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Biography & autobiography

The Vanity Fair Diaries

It feels a little unfair to blame Brown for Weinstein, who, like Talk, does not feature in The Vanity Fair Diaries. But it is striking how kind she is to other men in it who have since been accused of harassment or worse.


The Vanity Fair Diaries

To me, Brown’s truest and most heartfelt confessions are about her maternal guilt and ambivalence.


At the Strangers' Gate: Arrivals in New York

For all its good humor, “At the Strangers’ Gate” has some easily spotted imperfections. Anyone who’s ever read his New Yorker pieces knows that Gopnik is at once extremely skillful and somewhat vain.


Promise Me, Dad

He has a great, unwanted body of expertise in coping with loss. “Promise Me, Dad” shows that he’s willing to make use of it. Imparting what he knows about bereavement is part of his legacy now.


The Last Castle

The Last Castle is contextually rich in social, political, and economic history of the late-19th and early-20th centuries.


Hannibal's Oath: The Life and Wars of Rome's Greatest Enemy

Prevas’ book reminds us of that essential shared humanity, and his effort to reach back in time is a worthy one.


Sisters First: Stories from Our Wild and Wonderful Life
Kirkus Reviews : Sisters First (October 25, 2017)

An enjoyably nostalgic scrapbook stocked full of memories from twins born into a political dynasty.


Garden of the Lost and Abandoned: The Extraordinary Story of One Ordinary Woman and the Children She Saves

An eloquent affirmation of the vast capacity of the human heart.


Bobby Kennedy: A Raging Spirit

Matthews' book capably traces the arc of Bobby’s career, from his work as counsel to Senate committees in the 1950s to his key role in his brother's challenging campaigns for the House of Representatives in 1946, the Senate in 1952 and president eight years later.


Gorbachev: His Life and Times

As Gorbachev and the author both admit at the outset, “Gorbachev is hard to understand.” Because of this meticulously researched and thoughtfully rendered biography, current readers and future scholars will find the task a little less daunting.


Empress of the East: How a European Slave Girl Became Queen of the Ottoman Empire

But Peirce deals with her scattered source materials as she finds them, necessarily advancing assumptions here and there, to produce a skillfully and convincingly presented biography of a queen too little understood, and very possibly maligned, by ensuing generations of mostly male historians.


Vacationland: True Stories from Painful Beaches

Sharp, silly, and sensitive, Vacationland is a literary selfie of a concerned citizen storyteller — one in which the oldest slice of the United States does a little inelegant photobombing.


I Hear She's a Real Bitch

“I Hear She’s a Real Bitch” is also a feminist mandate of a very specific variety — the kind that invites, or gives permission to, women to act like stereotypical men.


Leonardo da Vinci

What endures after reading “Leonardo da Vinci” is just how indifferent to glory the man was. He lived in a world of his private obsessions. He often despaired over his failure to get anything done.


Code Girls: The Untold Story of the American Women Code Breakers of World War II

In her effort to cram in an enormous amount of information and give so many women their due, Mundy’s book suffers at times since it’s hard to keep track of her vast cast of characters, many with similar backgrounds.


Man of the Hour: James B. Conant, Warrior Scientist

For my money, Hershberg’s biography is still formidable — but there is no discounting this new, relentless and personally invested account.


The Woman Who Smashed Codes

These aren’t the actions of fusty sticks-in-the-mud. They’re what people do when they believe deeply in the power of the written word and the precious, vital act of learning from history. The Friedmans’ story feels so refreshing, and necessary, now.


Leonardo da Vinci

It’s not surprising that Isaacson is good at recounting the science bits — and Leonardo’s voracious curiosity took him through pretty much any science you can conjure, with the possible exception of particle physics — but he’s an equally excellent guide to Leonardo’s paintings.


Ali: A Life

My heart sank a little when I saw there was another Ali biography, and Eig’s doubtless won’t be the last. This one, though, is proof that, even in the most examined lives, there are corners where it is revealing to shine a light.


The Dawn Watch: Joseph Conrad in a Global World

The real question for the world’s future, in Conrad’s theory, wasn’t what would happen. It was when and how.” The global settlement that he foresaw may still be coming into view, in all its complexity.