolshevik Revolution for its Communist sympathies. 

The Academy Award-winning film Reds (1981), which starred Warren Beatty and Diane Keaton, commemorates his life.