O'Brien's book reviews, essays, and articles have appeared in Renaissance Quarterly, Studies in Philology, Ariel: A Review of International English Literature, Connecticut Review, The Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings Journal of Florida Literature, The Journal of African Travel-Writing, LIT: Literature Interpretation Theory, Early Modern Literary Studies, The Yearbook of General and Comparative Literature, Representations of Education in Literature, and Eating Their Words: Cannibalism and the Boundaries of Cultural Identity. His translations and retellings of Melanesian folktales have appeared in Marvels and Tales: A Journal of Fairy-Tale Studies, Chain, Nostoc Magazine, and Parabola: The Magazine of Myth and Tradition.
After serving as a Peace Corps Volunteer in the Solomon Islands, O’Brien earned a PhD in English Language and Literature at the University of Chicago. He taught world literature and travel literature for the University of Pittsburgh’s Semester-at-Sea program. As a Fulbright Scholar, he taught Shakespeare and American literature at Loránd Eötvös University in Budapest.