“Great biographies are more than a chronicle of a life; rather, they resonate deeply with and evoke the drama of the time.” —Elizabeth Taylor
In January 2019, Elizabeth Taylor, who chaired the National Book Critics Circle Award for biography, talked us through the best biographies of the past year. Since then, a number of stellar biographies have come out, including, for example, Becoming Beauvoir by Kate Kirkpatrick. All of these wonderful new biographies are listed below.
Also in our biography collection, we have the legendary biographer Lyndall Gordon recommending five biographies that she feels push the boundaries of the genre.
If you’re looking for books about a specific person, you’ll also find highly-recommended biographies amidst our interviews on literary figures, (like the best books on Shakespeare’s life, recommended by James Shapiro of Columbia University), great philosophers and historical figures. For biographies of great scientists, you can browse our science section.
Reflecting the UK location of Five Books, the summit of British politics is well represented. Tony Blair’s biographer, Anthony Seldon, chooses his best biographies of British prime ministers and the former foreign secretary, Douglas Hurd chooses five of the best biographies of Tory prime ministers.
Justine Picardie, biographer of Coco Chanel, gives us her best fashion biographies while reminding us that “it’s absurd to dismiss fashion as frivolous. What we choose to wear, or conceal, reveals who we are.”
Flash: The Making of Weegee the Famous
by Christopher Bonanos
Ninety-Nine Glimpses of Princess Margaret
by Craig Brown
Inseparable: The Original Siamese Twins and Their Rendezvous with American History
by Yunte Huang
The Man in the Glass House: Philip Johnson, Architect of the Modern Century
by Mark Lamster
The Big Fella: Babe Ruth and the World He Created
by Jane Leavy
Biography is booming, says the longtime book critic and biographer Elizabeth Taylor. Here she highlights the five fantastic books shortlisted for the National Book Critics Circle 2019 biography award, and how historical lives provide insight into contemporary culture.
It’s their frailty that makes politicians such interesting characters, says Tony Blair’s biographer Anthony Seldon. He tells us about the art of political biography and the writers who’ve best captured leaders such as Churchill and Thatcher