Arana was a Fellow at the Hoover Institute at Stanford University in 1996 and then again in 1999, an Invited Research Scholar at Brown University in 2008-2009. In October 2009, Arana received the Alumna Award of the Year at Northwestern University.
Marie Arana is the author of a memoir about a bicultural childhood American Chica: Two Worlds, One Childhood (finalist for the 2001 National Book Award as well as the Martha PEN/Albrand Award for the Art of the Memoir); Editor of a collection of Washington Post essays about the writer's craft, The Writing Life (2002); and the author of Cellophane (a satirical novel set in the Peruvian Amazon, published in 2006, and a finalist for the John Sargent Prize). Her most recent novel, published in January 2009, is Lima Nights (its Spanish edition  was selected by El Comercio's chief book critic as one of the best five novels of 2013 in Peru. Arana's most recent book is "Bolívar: American Liberator," a biography of the South American revolutionary leader and founder Simon Bolivar The book was published by Simon and Schuster in April 2013. It won the 2014 Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Biography. She has written introductions for many books, among them a National Geographic book of aerial photographs of South America, Through the Eyes of the Condor. and she is a frequent spokesperson on Hispanic issues, Latin America, and the book industry.
In April 2009, Arana was named John W. Kluge Distinguished Scholar at the Library of Congress through 2010. In September 2009, she was elected to the Scholars' Council of the Library of Congress as well as the Board of Directors of the National Book Festival.
Arana was scriptwriter for the Latin American portion of the film "Girl Rising," which describes the life of Senna, a 14-year-old girl in the Andean gold-mining town of La Rinconada. At 17,000 feet above sea level, it is the highest human habitation in the world. The film was part of a campaign to promote the importance of girls' education. Arana's writing about that experience, which was published in The Best American Travel Writing 2013, was named one of "the most gripping and sobering" of the year.
In October 2015, Arana was named Chair of the Cultures of the Countries of the South, an honorary post at the John W. Kluge Center of the Library of Congress. She is currently an expert advisor to national and international outreach programs of the Library of Congress, Senior Advisor to the Librarian of Congress, as well as Literary Director in charge of programming for the National Book Festival.