13 Upcoming Biographies to Watch For

Biography lovers will gorge on a feast during this spring’s publishing season, which runs from March through August.


















It was nearly impossible to select just a baker’s dozen for this list. The collection is so rich that merely taking a stab at those books most likely to garner attention is fraught with risk. So while these are our picks, keep in mind that next to each of these new titles on the shelf sits another significant book surely worth reading.

  1. Vera Brittain and the First World War: The Story of Testament of Youth by Mark Bostridge (Macmillan/March). Anyone who read A Testament of Youth or saw the remarkable BBC series will gravitate to this book. Nicely timed, a new movie version of Brittain’s memoir is heading to theaters soon.
  2. Hissing Cousins: The Untold Story of Eleanor Roosevelt and Alice Roosevelt Longworth by Marc Peyser and Timothy Dwyer (Random House/Nan Talese/March). Most readers know the story of Eleanor and Alice, but here they are ganged up as a pair. As the title suggests, the book is filled with tales to tell.
  3. Billie Holiday: The Musician and the Myth by John Szwed (Viking/March). This book is the note-perfect match of author and subject, and fans of Holiday’s music won’t be disappointed.
  4. Michelle Obama: A Life by Peter Slevin (Knopf/April). This biography, by a former Washington Post reporter turned professor in Chicago, is a weighty and careful examination of one of the most fascinating first ladies to inhabit the White House.
  5. Man in Profile: Joseph Mitchell of The New Yorker by Thomas Kunkel (Random House/April). This prodigious biography of the legendary New Yorker writer ought to restore interest in the subject’s literary portraits. Kunkel tries to resolve a engrossing mystery connected to Mitchell, making the book even more intriguing.
  6. The Millionaire and the Bard: Henry Folger’s Obsessive Hunt for Shakespeare’s First Folio by Andrea Mays (Simon & Schuster/May). Coming on the heels of Stephen Grant’s biography of Henry and Emily Folger, this book follows Henry Folger’s dogged pursuit of the most valuable book in the world.
  7. The Life of Saul Bellow: To Fame and Fortune, 1915-1964 by Zachary Leader (Knopf/May). Granted access to Saul Bellow’s papers, Leader explores the emergence of this writer, who went on to win Nobel and Pulitzer prizes, among other accolades.
  8. Reagan: The Life by H.W. Brands (Doubleday/May). Using the writing skills that have won him countless readers, Brands now tells the story of Ronald Reagan in his own inimitable style.
  9. The Wright Brothers by David McCullough (Simon & Schuster/May). Chronicling one of the most popular success stories from the nation's past, McCullough’s new book will soar to the top of the bestseller list as soon as the first copies come off the press.
  10. Stalin’s Daughter: The Extraordinary and Tumultuous Life of Svetlana Alliluyeva by Rosemary Sullivan (Harper/June). One of the great mysteries of the Cold War was how the daughter of the USSR’s most feared dictators came to live in the United States; Sullivan tells that story here. From Svetlana’s youth spent inside Kremlin walls to her end in poverty in Spring Green, Wisconsin, this is one amazing tale.
  11. Hannah Arendt: A Life in Dark Times by Anne C. Heller (New Harvest/August). Heller’s fast-paced, accessible biography tells the life story of this important 20th-century thinker who engendered devoted fans and denouncers. It’s a must-read guide to the apparent contradictions that riddle the Arendt canon.
  12. Joy: Poet, Seeker, and the Woman Who Captivated C.S. Lewis by Abigail Santamaria (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt/August). Famous for her touching and romantic association with Lewis, poet Joy Davidman’s story is finally told in a captivating biography.
  13. The Last Love Song: A Biography of Joan Didion by Tracy Daugherty (St. Martin’s Press/August). The talented Daugherty sympathetically recounts Didion’s rise to preeminence as a writer, her marriage to John Gregory Dunne, and the incredible loss she suffered when both her husband and their only child died within the same year.

James McGrath Morris' most recent biography, Eye On the Struggle: Ethel Payne, the First Lady of the Black Press, was just released. Click here to read the Independent's review.

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