Buchanan's family moved all over the South during his childhood. He represented Louisiana in the National Spelling Bee in 8th grade, shortly before moving to Birmingham. He graduated from Hewitt-Trussville High School in 1989 and completed a bachelor's degree at the University of Alabama. He served as managing editor of UAB Medicine before being promoted to his present post in February 2014.
In 2010, Buchanan wrote an article on fading advertising signs for Birmingham magazine, which led to a publishing deal with The History Press. The book, with photographs by Jonathan Purvis, was published on November 1, 2012.
- Buchanan, Charles (2012) Fading Ads of Birmingham. Charleston, South Carolina: The History Press ISBN 9781609494834
- Little, Thomas (October 3, 2012) "Upcoming book tells the story of Birmingham’s painted signs." Magic City Post
- Hellwig, Rachel (June 24, 2016) "Celebrating the city’s color" Iron City Ink
- Charles Buchanan website