Wonks will love fall this year. Here is a baker’s dozen political biographies that will soon brighten the windows of Washington bookstores.
- Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy: Four Women Undercover in the Civil War by Karen Abbott (Harper). One shoots and seduces, another masks her identity as a
man, a third beds Northern politicians to gather intelligence for the South,
while a fourth, a Southern belle, uses her manners to run an espionage ring.
- Rebel Yell: The Violence, Passion, and Redemption of Stonewall Jackson by S.C. Gwynne (Scribner). A Confederate
general gives his cause one last hope, worries the North, and provides this
writer with a great story to tell.
- The Roosevelts: An Intimate History by Geoffrey C. Ward and Ken Burns (Knopf). Based on this fall’s widely praised
documentary tying three Roosevelts — Theodore, Franklin, and Eleanor — together,
Ward’s text is far more than a companion to Burns’ sensational television
- Eisenhower: A Life by Paul Johnson (Viking). The
biographer joins the recent revival of public interest in the 34th president.
- The Contender: Andrew Cuomo, a Biography by Michael Shnayerson (Twelve). Betting on a presidential candidacy, Shnayerson
gives readers all they could want to learn about the political scion.
- On His Own Terms: A Life of Nelson Rockefeller by Richard Norton Smith (Random House). A talented biographer offers a fresh
look at a man who might well have been “President Rockfeller,” but who would
find no home in the Republican Party of today.
- The Triumph and Tragedy of Lyndon Johnson: The White House Years by Joseph A. Califano (Touchstone). A recollection of the Johnson Administration from one who was
- 41: A Portrait of My Father by George W. Bush (Crown). Always haunted by inarticulateness, the son gives due
to his father by writing a book.
- Breaking In: The Rise of Sonia Sotomayor and the Politics of Justice by Joan Biskupic (Sarah Crichton Books). Following on the success of Sotomayor’s bestselling memoir, Biskupic
applies the dispassionate eye of a biographer to the justice’s tale.
- Isabella: The Warrior Queen by Kirstin Downey (Nan A. Talese). Forget Ferdinand, it was his wife who shaped
the modern world by spreading Spanish and Catholicism across two hemispheres.
- Colonel House: A Biography of Woodrow Wilson’s Silent Partner by Charles E. Neu (Oxford). The tale of a man who held
unheard-of power within a presidency, the kind someone like Karl Rove could
have only dreamed of wielding.
- The Strategist: Brent Scowcroft and the Call of National Security by Bartholomew Sparrow (Public Affairs). George H.W.
Bush’s advisor becomes George W. Bush’s most outspoken and
- Madison’s Gift: Five Partnerships That Built America by David O. Stewart (Simon & Schuster). Madison like you’ve never seen him before in a fresh and new interpretation focusing on five critically important partnerships.
New Mexico-based James McGrath Morris is an author, columnist, and radio show host. He writes primarily biographies and works of narrative nonfiction. His books include Pulitzer: A Life in Politics, Print, and Power and The Rose Man of Sing Sing.