More than 225 established and aspiring biographers from three continents immersed themselves in their craft at the Ninth Annual Biographers International Organization Conference, held May 18 and 19, at the Leon Levy Center for Biography at the Graduate Center, City University of New York. Along with the announcement of the Plutarch Award for 2018, conference highlights included a keynote address by Richard Holmes, winner of the 2018 BIO Award, and a discussion between Edmund Morris and Sylvia Jukes Morris, who shared their experiences writing about both living and dead subjects. [more]
Scenes from the 2018 BIO Conference:
Robert Caro introduces the winners of the first Robert and Ina Caro Research/Travel Fellowships. Photo by Jane O’Connor
Stacy Schiff and Griffin Dunne appeared together on a panel called “On the Screen and on the Page.” Photo by Barbara Lehman Smith
Kitty Kelley and Joe Hagan appeared together on a panel called “The Antagonist.” Photo by Barbara Lehman Smith
Caroline Fraser won the 2018 Plutarch Award for Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder. The book had previously won the Pulitzer Prize for Biography, among other honors. Fraser received her award at the ninth annual BIO Conference on May 20.
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 award comes with a $1,000 honorarium.
BIO’s Plutarch Award Committee for 2018 was:
Anne C. Heller, chair
Brian Jay Jones
J.W. (Hans) Renders
Will Swift, ex-officio
You can find out more information about the Plutarch Award here.
BIO’s Plutarch Award Committee has chosen the four books highlighted below as the finalists for this year’s Plutarch Award, the only international literary award for a biography that is chosen by fellow biographers. BIO members will have three months to read the finalists and vote for the winner. The Plutarch Award will be presented on Saturday, May 19, at the Ninth Annual BIO Conference in New York.
To see a list of the nominees for 2018 and learn more about the Plutarch Award, go here.
Ali: A Life, by Jonathan Eig, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt: Eig interviewed nearly everyone still living who knew Muhammed Ali, including his ex-wives, and crafted those interviews, along with much additional primary source material, into a deft, enlightening, and enlivening narrative of the life of an American icon.
Richard Nixon: The Life, by John A. Farrell, Doubleday: In an elegantly written, expertly researched, and commanding narrative of the rise and fall of Richard Nixon, John A. Farrell has created in a single volume a rich and deeply affecting portrait of perhaps the most complex, fascinating, and darkest of American presidents.
Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder, by Caroline Fraser, Metropolitan: Fraser’s work is both a haunting depiction of Laura Ingall Wilder’s life, work, and collaboration with her flamboyant, unstable daughter, the writer Rose Wilder Lane, and a surprising history of how the pioneer experience led to American conservative values. Fraser demonstrates that literary history is woven into the very fabric and destiny of the nation.
Lenin: The Man, the Dictator, and the Master of Terror, by Victor Sebestyen, Pantheon: The first major biography in English of Vladimir Lenin in twenty years, Victor Sebestyen’s riveting work draws on newly available archives and the author’s gift for sustaining a highly suspenseful narrative to present a far-reaching and very human portrait of the father of the Russian Communist state.
Ruth Franklin received the 2017 Plutarch Award from Plutarch Award Committee chair John A. Farrell.
Ruth Franklin won the 2017 Plutarch Award for Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life. Members of Biographers International Organization selected the winning book, which was announced at the Eighth Annual BIO Conference on May 20 at Emerson College in Boston. The Shirley Jackson bio had previously won several other honors, most notably the 2016 National Book Critics Circle Award for Biography.
Offering her thanks for the award, Franklin said, “It’s really humbling to receive an award named after Plutarch.” She said that before this year’s event in Boston, she looked back at her notes from past conferences and realized how much she had learned from so many of the people with her in the room. Being part of BIO and a women’s biographers group in New York has shown her, “We aren’t in any way alone in what we do.”
At her first BIO Conference in 2014, Franklin said, she was too shy and intimidated to introduce herself to the big-name biographers she found herself surrounded by; she just “gazed adoringly” at Stacy Schiff, that year’s BIO Award winner, which Franklin joked might have led Schiff to believe she was a stalker. Now, Franklin is preparing an interview with Schiff for the Paris Review. She said she and Schiff discussed how there’s no instruction manual for biographers, everyone approaches the craft a little differently, and that biographers “all have to learn from each other.”
The Plutarch Award Committee originally chose ten semi-finalists before selecting four finalists for the 2017 prize. The other finalists were:
- Guilty Thing: A Life of Thomas De Quincey by Frances Wilson
- Hitler: Ascent, 1889–1939 by Volker Ullrich, translated by Jefferson Chase
- Louisa: The Extraordinary Life of Mrs. Adams by Louisa Thomas
You can see the complete list of this year’s semi-finalists and past winners here
A distinguished panel of judges made up of members of Biographers International Organization (BIO) has selected the four finalists for the 2017 Plutarch Award. The Plutarch is the only international literary award presented to a biography by biographers. BIO members around the world will now vote for the winning biography from among those four distinguished books, honoring a writer who has achieved distinction in the craft. The winner will be announced on May 20 at the Eighth Annual BIO Conference at Emerson College in Boston.
To see the four finalists, go here.
Rosemary Sullivan won the 2016 Plutarch Award for Stalin’s Daughter: The Extraordinary and Tumultuous Life of Svetlana Alliluyeva. Read more about the Plutarch, this year’s semi-finalists, and the winners of special awards for excellence here, and look for more on Sullivan and her honor in the July issue of The Biographer’s Craft.
BIO is proud to announce the four finalists for the 2015 Plutarch Award — the world’s only literary award presented by biographers, to biography.
The four finalists for the 2015 Plutarch Award are (alphabetical by author):
- The President and the Apprentice: Eisenhower and Nixon, 1952-1961 by Irwin F. Gellman (Yale)
- Sam Phillips: The Man Who Invented Rock’n’Roll by Peter Guralnick (Little, Brown)
- Custer’s Trials: A Life on the Frontier of a New America by T.J. Stiles (Knopf)
- Stalin’s Daughter: The Extraordinary and Tumultuous Life of Svetlana Alliluyeva by Rosemary Sullivan (Harper)
In February, BIO’s Plutarch Committee – an esteemed group of BIO members, chaired by biographer and historian Douglas Brinkley – kicked off this year’s Plutarch selection process by naming ten outstanding nominees. (If you missed the announcement, you can see the list right here.) And now, after further deliberation by the committee, that list has been winnowed down to the four finalists – one of which will be chosen as the Best Biography of 2015.
BIO members in good standing will now be asked to cast their vote for the Plutarch Award winner. Voting will remain open until midnight on May 15, 2016, to give members plenty of time to read any of the four books before making a decision.
The winner will be announced on Saturday, June 4, at the Seventh Annual BIO Conference in Richmond, Virginia. (Still haven’t registered for the conference? You can do that right here.)
A distinguished panel of judges made up of members of Biographers International Organization (BIO) has selected ten nominees for the 2015 Plutarch Award. The Plutarch is the only international literary award presented to biography, by biographers.
Following the announcement of the ten nominees, BIO’s Plutarch Committee will next narrow the list to four finalists. BIO members around the world will vote for the winning biography from among these four distinguished books, honoring a writer who has achieved distinction in the art of biography.
This year’s ten nominees, in alphabetical order by title, are:
- Clementine: The Life of Mrs. Winston Churchill by Sonia Purnell (Viking)
- Custer’s Trials: A Life on the Frontier of a New America by T.J. Stiles (Knopf)
- Empire of Self: A Life of Gore Vidal by Jay Parini (Doubleday)
- Hannah Arendt: A Life in Dark Times by Anne Heller (New Harvest)
- Irrepressible: A Jazz Age Life of Henrietta Bingham by Emily Bingham (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
- Lady Bird and Lyndon: The Hidden Story of a Marriage, by Betty Boyd Caroli (Simon & Schuster)
- The President and the Apprentice: Eisenhower and Nixon 1952-1961,
by Irwin F. Gellman (Yale)
- Restless Ambition: Grace Hartigan, Painter, by Cathy Curtis (Oxford)
- Sam Phillips: The Man Who Invented Rock ’n’ Roll, by Peter Guralnick (Little, Brown)
- Stalin’s Daughter: The Extraordinary and Tumultuous Life of Svetlana Alliluyeva,
by Rosemary Sullivan (Harper)
BIO first presented the Plutarch Award in 2013. Previous winners, in chronological order, are:
- Robert Caro, The Passage of Power: The Years of Lyndon Johnson
- Linda Leavell, Holding On Upside Down: The Life and Work of Marianne Moore
- Hermione Lee, Penelope Fitzgerald: A Life.
You can find more information about the award and past nominees here.
The BIO Plutarch Award Committee members for 2016 are:
Douglas Brinkley, Chair
Deirdre A. David
John Aloysius Farrell
The winning biography will be announced at the 7th Annual BIO Conference on Saturday, June 4, in Richmond, Virginia.