The Plutarch

The Plutarch is the world’s only literary award given to biography by biographers. Named after the famous Ancient Greek biographer, the Plutarch is determined by secret ballot from a formal list of nominees selected by a committee of distinguished members of the craft.

The current Plutarch Award Committee is:

James Atlas
Douglas Brinkley, Chair
Catherine Clinton
Deirdre A. David
John Aloysius Farrell
Carla Kaplan
Eve LaPlante
Hans Renders
Will Swift   

The Plutarch Award is formally announced and awarded at the BIO Conference.

This is a complete listing of Plutarch Award nominees, with the winner for each year highlighted in bold.


  • Emily Bingham, Irrepressible: A Jazz Age Life of Henrietta Bingham (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
  • Betty Boyd Caroli, Lady Bird and Lyndon: The Hidden Story of a Marriage (Simon & Schuster)
  • Cathy Curtis, Restless Ambition: Grace Hartigan, Painter (Oxford)
  • Irwin F. Gellman, The President and the Apprentice: Eisenhower and Nixon 1952-1961 (Yale)
  • Peter Guralnick, Sam Phillips: The Man Who Invented Rock ’n’ Roll (Little, Brown)
  • Anne Heller, Hannah Arendt: A Life in Dark Times (New Harvest)
  • Jay Parini, Empire of Self: A Life of Gore Vidal (Doubleday)
  • Sonia Purnell, Clementine: The Life of Mrs. Winston Churchill (Viking)
  • stalins daughterT.J. Stiles, Custer’s Trials: A Life on the Frontier of a New America (Knopf)
  • Rosemary Sullivan, Stalin’s Daughter: The Extraordinary and Tumultuous Life of Svetlana Alliluyeva (Harper)

In 2016, BIO for the first time also gave special awards for excellence in four categories to books that the Plutarch Committee considered for but did not place on the list of semi-finalists. The categories and the winners were:

  • Arts and Literature: Jonathan Bate, Ted Hughes: The Unauthorized Life (Harper)
  • Politics and Leadership: Jon Meacham, Destiny and Power: The American Odyssey of George Herbert Walker Bush (Random House)
  • History and Science: Andrew Lownie, Stalin’s Englishman: The Lives of Guy Burgess (Hodder & Stoughton)
  • Popular Culture and Sports: James Kaplan, Sinatra: The Chairman (Doubleday)


  • Nigel Hamilton, The Mantle of Command: FDR at War, 1941-1942 (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
  • Jeff Hobbs, The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace (Scribner)
  • John Lahr, Tennessee Williams: Mad Pilgrimage of the Flesh ( W. Norton & Company)
  • FitzgeraldHermione Lee, Penelope Fitzgerald: A Life (Knopf)
  • Helen Rappaport, The Romanov Sisters: The Lost Lives of the Daughters of Nicholas and Alexandra (St. Martin’s)
  • Andrew Roberts, Napoleon: A Life (Viking Adult)
  • Richard Norton Smith, On His Own Terms: A Life of Nelson Rockefeller (Random House)
  • Will Swift, Pat and Dick: The Nixons, An Intimate Portrait of a Marriage (Threshold Editions)
  • Edward White, The Tastemaker: Carl Van Vechten and the Birth of Modern America (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
  • N. Wilson, Victoria: A Life (Penguin Press)


  • Scott Anderson, Lawrence in Arabia (Doubleday)
  • Marie Arana, Bolivar: American Liberator (Simon & Schuster)
  • A. Scott Berg, Wilson (Putnam)
  • Ben Bradlee, Jr., The Kid: The Immortal Life of Ted Williams (Little, Brown)
  • MooreLeo Damrosch, Jonathan Swift: His Life And His World (Yale)
  • Lucy Hughes-Hallet, Gabriele D’Annunzio: Poet, Seducer, and Preacher of War (Knopf)
  • Brian Jay Jones, Jim Henson: The Biography (Ballantine)
  • Linda Leavell, Holding On Upside Down: The Life And Work of Marianne Moore (Farrar, Straus & Giroux)
  • Jill Lepore, Book of Ages: The Life and Opinions of Jane Franklin (Knopf)
  • Ray Monk, Robert Oppenheimer: A Life Inside the Center (Doubleday)


  • Deirdre Bair, Saul Steinberg: A Biography (Nan A. Talese)
  • Robert Caro, The Passage of Power (Knopf)LBJ
  • Lisa Cohen, All We Know: Three Lives (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
  • Timothy Egan, Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher: The Epic Life and Immortal Photographs of Edward Curtis (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
  • Alice Kessler-Harris, A Difficult Woman, The Challenging Life and Times of Lillian Hellman (Bloomsbury Press)
  • David Maraniss, Barack Obama, The Story (Simon & Schuster)
  • John Matteson, The Lives of Margaret Fuller (W. W. Norton & Company)
  • Tom Reiss, The Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, and the Real Count of Monte Cristo (Crown)
  • William Souder, On a Farther Shore: The Life and Legacy of Rachel Carson (Crown)
  • Rachel L. Swarns, American Tapestry: The Story of the Black, White and Multiracial Ancestors of Michelle Obama (Amistad)