Top Ten Biographies
1. Barack Obama: The Untold Story, by David Maraniss. Maraniss’ story begins before Obama was born and ends before he enter politics, covering the family histories of the Dunhams of Kansas and the Obamas of Kenya.
2. Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman, by Robert K. Massie. Best-selling master biographer Massie’s gorgeously detailed portrait of Catherine the Great seems destined to attain the classic status of his Nicholas and Alexandra (1967).
3. A Difficult Woman: The Challenging Life and Times of Lillian Hellman, by Alice Kessler-Harris. Renowned historian Kessler-Harris takes a penetrating look at Hellman’s life and impact as a sharp-tongued, quick-witted, and notorious woman playwright who defied convention.
4. George F. Kennan: An American Life, by John Lewis Gaddis. In this definitive portrait, eminent historian Gaddis illuminates the inner life of the enigmatic and sensitive diplomat and historian Kennan as he expertly chronicles his achievements.
5. John Houston: Courage and Art, by Jeffrey Meyers. Veteran biographer Meyers’ multifaceted and avidly informative picture of legendary movie director John Houston reveals how a flawed man produced so many nearly flawless films.
6. Just One Catch: A Biography of Joseph Heller, by Tracy Daugherty. Daugherty is the first to tell in full the life story of the prophetic, contradictory, and audacious Heller as he traces the creation of Heller’s classic satirical war novel, Catch-22, and other works.
7. Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention, by Manning Marable. Electric with recovered facts and jolting revelations, late, esteemed history professor Marable’s biography is the most incisive portrait yet of the complicated, controversial, and enormously influential spiritual and political leader Malcolm X.
8. The Passage of Power: The Years of Lyndon Johnson, by Robert Caro. The riveting fourth volume in Caro’s acclaimed Years of Lyndon Johnson series addresses questions of power during Johnson’s failed presidential campaign of 1960, his three frustrating years as vice president, and his dramatic assumption of the presidency.
9. Steve Jobs, by Walter Isaacson. Isaacson’s robust biography tracks Job’s life, serves as a history of digital technology, and turns the story of a man who believed that reality is malleable into an archetypal tale of a flawed hero, noble quest, holy grail, and death of a king.
10. Tolstoy: A Russian Life, by Rosamund Battlett. Battlett eschews critique to focus on Tolstoy’s actions, rationales, and the reactions he elicited in admirably direct prose in a biography that should be the first resort for everyone drawn to its titanic subject.