This list, updated annually, contains selections from the 2013-2019 New York Times 100 Notable Books of the Year lists, Publishers Weekly’s annual Best Books of the Year lists, and starred reviews from Library Journal and Booklist. For more reading suggestions check out the Madison Public Library Insider newsletter-- Thanks For the Memories: Biographies and Memoirs.
Art & Culture
Frank Lloyd Wright has long been known as a rank egotist who held in contempt almost everything aside from his own genius. Harder to detect, but no less real, is a Wright who fully understood, and suffered from, the choices he made. This is the Wright whom award-winning and nationally best-selling author Paul Hendrickson reveals in this masterful biography.
A richly told biography of Suzanne Valadon, the illegitimate daughter of a provincial linen maid who became famous as a model for the Impressionists and later as a painter in her own right. Catherine Hewitt tells the remarkable tale of an ambitious, headstrong woman fighting to find a professional voice in a male-dominated world.
Al Hirschfeld redefined caricature and exemplified Broadway and Hollywood. His art appeared in every major publication during nine decades of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, as well as on numerous book, record, and program covers; film posters and publicity art; and on fifteen U.S. postage stamps. Now, The Hirschfeld Century brings together for the first time the artist's extraordinary eighty-two-year career.
A bold and deeply researched biography of a complicated cultural icon, full of firsthand accounts from many of Helen Gurley Brown’s closest friends and rediscovered, little-known interviews with the woman herself, Gerri Hirshey's Not Pretty Enough is a vital biography that shines new light on the life of one of the most vibrant, vexing, and indelible women of the twentieth century.
Based on thousands of pages from Leonardo's astonishing notebooks and new discoveries about his life and work, Walter Isaacson weaves a narrative that connects his art to his science. He shows how Leonardo's genius was based on skills we can improve in ourselves, such as passionate curiosity, careful observation, and an imagination so playful that it flirted with fantasy. Available to download: eBook Audio
The definitive biography of the beguiling Diane Arbus traces the life of the influential twentieth-century photographer to link the extraordinary arc of her experiences to her iconic images, exploring her role in shaping both photography and contemporary art while offering insights into the unique perspectives that drew her to her subjects.
The forefront British dance critic and notable author presents a revisionist assessment of the movement that shattered the boundaries of conventional femininity through the lives of six figures that exemplified it, including Lady Diana Cooper, Nancy Cunard, Tallulah Bankhead, Zelda Fitzgerald, Josephine Baker and Tamara de Lempicka.
Award-winning journalist and New York Times bestselling author Joe Posnanski enters the world of Harry Houdini and his legions of devoted fans in an immersive, entertaining, and magical work on the illusionist's impact on American culture--and why his legacy endures to this day. Available to download: eBook
We see Bob Fosse's legacy everywhere--from Broadway to 'Billy Jean' to Beyonce's moves in the 'Single ladies' video. Yet in spite of Fosse's deep cultural significance, no biography has ever brought him fully to life, unveiling the man behind the bowler hat and the swaggering sex appeal. Now, cultural historian Sam Wasson traces Fosse's numberless reinventions of himself over a career that would spawn The Pajama Game, Cabaret, Pippin, Chicago, All That Jazz, and other iconic works of art and earn him Tonys, Emmys, and an Oscar. Available to download: eBook Audio
P.T. Barnum is the greatest showman the world has ever seen. As a creator of the Barnum & Baily Circus and a champion of wonder, joy, trickery, and "humbug," he was the founding father of American entertainment. Robert Wilson's vivid new biography captures the full genius, infamy, and allure of the ebullient showman, who, from birth to death, repeatedly reinvented himself. Wilson adeptly makes the case for P.T. Barnum's place among the icons of American history, as a figure who represented, and indeed created, a distinctly American sense of optimism, industriousness, humor, and relentless energy.
Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg never asked for fame—she was just trying to make the world a little better and a little freer. But along the way, the feminist pioneer's searing dissents and steely strength have inspired millions. This book, created by the young lawyer who began the Internet sensation and an award-winning journalist, takes you behind the myth for an intimate, irreverent look at the justice's life and work. Available to download: eBook Audio
The first full life--private, public, legal, philosophical--of the 107th Supreme Court Justice, one of the most profound and profoundly transformative legal minds of our time; a book fifteen years in work, written with the cooperation of Ruth Bader Ginsburg herself and based on many interviews with the justice, her husband, her children, her friends, and her associates. Available to download: eBook Audio
The deeply reported story of one indelible family transplanted from rural China to New York City, forging a life between two worlds. With a novelist's eye for character and detail, Hilgers captures the joys and indignities of building a life in a new country--and the stubborn allure of the American dream.
When Marie Colvin was killed in an artillery attack in Homs, Syria, in 2012, at age fifty-six, the world lost a fearless and iconoclastic war correspondent who covered the most significant global calamities of her lifetime. In Extremis, written by her fellow reporter Lindsey Hilsum, is a thrilling investigation into Colvin's epic life and tragic death based on exclusive access to her intimate diaries from age thirteen to her death, interviews with people from every corner of her life, and impeccable research. Available to download: Audio
In the first in-depth biography of Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall--the infamous other woman who made the marriage of Britain's Prince Charles and Princess Diana "a bit crowded"--esteemed royal biographer Penny Junor tells the unlikely and extraordinary story of the woman reviled as a pariah who, thanks to numerous twists of fate, became the popular princess consort.
Sally Bedell Smith returns once again to the British royal family to give us a new look at Prince Charles, the oldest heir to the throne in more than three hundred years. This vivid, eye-opening biography--the product of four years of research and hundreds of interviews with palace officials, former girlfriends, spiritual gurus, and more, some speaking on the record for the first time--is the first authoritative treatment of Charles's life that sheds light on the death of Diana, his marriage to Camilla, and his preparations to take the throne one day. Available to download: eBook
Film & TV
The behind-the-scenes story of the iconic funnymen who ruled '80s Hollywood--Bill Murray, Steve Martin, Chevy Chase, John Belushi, Dan Aykroyd, and Eddie Murphy--and the beloved films that made them stars, including Animal House, Caddyshack, and Ghostbusters. Available to download: Audio
A revelatory biography of the enduringly popular John Wayne that draws on more than 100 interviews as well as exclusive access to the files of Wayne's film production company to answer the question why he became and remains an iconic American figure. Available to download: eBook
Bing Crosby dominated American popular culture in a way that few artists ever have. From the dizzy era of Prohibition through the dark days of the Second World War, he was a desperate nation's most beloved entertainer. In this much-anticipated follow-up to the universally acclaimed first volume, NBCC Winner and preeminent cultural critic Gary Giddins now focuses on Crosby's most memorable period, the war years and the origin story of White Christmas.
The icon worshiped by moviegoers and beloved by his colleagues appeared to have it all. Yet beneath the suave and commanding star persona, there was an insecure, deeply conflicted, and all too vulnerable human being. Drawing on more than 100 interviews with co-stars, family members and former companions, All That Heaven Allows finally delivers a complete and nuanced portrait of one of the most fascinating stars in cinema history, including new details concerning Hudson's troubled relationships with wife Phyllis Gates and boyfriend Marc Christian.
Richard Pryor was arguably the single most influential performer of the second half of the twentieth century, and certainly he was the most successful black actor/comedian ever. Controversial and somewhat enigmatic during his life, Pryor's performances opened up a whole new world of possibilities, merging fantasy with angry reality in a way that wasn't just new--it was theretofore unthinkable. Now, in this groundbreaking and revelatory work, Joe and David Henry bring him alive again both as a man and as an artist, providing an in-depth appreciation of his talent and his lasting influence, as well as an insightful examination of the world he lived in and the myriad influences that shaped both his persona and his art.
The Muppets made Jim Henson a household name, but they were just part of his remarkable story. This extraordinary biography--written with the generous cooperation of the Henson family--covers the full arc of Henson's all-too-brief life: from his childhood in Leland, Mississippi, through the years of burgeoning fame in America, to the decade of international celebrity that preceded his untimely death at age fifty-three. Available to download: Audio
Based on new and revelatory material from Brando's own private archives, an award-winning film biographer presents a deeply-textured, ambitious, and definitive portrait of the greatest movie actor of the twentieth century, the elusive Marlon Brando, bringing his extraordinarily complex life into view as never before.
As a teenager, Mallory O'Meara was thrilled to discover that one of her favorite movies, Creature from the Black Lagoon, featured a monster designed by a woman, Milicent Patrick. But for someone who should have been hailed as a pioneer in the genre, there was little information available. For, as O'Meara soon discovered, Patrick's contribution had been claimed by a jealous male colleague, her career had been cut short and she soon after had disappeared from film history. No one even knew if she was still alive. A true-life detective story and a celebration of a forgotten feminist trailblazer, Mallory O'Meara's The Lady from the Black Lagoon establishes Patrick in her rightful place in film history while calling out a Hollywood culture where little has changed since.
A portrait of a woman, an era, and a profession: the first thoroughly researched biography of Meryl Streep--the "Iron Lady" of acting, nominated for nineteen Oscars and winner of three--that explores her beginnings as a young woman of the 1970s grappling with love, feminism, and her astonishing talent. Available to download: eBook Audio
In a career spanning more than thirty years, David Letterman redefined the modern talk show with an ironic comic style that transcended traditional television. While he remains one of the most famous stars in America, he is a remote, even reclusive, figure whose career is widely misunderstood. In Letterman, Jason Zinoman, the first comedy critic in the history of the New York Times, mixes groundbreaking reporting with unprecedented access and probing critical analysis to explain the unique entertainer's titanic legacy.
Still known to millions only as the author of "The Lottery," Shirley Jackson remains curiously absent from the American literary canon. A genius of literary suspense, Jackson plumbed the cultural anxiety of postwar America better than anyone. Now, biographer Ruth Franklin reveals the tumultuous life and inner darkness of the author behind such classics as The Haunting of Hill House and We Have Always Lived in the Castle.
Fans of Little House on the Prairie believe they know Laura Ingalls, but the full saga of her life has never been told. Now Caroline Fraser, editor of the Library of America's Little House series, masterfully fills in the gaps. Spanning nearly a century of change from the Indian Wars to the Dust Bowl, Prairie Fires provides a unique perspective on American history and the complex woman whose stories grip us to this day.
The first and definitive biography of one of America's bestselling, notorious, and influential writers of the twentieth century: Iceberg Slim, né Robert Beck, author of the multimillion-copy memoir Pimp and such equally popular novels as Trick Baby and Mama Black Widow. From a career as a, yes, ruthless pimp in the '40s and '50s, Iceberg Slim refashioned himself as the first and still the greatest of "street lit" masters, whose vivid books have made him an icon to such rappers as Ice-T, Jay-Z, and Snoop Dogg and a presiding spirit of "blaxploitation" culture. You can't understand contemporary black (and even American) culture without reckoning with Iceberg Slim and his many acolytes and imitators.
Frankenstein was just the beginning: horror stories and other weird fiction wouldn't exist without the women who created it. From Gothic ghost stories to psychological horror to science fiction, women have been primary architects of speculative literature of all sorts. And their own life stories are as intriguing as their fiction. Part biography, part reader's guide, the engaging write-ups and detailed reading lists will introduce you to more than a hundred authors and over two hundred of their mysterious and spooky novels, novellas, and stories.
Tennessee Williams: Mad Pilgrimage of the Flesh gives intimate access to the mind of one of the most brilliant dramatists of his century, whose plays reshaped the American theater and the nation's sense of itself. This astute, deeply researched biography sheds a light on Tennessee Williams's warring family, his guilt, his creative triumphs and failures, his sexuality and numerous affairs, his misreported death, even the shenanigans surrounding his estate.
Penelope Fitzgerald was a great English writer whose career didn't begin until she was nearly sixty. She would go on to win some of the most coveted awards in literature--the Booker Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award. Now, in an impeccable match of talent between biographer and subject, Hermione Lee, a master biographer and one of Fitzgerald's greatest champions, gives us this remarkable writer's story.
A New Yorker writer revisits the seminal book of her youth--Middlemarch-- and fashions a singular, involving story of how a passionate attachment to a great work of literature can shape our lives and help us to read our own histories. Available to download: eBook
Drawing on Thoreau's copious writings, published and unpublished, Walls presents a Thoreau vigorously alive in all his quirks and contradictions: the young man shattered by the sudden death of his brother; the ambitious Harvard College student; the ecstatic visionary who closed Walden with an account of the regenerative power of the Cosmos. And, running through it all, Thoreau the passionate naturalist, who, long before the age of environmentalism, saw tragedy for future generations in the human heedlessness around him.
The touching, triumphant story of a young black man's journey from violence and despair to one of the world's most elite artistic institutions. In 2011, at the age of twenty-four, Ryan won a nationwide competition hosted by New York's Metropolitan Opera. Today, he is a rising star performing major roles at the Met and Europe's most prestigious opera houses.
Charlie Parker personified the tortured American artist: a revolutionary performer who used his alto saxophone to create a new music known as bebop even as he wrestled with a drug addiction that would lead to his death at 34. With the wisdom of a jazz scholar, the cultural insights of an acclaimed social critic, and the narrative skill of a literary novelist, Stanley Crouch illuminates this American master as never before.
A classic rock biography about the defining face and voice of Fleetwood Mac, Stevie Nicks, who at 68 is still one of the most glamorous creatures rock has known and a real rock 'n' roller. Available to download: eBook
Jay-Z: Made in America is the fruit of Michael Eric Dyson's decade of teaching the work of one of the greatest poets and rappers this nation has produced. This book wrestles with the biggest themes of JAY-Z's career, including hustling, and it recognizes the way that he's always weaved politics into his music, making important statements about race, criminal justice, black wealth and social injustice.
In this, the definitive biography of an American legend, Robert Hilburn conveys the unvarnished truth about a musical superstar. Johnny Cash's extraordinary career stretched from his days at Sun Records with Elvis Presley and Jerry Lee Lewis to the remarkable creative last hurrah, at age 69, that resulted in the brave, moving "Hurt" video. Available to download: Audio
This endlessly absorbing sequel to James Kaplan's bestselling Frank: The Voice completes the definitive biography that Frank Sinatra, justly termed the "Entertainer of the Century," deserves and requires. Kaplan goes behind the legend to give us the man in full, in his many guises and aspects: peerless singer, (sometimes) accomplished actor, business mogul, tireless lover, and associate of the powerful and infamous. Available to download: eBook
National Book Award winner James McBride goes in search of the "real" James Brown after receiving a tip that promises to uncover the man behind the myth. His surprising journey illuminates not only our understanding of this immensely troubled, misunderstood, and complicated soul genius but the ways in which our cultural heritage has been shaped by Brown's legacy. Available to download: Audio
Three years before David Bowie died, he shared a list of 100 books that changed his life. His choices span fiction and nonfiction, literary and irreverent, and include timeless classics alongside eyebrow-raising obscurities. In 100 short essays, music journalist John O'Connell studies each book on Bowie's list and contextualizes it in the artist's life and work.
The first definitive biography of guitar legend Stevie Ray Vaughan, with an Epilogue by Jimmie Vaughan, Foreword by drummer Chris Layton, and Afterword by bassist Tommy Shannon. Despite the cinematic scope of Vaughan's life and death, there has never been a truly proper accounting of his story--until now.
An esteemed music historian provides a rich, detailed overview of the life of Ludwig van Beethoven, traveling from Enlightenment-era Bonn to the musical capital of Europe, Vienna, to vividly describe the composer's career, ill health and romantic rejections. Available to download: eBook
Based on ten years of research and a vast cache of primary sources located in archives in Warsaw, Paris, London, New York, and Washington, D.C., Alan Walker's monumental Fryderyk Chopin: A Life and Times is the most comprehensive biography of the great Polish composer to appear in English in more than a century. Walker's work is a corrective biography, intended to dispel the many myths and legends that continue to surround Chopin, as well as an intimate look into a dramatic life.
Science & Technology
In the 1940s and 50s, when the newly minted Jet Propulsion Laboratory needed mathematicians to calculate velocities and plot trajectories, they recruited an elite group of young women who, with only pencil, paper, and mathematical prowess, transformed rocket design and made exploration of the solar system possible. Available to download: eBook Audio
When Dr. David Hosack tilled the country's first botanical garden in the Manhattan soil more than two hundred years ago, he didn't just dramatically alter the New York landscape; he left a monumental legacy of advocacy for public health and wide-ranging support for the sciences. Now, in melodic prose, historian Victoria Johnson eloquently chronicles Hosack's tireless career to reveal the breadth of his impact. Available to download: eBook
The Space Age began just as the struggle for civil rights forced Americans to confront the long and bitter legacy of slavery, discrimination, and violence against African Americans. Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson utilized the space program as an agent for social change, using federal equal employment opportunity laws to open workplaces at NASA and NASA contractors to African Americans while creating thousands of research and technology jobs in the Deep South to ameliorate poverty. We Could Not Fail tells the inspiring, largely unknown story of how shooting for the stars helped to overcome segregation on earth.
A prodigious and generous scholar whose life was shaped by struggle and heartbreak as well as success and fame, George Washington Carver remains a key figure in the history of southern agriculture, botanical advancement, and the struggle for civil rights. Vella's extensively researched biography offers a complex and compelling portrait of one of the most brilliant men of the last century.
The first comprehensive, authoritative biography of American icon Arthur Ashe, a pioneering athlete who, after breaking the color barrier, went on to become an influential civil rights activist and public intellectual. Available to download: eBook
From Jane Leavy, award-winning, New York Times bestselling author, comes the definitive biography of Babe Ruth--the man Roger Angell dubbed "the model for modern celebrity." Here she recreates Babe Ruth's three-week victory tour across America, and captures the romp and pathos that defined his life and times.
In 1968, Wyomia Tyus became the first person ever to win gold medals in the 100-meter sprint in two consecutive Olympic Games, a feat that would not be repeated for twenty years or exceeded for almost fifty. Tigerbelle chronicles Tyus’s journey from her childhood as the daughter of a tenant dairy farmer through her Olympic triumphs to her post-competition struggles to make a way for herself and other female athletes.
Julius Achon is the director of the Achon Uganda Children's Fund, a charity whose mission is to improve the quality of life in rural Uganda. He was captured at 12 and turned into a boy soldier; then miraculously found a career as one of the world's foremost middle-distance runners. How these life jumps happened is told here.
Based on previously untapped sources, from Malcolm’s personal papers to FBI records, Blood Brothers is the first book to offer an in-depth portrait of the complex bond between Muhammad Ali (then Cassius Clay) and Malcolm X. An extraordinary narrative of love and deep affection, as well as deceit, betrayal, and violence, this story is a window into the public and private lives of two of our greatest national icons, and the tumultuous period in American history that they helped to shape. Available to download: eBook
Michael Jordan is responsible for sublime moments so ingrained in sports history that they have their own names. But for all his greatness, this scion of a complex family from North Carolina's Coastal Plain has a darker side: he's a ruthless competitor and a lover of high stakes. There's never been a biography that encompassed the dual nature of his character and looked so deeply at Jordan on and off the court -- until now.
U.S. Presidents & First Ladies
One hundred years after his inauguration, Woodrow Wilson still stands as one of the most influential figures of the twentieth century, and one of the most enigmatic. And now, after more than a decade of research and writing, Pulitzer Prize-winning author A. Scott Berg has completed Wilson--the most personal and penetrating biography ever written about the 28th President.
From the #1 New York Times bestselling author, an intimate, news-making look at the true modern power brokers at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue: the First Ladies, from Jackie Kennedy to Michelle Obama and Melania Trump. Available to download: Audio
This extraordinary biography vividly portrays James Madison and the genius he brought to our nation's founding and early years. An iconoclast from his first entrance into politics, he was by the age thirty-six championing what had long been thought impossible: a vast republic, a great nation of self-governing people such as the world had never seen. Madison brought this vision to the Philadelphia convention in 1787 and saw to its embodiment in the Constitution of the United States. Available to download: eBook
Ulysses S. Grant's life has typically been misunderstood. All too often he is caricatured as a chronic loser and an inept businessman, or as the triumphant but brutal Union general of the Civil War. But these stereotypes don't come close to capturing him, as Chernow shows in his masterful biography, the first to provide a complete understanding of the general and president whose fortunes rose and fell with dizzying speed and frequency. Available to download: eBook Audio
Alexis Coe takes a closer look at our first--and finds he is not quite the man we remember. With irresistible style and warm humor, You Never Forget Your First combines rigorous research and lively storytelling that will have readers--including those who thought presidential biographies were just for dads--inhaling every page. Available to download: eBook Audio
In an era of such great national divisiveness, there could be no more timely biography of one of our greatest presidents than one that focuses on his unparalleled political ability as a uniter and consensus maker. Robert Dallek's Franklin D. Roosevelt: A Political Life takes a fresh look at the many compelling questions that have attracted all his biographers: how did a man who came from so privileged a background become the greatest presidential champion of the country's needy? How did someone who never won recognition for his intellect foster revolutionary changes in the country's economic and social institutions? How did Roosevelt work such a profound change in the country's foreign relations?
Based on years of archival research and interviews with the last surviving aides and Roosevelt family members, Nigel Hamilton offers a definitive account of FDR's masterful--and underappreciated--command of the Allied war effort. Hamilton takes readers inside FDR's White House Oval Study--his personal command center--and into the meetings where he battled with Churchill about strategy and tactics and overrode the near mutinies of his own generals and secretary of war. Available to download: eBook
A poignant, evocative, and wonderfully gossipy account of the two sisters who represented style and class above all else--Jackie Kennedy Onassis and Lee Radziwill. For the first time, Vanity Fair contributing editor Sam Kashner and acclaimed biographer Nancy Schoenberger tell the complete story of these larger-than-life sisters. Drawing on new information and extensive interviews with Lee, now eighty-four, this dual biography sheds light on the public and private lives of two extraordinary women who lived through immense tragedy in enormous glamour. Available to download: eBook Audio
Barbara Leaming's extraordinary and deeply sensitive biography is the first book to document Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis' brutal, lonely and valiant thirty-one year struggle with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) that followed JFK's assassination. A life story that has been scrutinized countless times, seen here for the first time as the serious and important story that it is. A story for our times at a moment when we as a nation need more than ever to understand the impact of trauma. Available to download: eBook
An intimate and insightful biography of Betty Ford, the groundbreaking, candid, and resilient First Lady and wife of President Gerald Ford. With poignant details and rare insight, Lisa McCubbin reveals a fiercely independent woman who had a lively sense of humor, unwavering faith, and an indomitable spirit--the true story behind one of the most admired and influential women of our time. Available to download: eBook Audio
Barbara Pierce Bush was one of the country's most popular and powerful figures, yet her full story has never been told. Written by USA Today’s Washington Bureau chief Susan Page, this biography, informed by interviews with Bush friends and family members, hours of conversation with Mrs. Bush herself in the final six months of her life, and access to her diaries, examines not only her public persona but also less well-known aspects of her remarkable life. Available to download: eBook Audio
An inspiring story of a modern American icon, here is the first comprehensive account of the life and times of Michelle Obama. With disciplined reporting and a storyteller's eye for revealing detail, Peter Slevin follows Michelle to the White House from her working-class childhood on Chicago's largely segregated South Side. Available to download: eBook
New York Times bestselling author Evan Thomas brings new life to one of American history's most infamous, paradoxical, and enigmatic politicians, dispensing with myths to achieve an intimate and nuanced look at the actual man in this radical, unique portrait of a complicated figure who was both determinedly optimistic and tragically flawed. Available to download: eBook Audio
This handsome, engaging, revelatory book is an intimate history of three extraordinary individuals from the same extraordinary family-Theodore, Eleanor, and Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Geoffrey C. Ward, distilling more than thirty years of thinking and writing about the Roosevelts, and the acclaimed filmmaker Ken Burns help us understand for the first time that, despite the fierce partisanship of their eras and ours, the Roosevelts were far more united than divided.
Arguably no relationship in this country's history carries as much freight as that of John Adams of Massachusetts and Thomas Jefferson of Virginia. Gordon Wood has more than done justice to these entwined lives and their meaning; he has written a magnificent new addition to America's collective story.
Early American History
An acclaimed historian's definitive biography of the most important African-American figure of the 19th century, Frederick Douglass, who was to his century what Martin Luther King, Jr. was to the 20th century. Available to download: eBook
Harriet Tubman is best known as one of the most famous conductors on the Underground Railroad. As a leading abolitionist, her bravery and selflessness has inspired generations in the continuing struggle for civil rights. Now, National Book Award nominee Erica Armstrong Dunbar presents a fresh take oan this American icon blending traditional biography, illustrations, photos, and engaging sidebars that illuminate the life of Tubman as never before. Available to download: eBook
Fans fell in love with Eliza Hamilton--Alexander Hamilton's devoted wife--in Lin-Manuel Miranda's phenomenal musical Hamilton. But they don't know her full story. A strong pioneer woman, a loving sister, a caring mother, and in her later years, a generous philanthropist, Eliza had many sides--and this fascinating biography brings her multi-faceted personality to vivid life.
General Sherman's 1864 burning of Atlanta solidified his legacy as a ruthless leader. Yet Sherman proved far more complex than his legendary military tactics reveal. This meticulously researched biography explores Sherman's warm friendship with Ulysses S. Grant, his strained relationship with his wife, Ellen, and his unassuageable grief over the death of his young son, Willy. The result is a remarkable, comprehensive life of an American icon whose legacy resonates to this day.
20th Century Americans
From his heyday to the present moment, Al Capone--Public Enemy Number One--has gripped popular imagination, but the true flesh-and-blood man behind the legend has long remained a mystery. Through dogged research and with the help of Capone's descendants, Dierdre Bair discovers his essential humanity, uncovering a complex character that was flawed and sometimes cruel but also capable of nobility.
Gail Lumet Buckley, daughter of actress Lena Horne, delves deeply into her family history, detailing the experiences of an extraordinary African American family from Civil War to civil rights. Available to download: eBook
Eunice Hunton Carter, Stephen Carter's grandmother, was raised in a world of stultifying expectations about race and gender, yet by the 1940s, her professional and political successes had made her one of the most famous black women in America. But her triumphs were shadowed by prejudice and tragedy. Moving, haunting, and as fast-paced as a novel, Invisible tells the true story of a woman who often found her path blocked by the social and political expectations of her time. But Eunice Carter never accepted defeat, and thanks to her grandson's remarkable book, her long forgotten story is once again visible.
Descendants of a prominent slaveholding family, Elizabeth, Grace, and Katharine Lumpkin grew up in a culture of white supremacy. But while Elizabeth remained a lifelong believer, her younger sisters chose vastly different lives, becoming impassioned activists for social justice and groundbreaking progressive writers. Grounded in decades of research, the family's private papers, and interviews with Katharine and Grace, Sisters and Rebels unfolds an epic narrative of American history through the lives and works of three Southern women.
Based on new interviews, this revealing account of one of the most notorious criminals in American history puts Manson in the context of his times, the turbulent end of the 60s, revealing a rock star wannabe whose killings were directly related to his musical ambitions. Available to download: eBook
In a riveting book with powerful resonance today, Pulitzer Prize-winning author David Maraniss captures the pervasive fear and paranoia that gripped America during the Red Scare of the 1950s through the chilling yet affirming story of his family's ordeal, from blacklisting to vindication. Available to download: eBook
In 1892, Bryan Mealer's great-grandfather leaves the Georgia mountains and heads west into Texas, looking for wealth and adventure in the raw and open country. But his luck soon runs out. Beset by drought, the family loses their farm just as the dead pastures around them give way to one of the biggest oil booms in American history. For the next two generations, the Mealers live on the margins of poverty, until years later Bobby Mealer, the author’s father, returns to the now-prosperous area, only to discover that his return to Big Spring is a backslider's journey into a spiritual wilderness, and one that could cost him his life. A masterwork of memoir and narrative history, The Kings of Big Spring is an indelible portrait of fortune and ruin as big as Texas itself.
Richard Holbrooke was brilliant, utterly self-absorbed, and possessed of almost inhuman energy and appetites. Admired and detested, he was the force behind the Dayton Accords that ended the Balkan wars, America's greatest diplomatic achievement in the post-Cold War era. From his days as a young adviser in Vietnam to his last efforts to end the war in Afghanistan, Holbrooke embodied the postwar American impulse to take the lead on the global stage. But his sharp elbows and tireless self-promotion ensured that he never rose to the highest levels in government that he so desperately coveted. In Our Man, drawn from Holbrooke's diaries and papers, we are given a nonfiction narrative that is both intimate and epic in its revelatory portrait of this extraordinary and deeply flawed man and the elite spheres of society and government he inhabited.
A tiny, fastidiously dressed man emerged from Black Philadelphia around the turn of the century to mentor a generation of young artists including Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, and Jacob Lawrence and call them the New Negro -- the creative African Americans whose art, literature, music, and drama would inspire Black people to greatness. In this Pulitzer Prize-winning work, Jeffrey C. Stewart offers the definitive biography of the father of the Harlem Renaissance, based on the extant primary sources of his life and on interviews with those who knew him personally.
History remembers Robert F. Kennedy as a racial healer, a tribune for the poor, and the last progressive knight of a bygone era of American politics. But Kennedy's enshrinement in the liberal pantheon was actually the final stage of a journey that had its beginnings in the conservative 1950s. In Bobby Kennedy, Larry Tye peels away layers of myth and misconception to paint a complete portrait of this singularly fascinating figure. Available to download: eBook Audio
Master biographer Christopher Andersen takes readers behind palace walls to examine the surprising similarities and stark differences among three remarkable women--Queen Elizabeth; Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall; and Princess Kate-- in this addictive read that will shock even those who are spellbound by the royal palace.
A narrative chronicle of World War I's Arab Revolt explores the pivotal roles of a small group of adventurers and low-level officers who orchestrated a secret effort to control the Middle East, demonstrating how they instigated jihad against British forces, built an elaborate intelligence ring and forged ties to gain valuable oil concessions. Available to download: eBook
An authoritative portrait of the Latin-American warrior-statesman draws on a wealth of primary documents to set his life against a backdrop of the explosive tensions of 19th-century South America, providing coverage of such topics as his role in the 1813 campaign for Colombian and Venezuelan independence, his legendary love affairs and his achievements as a strategist, abolitionist and diplomat.
This page-turning biography reveals the real woman behind the myth: a bold, glamorous, unbreakable queen--a Victoria for our times. Drawing on previously unpublished papers, this stunning new portrait is a story of love and heartbreak, of devotion and grief, of strength and resilience. Available to download: eBook
Combining interviews, parodies, dreams, parallel lives, diaries, announcements, lists, catalogues, and essays, Craig Brown's witty and profound portrait of the most talked-about English royal is a kaleidoscopic experiment in biography and a witty meditation on fame and art, snobbery and deference, bohemia and high society. Available to download: eBook
In this ground-breaking biography, Jung Chang vividly describes how Empress Dowager Cixi fought against monumental obstacles to change China. Under her the ancient country attained virtually all the attributes of a modern state: industries, railways, electricity, telegraph, and an army and navy with up-to-date weaponry.
The Nazis murdered their husbands but concentration camp prisoners Priska, Rachel, and Anka would not let evil take their unborn children too in this remarkable true story that celebrates three mothers who defied death to give their children life. Available to download: eBook
Despite Hitler's dictates on women's place being in the home, two fiercely defiant female pilots were awarded the Iron Cross during the Second World War. Other than this unique distinction and a passion for flying that bordered on addiction, these women could not have been less alike, but both women repeatedly risked their lives to change the history of the Third Reich--one in support of and the other in opposition. Mulley shows, through dazzling film-like scenes suffused in glamour and danger, that their interwoven dramas are a powerful forgotten story of conformity and resistance and the very strength of women at the heart of the Second World War.
This richly entertaining biography chronicles the eventful life of Queen Victoria's firstborn son, the quintessential black sheep of Buckingham Palace, who matured into as wise and effective a monarch as Britain has ever seen. Granted unprecedented access to the royal archives, noted scholar Jane Ridley draws on numerous primary sources to paint a vivid portrait of the man and the age to which he gave his name. Available to download: eBook
The definitive biography of the great soldier-statesman by a New York Times bestselling author and the first one-volume biography to take advantage of the recent publication of Napoleon's thirty-three thousand letters, which radically transform our understanding of his character and motivation. Available to download: eBook
Was the world's wealthiest woman--Liliane Bettencourt--heir to an estimated thirty-six-billion-dollar L'Oreal fortune, the victim of a con man? Or were her own family the real villains? This riveting narrative tells the real-life, shocking story behind the cause celebre that has captivated both France and the world.
The Romanovs were the most successful dynasty of modern times, ruling a sixth of the world's surface for three centuries. How did one family turn a war-ruined principality into the world's greatest empire? And how did they lose it all? Dazzlingly entertaining and beautifully written from start to finish, The Romanovs brings these monarchs--male and female, great and flawed, their families and courts--blazingly to life. Available to download: eBook Audio
A hundred years after his murder, Rasputin continues to excite the popular imagination as the personification of evil. But as the prizewinning historian Douglas Smith shows, the true story of Rasputin's life and death has remained shrouded in myth. A major new work that combines probing scholarship and powerful storytelling, Rasputin separates fact from fiction to reveal the real life of one of history's most alluring figures.
For all the literature about Adolf Hitler there have been just four seminal biographies; this is the fifth, a landmark work that sheds important new light on Hitler himself. Drawing on previously unseen papers and a wealth of recent scholarly research, Volker Ullrich reveals the man behind the public persona, from Hitler's childhood to his failures as a young man in Vienna to his experiences during the First World War to his rise as a far-right party leader. Available to download: eBook
Clemantine Wamariya was six years old when her mother and father began to speak in whispers, when neighbors began to disappear, and when she heard the loud, ugly sounds her brother said were thunder. It was 1994, and in 100 days more than 800,000 people would be murdered in Rwanda and millions more displaced. Clemantine and her fifteen-year-old sister, Claire, ran and spent the next six years wandering through seven African countries searching for safety. They did not know whether their parents were alive. At age twelve, Clemantine and Claire were granted asylum in the United States. Raw, urgent, yet disarmingly beautiful, this book captures the true costs and aftershocks of war: what is forever lost, what can be repaired, the fragility and importance of memory. A riveting story of dislocation, survival.