13 Must-Read Fall Biographies

Wonks will love fall this year. Here is a baker’s dozen political biographies that will soon brighten the windows of Washington bookstores.

13 Must-Read Fall Biographies

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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 series.

  4. Eisenhower: A Life by Paul Johnson (Viking). The biographer joins the recent revival of public interest in the 34th president.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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 there.

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

  11. 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.

  12. 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 credible critic.

  13. 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.


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