Highlights of Spring and Summer Biographies
While publishing insiders may say that the overall selection of new biographies coming out this spring and summer is not as impressive as last year’s stellar crop, the range of subjects—some tried and true, some getting their first major due—should satisfy the most discriminating readers. Here are some books most likely to receive considerable attention in the coming months. You can see a longer list of upcoming releases here.
A literary biography is one of the most notable books in March, Clair Harman’s Charlotte Brontë: A Fiery Heart. Another March release garnering attention is Rightful Heritage: Franklin D. Roosevelt and the Land of America by Douglas Brinkley.
Books about two literary figures, one from each side of the manuscript, are among the highlights for April: The Lady with the Borzoi: Blanche Knopf, Literary Tastemaker Extraordinaire by Laura Claridge and Chasing the Last Laugh: Mark Twain’s Raucous and Redemptive Round-the-World Comedy Tour by Richard Zacks. April also brings us biographies on two of Hollywood’s most talented stars, Her Again: Becoming Meryl Streep by Michael Schulman and Barbra Streisand: Redefining Beauty, Femininity, and Power by Neal Gabler. Staying in the world of entertainment, Simon Callow publishes the third volume of his biography of Orson Welles, One-Man Band (a fourth volume is still to come).
Moving to magazine publishing, the first of two battling bios about Helen Gurley Brown comes out in April, Brooke Hauser’s Enter Helen: The Invention of Helen Gurley Brown and the Rise of the Modern Single Woman. (Its competitor, Not Pretty Enough: The Unlikely Triumph of Helen Gurley Brown by Gerri Hirshey comes out in July.) Rounding out April, the long shelf of books about TR gets another addition with The Naturalist: Theodore Roosevelt, A Lifetime of Exploration, and the Triumph of American Natural History by Darrin Lunde.
Speaking of subjects whom readers can’t seem to get enough of, May’s highlights include Sidney Blumenthal’s A Self-Made Man: The Political Life of Abraham Lincoln, 1809–1849. A less-well known subject is sure to draw attention this spring with Jill Lepore’s Joe Gould’s Teeth. A notable university press release is Robert Parris Moses: A Life in Civil Rights and Leadership at the Grassroots by Laura Visser-Maessen. And turning to the world of pop culture, a musical titan gets time in the spotlight in Philip Norman’s Paul McCartney: The Life. Later in the season, Mark Ribowsky looks at another pop music icon in Sweet Dreams and Flying Machines: The Life and Music of James Taylor.
Heading into the summer months, June sees new works on two great military minds, William Tecumseh Sherman: In the Service of My Country: A Life by James Lee McDonough and Douglas MacArthur: American Warrior by Arthur Herman. Moving from war to affairs of the heart, Michael Shelden brings us Melville in Love: The Secret Life of Herman Melville and the Muse of Moby-Dick. Another notable book in June is The Man Who Built the Sierra Club: A Life of David Brower by Robert Wyss.
Another group of subjects who inspire no shortage of biographies is the Kennedy family. July brings Larry Tye’s Bobby Kennedy: The Making of a Liberal Icon, and the first of two books this summer on Kathleen “Kick” Kennedy, who died in 1948 at 28: Kick: The True Story of JFK’s Sister and the Heir to Chatsworth by Paula Byrne. The competing title, Kick Kennedy: The Charmed Life and Tragic Death of the Favorite Kennedy Daughter by Barbara Leaming, comes out in August. The death of a subject can stir interest in a biography, so the passing of Harper Lee last month should bring attention to Charles J. Shields’s Mockingbird: A Portrait of Harper Lee: From Scout to Go Set a Watchman, an updating of his earlier Lee biography.
Finally, while for most sports fans August means heated pennant races and the coming of football season, Roland Lazenby’s new book should have them thinking about basketball with his Showboat: The Life of Kobe Bryant.