13 Fall Biographies You’ll Be Talking About

A selection of must-reads from the autumn publishing season, which runs September through February


Pope Francis is the subject of several forthcoming biographies and, of course, presidential candidates also have bios (authorized or otherwise) hitting the shelves this fall. But none is likely to garner as much attention as the highly anticipated ones below.

  1. Showdown: Thurgood Marshall and the Supreme Court Nomination That Changed America by Wil Haygood (Knopf). The author, a superbly accomplished biographer, provides a fresh and overdue examination of Marshall’s rise to the Supreme Court.
  2. Custer's Trials: A Life on the Frontier of a New America by T.J. Stiles (Knopf). The Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer of Cornelius Vanderbilt is back with a thoughtful examination of the life of American history’s most famous cavalry commander.
  3. Peggy Guggenheim: The Shock of the Modern by Francine Prose (Yale University Press). A respected and accomplished novelist provides the life story of the famous art collector and socialite.
  4. Empire of Self: A Life of Gore Vidal by Jay Parini (Doubleday). The pairing of one of today’s most talented fiction and nonfiction writers with one of the giants of American literary and intellectual life of the 20th century.
  5. Kissinger: 1923-1968: The Idealist by Niall Ferguson (Penguin). This doorstop of a book only covers half of Kissinger’s life and was written with the subject’s cooperation. A contrasting view is also in stores: Kissinger's Shadow: The Long Reach of America's Most Controversial Statesman by Greg Grandin was published in August (Metropolitan Books).
  6. The New Tsar: The Rise and Reign of Vladimir Putin by Steven Lee Myers (Knopf). The author offers an account of Putin unlikely to be found on the shelves of Red Square’s Gum department store.
  7. John le Carre: The Biography by Adam Sisman (Harper). A talented biographer brings the great spy novelist in from the cold.
  8. Destiny and Power: The American Odyssey of George Herbert Walker Bush by Jon Meacham (Random House). Both a Pulitzer Prize winner and Random House executive vice president and editor, Meacham goes from chronicling Thomas Jefferson’s use of power to that of Papa Bush.
  9. Sinatra: The Chairman by James Kaplan (Doubleday). Kaplan completes his two-part account of Ol' Blue Eyes.
  10. Young Orson: The Years of Luck and Genius on the Path to Citizen Kane by Patrick McGilligan (Harper). Film buffs are in luck here. The author even promises a new explanation of “Rosebud.”
  11. Lady Bird and Lyndon: The Hidden Story of a Marriage That Made a President by Betty Caroli (Simon & Schuster). The author, an expert on first ladies, provides overdue recognition of the important role Lady Bird Johnson played in an historic presidency.
  12. Sam Phillips: The Man Who Invented Rock ‘n’ Roll by Peter Guralnick (Little, Brown and Company). The author of Last Train to Memphis now tells the story of the man behind Sun Records.
  13. Margaret Thatcher: Everything She Wants by Charles Moore (Knopf). The second and final installment of a highly praised account of the Iron Lady.

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

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