Best of 2012: Biographies

Biographer James McGrath Morris chooses the year's best biographies.

by James McGrath Morris

If you have a lover of biographies on your holiday shopping list, here is a selection of 2012 biographies (hardback and paperback) that would provide plenty of nighttime reading for the twelve days of Christmas. Are these the best of the year? No. You can find those on the many, many lists published at this time of year.

Rather think of this as, well, a list to give you ideas that might please readers with a wide range of tastes.

Tolstoy: A Russian Life by Rosamund Bartlett.

Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention by Manning Marable.

Barack Obama: The Story by David Maraniss.

Howard Zinn: a Life on the Left by Martin Duberman

The One: The Life and Music of James Brown by RJ Smith

Bill Veeck: Baseball’s Greatest Maverick by Paul Dickson

I’m Your Man: The Life of Leonard Cohen by Sylvie Simmons

Every Love Story Is a Ghost Story: A Life of David Foster Wallace by D. T. Max

Mick Jagger by Philip Norman

Cezanne: A Life by Alex Danchev

Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher: The Epic Life and Immortal Photographs of Edward Curtis by Timothy Egan

No list that claims to be thought provoking could skip including one author who brought new meaning to the term biography this fall. In September, Ecco published Naomi Wolf’s Vagina: A New Biography.

James McGrath Morris is a biographer living in Santa Fe, NM. His most recent book was Pulitzer: A Life in Politics, Print, and Power. He is the current president of Biographers International Organization.


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