He was the son of Jewish-Russian immigrants. His first novel, The Natural, dates back to 1952 and describes on the American hero comic as a baseball player. The book was later made into a film. Many of his stories describe the adventures of ordinary Jews in the urban ghettos. In The Assistant (1957) with humor and empathy, he deals with the life of a small Jewish grocery store that should see record against the big competition of the self-service shops in the neighborhood. This work is also made into a film.
For the novel The Fixer received Malamud in 1967 both the American National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize for fiction. The work was made into a film in 1968 starring among others Alan Bates and Dirk Bogarde (Oscarnominated for best male lead).
In his last and compared to his earlier work striking novel, God's Grace (1982), builds a survivor of a nuclear war to a new life on middle of monkeys.
- The Natural (1952), the favorite in the Dutch translation (1985)
- The Assistant (1957)
- The Magic Barrel (1958), stories, translated as the marriage broker (1965)
- A New Life (1961)
- Idiots First (1963), stories
- The Fixer (1966), translated under the title The fikser (1967)
- Pictures of Fidelman (1969), Dutch translation: portraits of Fidelman (1970)
- The Tenants (1971) the tenants , the Dutch translation appeared in 1972
- Rembrandt's Hat (1974), stories, Rembrandt's hat (1975)
- Dubin's Lives (1979), translated under the title the lives of Dubin (1981)
- God's Grace (1982), Dutch translation the grace of God (1984)
- The Stories of Bernard Malamud (1983), translation: Bernard Malamud. The stories (1986)
- The People and Uncollected Stories (1989)
- The Complete Stories (1997)