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February 1, 2016 BOOKLIST
Find more Top 10 Biographies
Reader interest in biographies is eternal. The reason is not difficult to fathom. Biographies bring us fascinating life stories and take us to interesting times. This double benefit is on wonderful display in all the following biographies reviewed in Booklist over the past year.
The Bridge: The Life and Rise of Barack Obama. By David Remnick. Knopf, $29.95 (9781400043606).
The New Yorker editor’s major contribution to the river of Obama books is a sharply honed work of biographical journalism unique in its multiplicity of perspectives, contextual richness, and astute analysis of the president’s “political, racial, and sentimental education.”
Charles Dickens: A Life Defined by Writing. By Michael Slater. Yale, $35 (9780300112078).
With this masterful life study, a landmark of literary scholarship, Slater opens a great breadth of understanding of this great English writer.
Chuck Close: Life. By Christopher Finch. Prestel, $34.95 (9783791336770).
Focusing on Close’s paradigm-altering approaches to portraiture, the author offers an astounding and inspiring story of an artist of uncommon powers.
City Boy: My Life in New York during the 1960s and ’70s. By Edmund White. Bloomsbury, $26 (9781596914025).
A special invitation to a world gone by: New York of the 1970s, “a grungy, dangerous, bankrupt city without normal services most of the time,” as not simply observed but also participated in by distinguished novelist and biographer White.
The Great Oom: The Improbable Birth of Yoga in America. By Robert Love. Viking, $27.95 (9780670021758).
Love writes with all the zest, wit, and empathy his protean subject—Pierre Bernard, the “first American yogi”—deserves as he tells this dazzling tale of a self-made man of holistic convictions and archetypal flaws.
John Milton: A Hero of Our Time. By David Hawkes. Counterpoint, $28 (9781582434377).
Popular biographies commemorating Milton’s 400th birthday have been scarce, but Hawkes makes up for that paucity and then some in a splendid argument that Milton was so prophetic of modern political and religious predicaments that he should be regarded as our contemporary.
Koestler: The Literary and Political Odyssey of a Twentieth-Century Skeptic. By Michael Scammell. Random, $40 (9780394576305).
With this biography, Scammell forcefully reminds readers why Arthur Koestler still deserves attention, and here he sets the stage for the rediscovery of a great writer.
Man of Constant Sorrow: My Life and Times. By Ralph Stanley and Eddie Dean. Gotham, $26 (9781592404254).
Ralph Stanley is simply one of the most distinctive bluegrass voices ever recorded, and with music journalist Dean’s help, Stanley has put his life down on paper.
Princess Noire: The Tumultuous Reign of Nina Simone. By Nadine Cohodas. Pantheon, $30 (9780375424014).
This is a wrenching story of how racism can undermine even the most ascendant life and a dramatic portrait of an uncompromising, audacious, and beleaguered musical genius of conscience.
Pulitzer: A Life in Politics, Print, and Power. By James McGrath Morris. Harper, $29.99 (9780060798697).
Morris gives a fascinating portrayal of the “midwife to the birth of the modern mass media,” his era, and his long-ranging impact.
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