Originally posted on Kirkus.
It’s an exciting fall if you’re a fan of biographies—a diverse cast of luminaries are investigated this fall in books by writers who’ve spent years researching their subjects’ lives. Fosse, Salinger, Stanwyck, Cash: the roster of bios about famous last names is long and rich these coming months. We list here the biographies we’re most excited about this fall and the date each book is being published.
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BOOK OF AGES: THE LIFE AND OPINIONS OF JANE FRANKLIN by Jill Lepore (Oct. 1, 2013)
New Yorker writer Jill Lepore masterfully formulates the story of Benjamin Franklin’s youngest sister. Jane Franklin was an amazing woman who raised her children and grandchildren while still having the time to read and think for herself. We can only see into her mind because her correspondent was famous and because a vastly talented biographer reassembled her for us. <a href="https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/jill-lepore/book-of-ages/" target="_blank">Read the review.</a>
SALINGER by Shane Salerno and David Shields (Sep. 3, 2013)
SALINGER by Shane Salerno and David Shields (Sep. 3, 2013) Based on eight years of exhaustive research and exclusive interviews with more than 200 people—and published in coordination with the release of the documentary of the same name from the Weinstein Company—Salinger is anoral biography that offers accounts from Salinger’s World War II brothers-in-arms, his family members, his close friends, his lovers, his classmates, his neighbors, his editors, his publishers, his New Yorker colleagues, and people with whom he had relationships that were secret even to his own family.
NORMAN MAILER: A DOUBLE LIFE by J. Michael Lennon (Oct. 15, 2013)
Norman Mailer (1923–2007), writes archivist and authorized biographer Lennon, grew up in a reasonably happy family, with a strong mother and dapper father, who, as Mailer wrote, “had the gift of speaking to each woman as if she was the most important woman he’d ever spoken to.” Detailed and anecdotal without being gossipy (a yarn concerning a nicotine-addicted cat notwithstanding) and a must-read for students and admirers of Mailer’s work. <a href="https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/j-michael-lennon/norman-mailer/" target="_blank">Read the review.</a>
JIM HENSON: THE BIOGRAPHY by Brian Jay Jones (Sep. 24, 2013)
With the cooperation of the Henson family, Brian Jay Jones portrays his subject as not only innovative, but also mostly upbeat and pleasant to work with. Jim Henson is a solid biography that can be enjoyed by readers of more than one generation. <a href="https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/brian-jay-jones/jim-henson/" target="_blank">Read the review.</a>
FOSSE by Sam Wasson (Nov. 5, 2013)
Cultural historian Sam Wasson traces Fosse’s numberless reinventions of himself over a career that spawned The Pajama Game,Cabaret,Pippin,Chicago,All That Jazz and other iconic works of art that earned him Tonys, Emmys and an Oscar. In Fosse, Wasson is out to reanimate a stylish and effervescent subject to introduce Bob Fosse as he truly was—after hours, close up, and in vibrant color.
WILSON by A. Scott Berg (Sep. 10, 2013)
Accomplished biographer Berg (Lindbergh, 1998, etc.) emphasizes the extraordinary talents of this unlikely president in an impressive, nearly hagiographic account. The author devotes a good portion of the book to the years following Wilson’s 1919 stroke, the severity of which the public did not fathom; it was a well-kept secret that his wife Edith largely ran the White House in the final 18 months of his presidency. Berg portrays Wilson as an utterly new kind of chief executive, in a mold that has yet to be refilled. <a href="https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/a-scott-berg/wilson-woodrow/" target="_blank">Read the review.</a>
THE WORLDS OF SHOLEM ALEICHEM: THE REMARKABLE LIFE AND AFTERLIFE OF THE MAN WHO CREATED TEVYE by Jeremy Dauber (Oct. 8, 2013)
Jeremy Dauber, who has written about Jewish and Yiddish literature numerous times, brings to his new task a comprehensive knowledge not only of Sholem Aleichem’s life (1859–1916), but also of the contexts—historical and literary—in which he wrote and thrived. Dauber’s prose is swift, clean and clear, and the portrait that emerges is sharply focused.
JOHNNY CASH: THE LIFE by Robert Hilburn (Oct. 29, 2013)
Veteran music writer Robert Hilburn attempts to separate fiction from fact in a comprehensive biography of the legendary musician. As the longtime music critic for the Los Angeles Times, Hilburn followed Cash's career vigorously and interviewed him multiple times before his death. The personal knowledge aided by extensive archival research and always compelling, accessible writing make this an instant-classic music biography with something to offer all generations of listeners. <a href="https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/robert-hilburn/johnny-cash-the-life/" target="_blank">Read the review.</a>
AMERICAN MIRROR: THE LIFE AND ART OF NORMAN ROCKWELL by Deborah Solomon (Nov. 5, 2013)
In American Mirror, biographer and art critic Solomon trains her eye on both the art and the man. As the star illustrator for The Saturday Evening Post for nearly half a century, Rockwell portrayed a fantasy of civic togetherness, of American decency and good cheer. Solomon chronicles the visual history of American journalism and the battle pitting photography against illustration.
A LIFE OF BARBARA STANWYCK: STEEL–TRUE 1907-1940 by Victoria Wilson (Nov. 12, 2013)
Fifteen years in the making, Victoria Wilson pens her first volume of the full-scale astonishing life of one of the greatest screen actresses whose career in pictures spanned four decades beginning with the coming of sound. Wilson is the first to delve deeply into Stanwyck’s rich, complex life and to explore her extraordinary range of eighty-eight motion pictures. The work is written with full access to Stanwyck’s family, friends, colleagues, and never-before-seen letters, journals and photographs.
KANSAS CITY LIGHTNING: THE RISE AND TIMES OF CHARLIE PARKER by Stanley Crouch (Oct. 1, 2013)
Crouch, the veteran cultural critic and jazz historian, tells the simultaneous stories of the rise of jazz and the emergence of one of its brightest comets, Charlie Parker (1920–1955). Crouch is a phrasemaker, and the text is chockablock with memorable lines. A friend’s death “was like drinking a cup of blues made of razor blades.” Kansas City Lightning is a story rich in musical history and poignant with dramatic irony. <a href="https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/stanley-crouch/kansas-city-lightning/" target="_blank">Read the review.</a>