| Nov 27, 2011
She rejected the title by which posterity knows her, preferring always to conceal her steely ambition and regal pride under a mask of modesty and service. Yet "Catherine the Great" was indeed an apt sobriquet for the subject of Robert K. Massie's latest...
| Aug 31, 2012
| 8:22 AM
For 45 years pop star Elton John has left the writing to lyricists such as Bernie Taupin, Gary Osborne and Tim Rice. A cursory examination of the few songs with his own lyrics, such as 1978's "Flintstone Boy," strongly suggests he made the right decision....
| Sep 30, 2011
| 2:45 PM
Heartbroken by my failure to hear biographer Stacy Schiff speak when she was in Chicago last week, I lassoed her by email to discuss one of my favorite subjects: biography.
Q: What is essential to the perfect biography subject?
A: In an ideal world, the...
| Oct 12, 2011
| 1:53 PM
A deceased biographer and a first-time bestselling novelist are among the finalists for the 2011 National Book Awards. Five finalists in four categories – fiction, nonfiction, poetry and young people's literature – were announced Wednesday...
| Dec 9, 2011
| 10:08 AM
When architect and design firm owner Steve Kadlec was asked recently whether bookshelves were becoming obsolete in the iPad age, he wisecracked: "Who reads books? We buy them for pretty!"
He was only half-joking. With digital competition, hardcover books...
| Oct 28, 2011
| 3:51 PM
Every writer has two lives: The life that contains elements common to all lives — birth and death and everything in between — and a second life. The second life is another thing entirely. It consists of the world's reaction to the writer's...
| Oct 28, 2011
| 5:39 PM
He was an abandoned child who grew up with the unshakable belief that he was destined to be a prince. How arrogant and sensible of him.
His personal hygiene was bad. He often wore no shoes and liked to stick his feet in the toilet. His food faddery was...
| Aug 23, 2012
| 1:57 PM
David Maraniss, a longtime journalist with The Washington Post, wrote “First In His Class,” a seminal biography of former President Bill Clinton, after winning the 1993 Pulitzer Prize in national reporting for his newspaper stories on Clinton....
| Jul 12, 2012
| 3:26 PM
Walter Cronkite was not inclined to introspection, and historian Douglas Brinkley emulates his subject in this thorough biography of the news broadcaster who in 1972 was declared "The Most Trusted Man in America."
Brinkley's lengthy narrative spends as...
| Nov 3, 2010
| 3:19 PM
"Joe Louis: Hard Times Man"
By Randy Roberts
Yale University Press, 308 pages, $27.50
Joe Louis was a titan, the undisputed heavyweight champion for more than twelve years (and a record 23 title defenses) and, probably, the greatest American hero of...
| Oct 22, 2010
| 2:36 PM
"Grant Wood: A Life"
By R. Tripp Evans
Knopf, $37.50, 432 pages
Controversy attended Grant Wood's iconic and enigmatic painting "American Gothic" from its first public viewing, a juried exhibition at the Art Institute of Chicago in 1930. The depiction...
| Nov 22, 2011
| 12:45 PM
When ABC Sports guru Roone Arledge was suggesting Howard Cosell for "Monday Night Football," NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle replied: "Cosell? Why don't you just dig up Attila the Hun?"
Such was the reaction generated by modern broadcasting's first...