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February 1, 2016 BOOKLIST
Find more Top 10 Biographies
The Crusades of Cesar Chavez. By Miriam Pawel. 2014. Bloomsbury, $35 (9781608197101).
In her energetic and dramatic life of revolutionary activist Chavez, Pawel reveals his paradoxical nature and volatile relationships as well as his brilliantly strategic, courageous, and universally influential fight for migrant worker rights.
Gandhi before India. By Ramachandra Guha. 2014. Knopf, $35 (9780385532297).
Guha recalibrates our understanding of Gandhi as he chronicles Gandhi’s youth in British India, studies in Britain, and years in South Africa, where apartheid catalyzed his commitment to a nonviolent struggle for human rights. A second volume will follow.
Jack London: An American Life. By Earle Labor. 2013. Farrar, $30 (9780374178482).
Here is writer Jack London whole, from his love of libraries to his “oyster pirate” adventures; Klondike escapades; world travels; 1,000-words-a-day commitment;courageous wife, Charmian; and fiery and compassionate books.
Jim Henson. By Brian Jay Jones. 2013. Ballantine, $35 (9780345526113); e-book (9780345526137).
The Muppets live on though their exuberantly brilliant creator died too young in 1990; now Jones reclaims Henson’s highly imaginative and productive life with verve and insight.
A Life of Barbara Stanwyck: Steel-True, 1907–1940. By Victoria Wilson. 2013. Simon & Schuster, $40 (9780684831688).
Wilson’s richly researched portrait of classic-film actress Stanwyck begins with her traumatic Brooklyn childhood and follows her path from chorus girl to Broadway to Hollywood. To be continued.
Louis Armstrong: Master of Modernism. By Thomas Brothers. 2014. Norton, $39.95 (9780393065824).
In his compelling, music-focused follow-up to Louis Armstrong’s New Orleans (2006), Brothers covers Armstrong’s most fertile period, from his arrival in Chicago in 1922 to join Joe “King” Oliver through the years of the Hot Five and Hot Seven.
Michelangelo: A Life in Six Masterpieces. By Miles J. Unger. 2014. Simon & Schuster, $29.95 (9781451678741); e-book (9781451678802).
Unger’s probing biography highlights multifaceted visionary Michelangelo’s astonishing achievements without glossing over his flawed, mercurial character or corrupt and violent Renaissance world.
Sally Ride: America’s First Woman in Space. By Lynn Sherr. 2014. Simon & Schuster, $28 (9781476725765); e-book (9781476725789).
Sherr uncovers fascinating aspects of the life of astronaut Sally Ride, from her tennis-star childhood to her college years in the male-dominated field of physics, her privacy regarding her sexual orientation, and her meteoric rise as America’s first woman in space.
Wilfred Owen. By Guy Cuthbertson. 2014. Yale, $40 (9780300153002).
Wilfred Owen, killed a week before the armistice at 25, is the greatest English-language poet of WWI who died fighting it, and Cuthbertson sensitively considers Owen’s childlike charm, objections to the war, and heroism at the front.
Wilson. By A. Scott Berg. 2013. Putnam, $40 (9780399159213).
In this deeply researched, gracefully presented biography, acclaimed writer Berg renders Wilson with an astute understanding of the man, his academic career, and his two-term presidency.
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