biography

While Joe Kennedy was grooming his sons for the White House and the Senate, his Stanford-educated daughter Eunice was tapping her father’s fortune and her brothers’ political power to engineer one of the great civil rights movements of our time on behalf of millions of children and adults with intellectual disabilities.

Now, in "Eunice," Pulitzer Prize winner Eileen McNamara finally brings Eunice Kennedy Shriver out from her brothers’ shadow.

Patricia O’Toole is the author of "When Trumpets Call: Theodore Roosevelt after the White House," and "The Five of Hearts: An Intimate Portrait of Henry Adams and His Friends," which was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize.

Her latest book, "The Moralist: Woodrow Wilson and the World He Made," is a biography of one of the most high-minded, consequential, and controversial US presidents, Woodrow Wilson (1856-1924). "The Moralist" is a cautionary tale about the perils of moral vanity and American overreach in foreign affairs.

It's impossible to know what the American Musical would be without the fateful partnership of Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein. Their first collaboration, "Oklahoma!," opened at The St. James Theatre on Broadway 75 years ago.

Todd S. Purdum’s new book, "Something Wonderful: Rodgers and Hammerstein's Broadway Revolution," is a portrait of these two men, their creative process, and their groundbreaking innovations.

"Fragile Explosion: Nina Simone" is a world premiere production by Passing the Torch Through the Arts.

Nina Simone, known as The High Priestess of Soul, was a pop star and celebrity in the 1960s. Her career was up-ended because of her key role in the Civil Rights movement. “Fragile Explosion” follows Simone from her beginnings in North Carolina to international stardom, through successes and personal failures, and through her struggle with and triumph over mental illness.

Thomas E. Ricks is an adviser on national security at the New America Foundation, where he participates in its "Future of War" project. He was previously a fellow at the Center for a New American Security and is a contributing editor of Foreign Policy magazine, for which he writes the prizewinning blog The Best Defense. A member of two Pulitzer Prize-winning teams, he covered U.S. military activities in Somalia, Haiti, Korea, Bosnia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Kuwait, Turkey, Afghanistan, and Iraq.

His newest book, "Churchill and Orwell: The Fight For Freedom," is now available in paperback.

Both George Orwell and Winston Churchill came close to death in the mid-1930's and if they'd died then, history would scarcely remember them. At the time, Churchill was a politician on the outs and Orwell was a mildly successful novelist. No one would have predicted that by the end of the 20th century they would be considered two of the most important people in British history for having the vision and courage to campaign tirelessly against totalitarian threats.

No writer plunged more wholeheartedly into the chaotic energies of the 1960s than Norman Mailer, as he fearlessly revolutionized literary norms and genres to capture the political, social, and sexual explosions of an unsettled era.

Library of America has released a new boxed set of Mailer's work from that decade. There are two novels, two booklength masterpieces of new journalism, and thirty-three essays.

J. Michael Lennon emeritus professor of English at Wilkes University, is Norman Mailer's editor and biographer, and president of the Mailer Society. His books include "Norman Mailer: A Double Life" and "Selected Letters of Norman Mailer."

It has been one hundred years since Agatha Christie wrote her first novel and created the formidable Hercule Poirot. Award winning biographer, Laura Thompson now turns her sharp eye to Agatha Christie. Arguably the greatest crime writer in the world, Christie's books still sell over four million copies each year - more than thirty years after her death - and sales show no signs of slowing.

But who was the woman behind these mystifying, yet eternally pleasing, puzzlers? Thompson's book is "Agatha Christie: A Mysterious Life."

Sandra Allen did not know her uncle Bob very well. As a child, she had been told he was “crazy,” that he had spent time in mental hospitals while growing up in Berkeley in the 60s and 70s. But Bob had lived a hermetic life in a remote part of California for longer than she had been alive, and what little she knew of him came from rare family reunions or odd, infrequent phone calls.

Then in 2009 Bob mailed her his autobiography. Typewritten in all caps, a stream of error-riddled sentences over sixty, single-spaced pages, the often incomprehensible manuscript proclaimed to be a “true story” about being “labeled a psychotic paranoid schizophrenic,” and arrived with a plea to help him get his story out to the world.

In "A Kind of Mirraculas Paradise," Allen translates her uncle’s autobiography, creating a gripping coming-of-age story while sticking faithfully to the facts as he shared them.

Brad Gooch is a poet, novelist, and biographer, whose most recent book is Rumi's Secret: The Life of the Sufi Poet of Love. He is the author of ten previous works, including: the memoir Smash Cut; the acclaimed biography of Frank O'Hara, City Poet; and Flannery: A Life of Flannery O'Connor, which was a finalist for a National Book Critics Circle Award in Biography, a New York Times Notable Book of the Year, and New York Times best seller. The recipient of National Endowment for the Humanities and Guggenheim fellowships, he earned his Ph.D. at Columbia University and is Professor of English at William Paterson University in New Jersey.

In Rumi's Secret, Gooch brings to life the man and puts a face to the name Rumi, vividly coloring in his time and place—a world as rife with conflict as our own.

Ali: A Life

Feb 7, 2018

He was the wittiest, the prettiest, the strongest, the bravest, and, of course, the greatest (as he told us himself). Muhammad Ali was one of the twentieth century’s most fantastic figures and arguably the most famous man on the planet.

But until now, he has never been the subject of a complete, unauthorized biography. Jonathan Eig, hailed by Ken Burns as one of America’s master storytellers, radically reshapes our understanding of the complicated man who was Ali. Eig had access to all the key people in Ali’s life, including his three surviving wives and his managers. He conducted more than 500 interviews and uncovered thousands of pages of previously unreleased FBI and Justice Department files, as well dozens of hours of newly discovered audiotaped interviews from the 1960s. Collectively, they tell Ali’s story like never before—the story of a man who was flawed and uncertain and brave beyond belief.

Jonathan Eig is the author of five books, three of them New York Times best sellers. His newest book is Ali: A Life.

The story of Jann Wenner, Rolling Stone's founder, editor, and publisher, and the pioneering era he helped curate, is told in "Sticky Fingers: The Life and Times of Jann Wenner and Rolling Stone Magazine."

Joe Hagan provides readers with a backstage pass supplemented by a cache of extraordinary documents and letters from Wenner's personal archives.

Griffin Dunne
Chronogram Magazine

Joan Didion: The Center Will Not Hold is a biographical documentary featuring the life of influential American writer, Joan Didion. Directed by Joan's nephew, Griffin Dunne, the film enlightens the viewer with an unprecedented, intimate perspective on Joan's life and career accomplishments.

The film features interviews from Joan herself, as well as close family and friends, interwoven with contextual archival footage/stills to visualize Joan's astute writing. Joan, famous for bringing order to disorder through her words, exposes, examines and divulges the most pivotal events in American history, making her one of the most recognizable and influential voices within the literary world. The story of this film not only considers Joan Didion the writer, but gives light to Joan Didion, the individual. 

The film will be screened at Upstate Films in Rhinebeck, NY on October 13th at 5:45pm as part of the Woodstock Film Festival with a Q & A to follow with Griffin Dunne. 

John A. Farrell is the author of Clarence Darrow: Attorney for the Damned, which won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Biography, and Tip O'Neill and the Democratic Century. A longtime journalist, he worked at The Denver Post and at The Boston Globe, where he served as White House correspondent and on the vaunted Spotlight team.

His book is Richard Nixon: The Life.

Otis Redding remains an immortal presence in the canon of American music on the strength of such classic hits as “(Sittin’ on) The Dock of the Bay,” “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long,” “Try a Little Tenderness,” and “Respect,” a song he wrote and recorded before Aretha Franklin made it her own.

As the architect of the distinctly southern, gospel-inflected style of rhythm & blues associated with Stax Records in Memphis, Redding made music that has long served as the gold standard of 1960s soul. Yet an aura of myth and mystery has always surrounded his life, which was tragically cut short at the height of his career by a plane crash in December 1967.

Jonathan Gould is author of the new book: Otis Redding: An Unfinished Life – a major new biography of The King of Soul, timed to coincide with the 50th anniversary of Redding's iconic performance at the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival.

Jonathan Gould will be at: The Inquiring Mind Bookstore in Saugerties on August 12th; The Spencertown Academy Festival of Books on September 2nd.

In Reagan Rising: The Decisive Years, 1976-1980, New York Times bestselling biographer Craig Shirley charts Ronald Reagan’s astonishing rise from the ashes of his lost 1976 presidential bid to overwhelming victory in 1980. American conservatism—and the nation itself—would never be the same.

As a player, Charles Dillon "Casey" Stengel's contemporaries included Babe Ruth, Honus Wagner, and Christy Mathewson . . . and he was the only person in history to wear the uniforms of all four New York teams: the Dodgers, Giants, Yankees, and Mets.

As a legendary manager, he formed indelible, complicated relationships with Yogi Berra, Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, and Billy Martin. For more than five glorious decades, Stengel was the undisputed, quirky, hilarious, and beloved face of baseball--and along the way he revolutionized the role of manager while winning a spectacular ten pennants and seven World Series Championships.  

But for a man who spent so much of his life in the limelight--an astounding fifty-five years in professional baseball--Stengel remains an enigma. Acclaimed New York Yankees' historian and bestselling author Marty Appel digs into Casey Stengel's quirks and foibles, unearthing a tremendous trove of baseball stories, perspective, and history. His new biography is: Casey Stengel: Baseball’s Greatest Character.

  In Identity Unknown, Donna Seaman brings to life seven forgotten female artists, among the best of their day: Gertrude Abercrombie, with her dark, surreal paintings and friendships with Dizzy Gillespie and Sonny Rollins; Bay Area self-portraitist Joan Brown; Ree Morton, with her witty, oddly beautiful constructions; Loïs Mailou Jones of the Harlem Renaissance; Lenore Tawney, who combined weaving and sculpture when art and craft were considered mutually exclusive; Christina Ramberg, whose unsettling works drew on pop culture and advertising; and Louise Nevelson, an art-world superstar in her heyday but omitted from recent surveys of her era.

Donna Seaman is Editor, Adult Books, Booklist, a member of the advisory council for the American Writers Museum, and a recipient of the James Friend Memorial Award for Literary Criticism and the Studs Terkel Humanities Service Award. 

She will be at Oblong Books and Music in Rhinebeck on Saturday, February 25.

To coincide with the bicentennial of Henry David Thoreau's birth, naturalist and historian Kevin Dann has written a biography that fills a gap in our understanding of one modern history's most important spiritual visionaries by capturing the full arc of Thoreau's life as a mystic, spiritual seeker, and explorer in transcendental realms.

The book is Expect Great Things: The Life and Search of Henry David Thoreau.

He was the Wicked Wilson Pickett, the legendary soul man whose forty-plus hits included "In the Midnight Hour," "Land of 1000 Dances," "Mustang Sally," and "Don't Let the Green Grass Fool You." Remarkably handsome and with the charisma to match, Wilson Pickett was considered by many to be the greatest, the most visceral and sensual of the classic 1960s soul singers, and as a man who turned screaming into an art form, the most forceful of them all. He was the living embodiment of soul.
 

More than that, Wilson Pickett's journey reads like a guide to popular black American music in the late 20th century.  

For this first-ever accounting of Wilson Pickett's life, bestselling biographer Tony Fletcher interviewed members of the singer's family, friends and partners, along with dozens of his studio and touring musicians. Offering equal attention to Pickett's personal and professional life, with detailed insight into his legendary studio sessions and his combative road style, In the Midnight Hour: The Life and Soul of Wilson Pickett is the essential telling of an epic life.

Kenneth Clark's thirteen-part 1969 television series, Civilisation, established him as a globally admired figure. Clark was prescient in making this series: the upheavals of the century, the Cold War among others, convinced him of the power of barbarism and the fragility of culture. He would burnish his image with two memoirs that artfully omitted the more complicated details of his life.

Now, drawing on a vast, previously unseen archive, James Stourton reveals the formidable intellect and the private man behind the figure who effortlessly dominated the art world for more than half a century: his privileged upbringing, his interest in art history beginning at Oxford, his remarkable early successes.

At 27 he was keeper of Western Art at the Ashmolean in Oxford and at 29, the youngest director of The National Gallery. During the war he arranged for its entire collection to be hidden in slate mines in Wales and organized packed concerts of classical music at the Gallery to keep up the spirits of Londoners during the bombing. WWII helped shape his belief that art should be brought to the widest audience, a social and moral position that would inform the rest of his career.

In The Wars of the Roosevelts: The Ruthless Rise of America's Greatest Political Family, William J. Mann presents a modern revisionist biographical history of one of America’s greatest and most influential families—the Roosevelts—exposing heretofore unknown family secrets and detailing complex family rivalries with his signature cinematic flair.

In Some Writer! Melissa Sweet mixes White’s personal letters, photos, and family ephemera with her own exquisite artwork to tell his story, from his birth in 1899 to his death in 1985. The book is an authorized tribute and is the first fully illustrated biography of E. B. White.

Melissa Sweet is the Caldecott Honor-winning illustrator of many fine children's books including Balloons Over Broadway, a Sibert winner, and The Right Word and A River of Words, both Caldecott Honors.

To have been alive during the last sixty years is to have lived with the music of Paul Simon. The boy from Queens scored his first hit record in 1957, just months after Elvis Presley ignited the rock era. As the songwriting half of Simon & Garfunkel, his work helped define the youth movement of the '60s.

On his own in the '70s, Simon made radio-dominating hits. He kicked off the '80s by reuniting with Garfunkel to perform for half a million New Yorkers in Central Park. Five years later, Simon’s album Graceland sold millions and spurred an international political controversy. And it doesn’t stop there.

Simon has also lived one of the most vibrant lives of modern times; a story replete with tales of Carrie Fisher, Leonard Bernstein, Bob Dylan, Woody Allen, Shelley Duvall, Nelson Mandela, drugs, depression, marriage, divorce, and more. A life story with the scope and power of an epic novel, Peter Ames Carlin’s new book - Homeward Bound is the first major biography of one of the most influential popular artists in American history. 

Ray Kroc was peddling franchises around the country for a fledgling hamburger stand in the 1950s - McDonald’s, it was called - when he entered a St. Paul supper club and encountered a beautiful young piano player named Joan who would change his life forever.

Just as their relationship twisted and turned dramatically, the fortunes of Ray’s new business came perilously close to failure.  Ultimately Ray wrested control of McDonald’s from the original founders; in short order the successful burger stand in the desert of California would be transformed into a stock market sensation and international brand.

To the outside world, Ray and Joan were happy, enormously rich, and giving. But privately, Joan was growing troubled over Ray’s temper and dark secret, something she was reluctant to publicly reveal. And yet, this volatility paved the way for Joan’s transformation into one of the greatest philanthropists of our time.

Journalist Lisa Napoli’s new book is: Ray & Joan: The Man Who Made the McDonald's Fortune and the Woman Who Gave It All Away. 

  Nora Ephron was a phenomenal personality, journalist, essayist, novelist, playwright, Oscar-nominated screenwriter, and movie director (Sleepless in SeattleYou’ve Got MailWhen Harry Met SallyHeartburnJulie & Julia). She wrote a slew of bestsellers (I Feel Bad About My Neck: And Other Thoughts on Being a Woman; I Remember Nothing: And Other Reflections; Scribble, Scribble: Notes on the Media; Crazy Salad: Some Things About Women). She was celebrated by Hollywood, embraced by literary New York, and adored by legions of fans throughout the world.

Award-winning journalist Richard Cohen, writes about about his friend in his “third-person memoir,” She Made Me Laugh.

  Mary Martin was one of the greatest stars of her day. Growing up in Texas, she was married early to Benjamin Hagman and gave birth to her first child, Larry Hagman. She was divorced even more quickly. Martin left little Larry with her parents and took off for Hollywood. She didn't make a dent in the movie industry and was lured to New York where she found herself auditioning for Cole Porter. Six years later, she became the Toast of Broadway when she starred in South Pacific. After that, she flew as Peter Pan, yodeled in The Sound of Music, took Hello, Dolly! on the road and shared a four-poster with Robert Preston in I Do! I Do!.

Her personal life was just as interesting and it's all covered in David Kaufman's book, Some Enchanted Evenings: The Glittering Life and Times of Mary Martin.

  George W. Bush, the forty-third president of the United States, almost singlehandedly decided to invade Iraq. It was possibly the worst foreign-policy decision ever made by a president. The consequences dominated the Bush Administration and still haunt us today.

In Bush, Jean Edward Smith, demonstrates that it was not Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, or Condoleezza Rice, but President Bush himself who took personal control of foreign policy.

  Mark Zwonitzer is an author and award-winning documentary filmmaker. 

His new book The Statesman and the Storyteller, is a dual biography covering the last ten years of the lives of friends and contemporaries, writer Samuel Clemens (aka Mark Twain) and statesman John Hay (who served as secretary of state under presidents William McKinley and Theodore Roosevelt), The Statesman and the Storyteller not only provides an intimate look into the daily lives of these men but also creates an elucidating portrait of the United States on the verge of emerging as a world power.

  In the summer of 1925, The New Yorker was struggling to survive its first year in print. They took a chance on a young cartoonist who was about to give up his career as an artist. His name was Peter Arno, and his witty social commentary, blush-inducing content, and compositional mastery brought a cosmopolitan edge to the magazine’s pages—a vitality that would soon cement The New Yorker as one of the world’s most celebrated publications.

Alongside New Yorker luminaries such as E.B. White, James Thurber, and founding editor Harold Ross, Arno is one of the select few who made the magazine the cultural touchstone it is today.

In his new biography of one of The New Yorker’s first geniuses, New Yorker cartoonist Michael Maslin dives into Arno’s rocky relationship with the magazine, his fiery marriage to the columnist Lois Long, and his tabloid-cover altercations involving pistols, fists, and barely-legal debutantes.

Michael Maslin’s cartoons have been appearing in The New Yorker for nearly forty years. He is the author or coauthor of eight books of cartoons. His new biography is: Peter Arno: The Mad, Mad World of The New Yorker's Greatest Cartoonist.

  Charlotte Brontë famously lived her entire life in an isolated parsonage on a remote English moor with a demanding father and siblings whose astonishing childhood creativity was a closely held secret.

Drawing on letters unavailable to previous biographers, Harman depicts Charlotte’s inner life with absorbing, almost novelistic intensity in her new book, Charlotte Brontë: A Fiery Heart.

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