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March 15, 2017 BOOKLIST
Find more Top 10 Biographies
American Rhapsody: Writers, Musicians, Movie Stars, and One Great Building.
By Claudia Roth Pierpont. 2016. Farrar, $26 (9780374104405).
Pierpont offers a scintillating portrait gallery of creative, embattled, yet profoundly influential modern Americans, including James Baldwin, Dashiell Hammett, Katharine Hepburn, and Bert Williams, along with the incandescent Chrysler Building.
The Civil Wars of Julia Ward Howe. By Elaine Showalter. 2016. Simon & Schuster, $28 (9781451645903).
Showalter presents the inaugural comprehensive biography of Julia Ward Howe, author of “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” and a woman far ahead of her time.
Empire of Self: A Life of Gore Vidal. By Jay Parini. 2015. Doubleday, $35 (9780385537568).
Parini draws on his friendship with demanding writer and intellectual Gore Vidal in this tour de force, incisively connecting Vidal’s extraordinary life to his provoking novels and essays.
The Firebrand and the First Lady: Pauli Murray, Eleanor Roosevelt, and the Struggle for Social Justice. By Patricia Bell-Scott. 2016. Knopf, $30 (9780679446521).
Bell-Scott’s chronicle of a little-known, boundary-breaking friendship contains an affecting portrait of the endlessly compelling Eleanor Roosevelt and a keystone biography of Pauli Murray, the granddaughter of a slave who became a writer, civil rights activist, law professor, and Episcopalian priest.
The Invention of Nature: Alexander von Humboldt’s New World. By Andrea Wulf.
2015. Knopf, $30 (9780385350662).
Wulf portrays geographer, naturalist, and explorer Alexander von Humboldt as a genuine visionary whose perception of nature as one vast web influenced Darwin and Thoreau. Shortlisted for the Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Nonfiction.
Kill ’Em and Leave: Searching for the Real James Brown. By James McBride.
2016. Spiegel & Grau, $28 (9780812993509).
McBride’s superb biography of James Brown, the Godfather of Soul, is rooted in the world-altering singer’s southern milieu.
The Lady with the Borzoi: Blanche Knopf, Literary Tastemaker Extraordinaire.
By Laura Claridge. 2016. Farrar, $28 (9780374114251).
Claridge is the first to bring Blanche Wolf Knopf fully out of the shadows of her husband and publishing partner, Alfred A. Knopf, citing her essential role in bringing epoch-defining writers into print while enduring relentless misogyny.
Martín Ramírez: Framing His Life and Art. By Victor M. Espinosa.
2015. Univ. of Texas, $40 (9781477307755).
Espinosa liberates Martín Ramírez from the reductive label of “outsider artist” as he excavates Ramirez’s life in rural Mexico, disastrous immigration, and incarceration in California psychiatric institutions.
Rightful Heritage: Franklin D. Roosevelt and the Land of America.
By Douglas Brinkley. 2016. Harper, $35 (9780062089236).
As he did for Theodore Roosevelt in The Wilderness Warrior (2009), historian Brinkley tells the engrossing story of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s passionate and transforming conservation efforts.
Sinatra: The Chairman. By James Kaplan. 2015. Doubleday, $35 (9780385535397).
Kaplan concludes his exceptionally insightful and thorough two-volume biography of Frank Sinatra, covering the Rat Pack, Vegas, and Mob years as well as the singer’s landmark Capitol recordings.
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