Robert Caro Snags Plutarch Award

In a year in which he was passed over by the Pulitzer Prize Committee, Robert Caro won the Plutarch Award for the best biography of 2102 for The Passage of Power, published by Knopf.

Named after the ancient Greek biographer, the prize was launched this year with major support from the Chappell Great Lives Program at the University of Mary Washington. It is intended to be our genre’s equivalent of the Oscar in that the winner was (and will be) determined by secret ballot by BIO members from a list of nominees selected by a committee of distinguished members of the craft.

The winner, along with the three finalists, was revealed at the end of the Compleat Biographer cConference. Nigel Hamilton, a biographer of presidents Kennedy and Clinton, and Debby Applegate, the Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer of Henry Ward Beecher, opened envelopes containing the names of the winners before a crowd of writers in the Roosevelt Hotel.

The finalists for the 2012 Plutarch Award were:

  •  Alice Kessler-Harris, A Difficult Woman:, The Challenging Life and Times of Lillian Hellman (Bloomsbury Press)
  •  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)

Competition for the prize was impressive. Two of the finalists were also Pulitzer Prize-winning authors. A complete list of the nominees can be found here.

The members of the Plutarch Nomination Committee were :

  • Chip Bishop
  • Josh Kendall
  • Vanda Krefft
  • Andrew Lownie
  • Hans Renders
  • Linda Simon
  • Barbara Lehman Smith
  • Steve Weinberg
  • Brian Jay Jones, ex officio
  • William Crawley, ex officio

Caro was in Texas doing research for the next volume of his LBJ biography. Accepting the award from BIO president Morris and past president Nigel Hamilton on his behalf was Katherine Hourigan, managing editor of Knopf. You can see a video of her speech here.