Ten Spring Biographies

A sneak preview of a marvelous and healthy crop of biographies coming to stores this season.

by James McGrath Morris

A sneak preview of a marvelous and healthy crop of biographies coming to stores this season:

Knopf will publish Modigliani: A Life, by the distinguished Washington biographer Meryle Secrest, after much delay. This work will add to her long list of significant biographies of art-related subjects such as Bernard Berenson (a Pulitzer Prize finalist), Frank Lloyd Wright, Salvador Dali, and Kenneth Clark.

Knopf will also be bringing out the first major biography of Gandhi in years when it releases Great Soul: Mahatma Gandhi and His Struggle with India, written by Joseph Lelyveld, a former New York Times editor.


Viking will offer a reexamination of a famous civil rights leader’s life in Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention by Manning Marable. The story of an ignored but fascinating early American leader is told in The Forgotten Founding Father: Noah Webster’s Obsession and the Creation of an American Culture by Joshua Kendall, to be published by Putnam. (I read an early copy of this book. It is a well-told account of a man whose name is a household word but whose life has been sadly neglected by history.)

Spies will certainly get their due this spring, beginning when Simon & Schuster releases the highly anticipated Wild Bill Donovan: The Spymaster Who Created the OSS and Modern American Espionage by Douglas Waller, a Washington writer. [Note to readers: Tom Glenn’s review of this book is here.]


Two biographies of one of America’s most famous lawyers will compete for a verdict from readers. Hill & Wang will publish Clarence Darrow: American Iconoclast by Andrew E. Kersten and Doubleday will bring out Clarence Darrow: Attorney for the Damned by John A. Farrell, a Washington reporter.


President Obama’s election triggered an interest in his family. Janny Scott’s
A Singular Woman: The Untold Story of Barack Obama’s Mother will be published by Riverhead and Sally H. Jacob’s The Other Barack: The Bold and Reckless Life of President Obama’s Father will be published by Public Affairs.


And, lastly, many readers will flock to a short, 128-page look at the girl who inspired Lewis Carroll when Oxford University Press brings out Simon Winchester’s
The Alice Behind Wonderland.


James McGrath Morris is the executive director of Biographers International Organization. His Pulitzer: A Life in Politics, Print, and Power will be appearing in paperback in April.

comments powered by Disqus