Saturday, January 2, 2010

Best Biographies of 2009 -part two

The list of Best Biographies of 2009 continues...

Some lives have such a profound impact that they can sustain interest in each generation. Angels and Ages: a short book about Darwin, Lincoln, and modern life by Adam Gopnik explores the lives of Lincoln and Darwin who happened to be born on the same day. This book celebrates the 200th anniversary of their births). Both were to have influence which continues to be important.

Similarly, The Bard: Robert Burns by Robert Crawford (again, another anniversary book) explores the life of this beloved poet. Crawford examines newly found documents which include love letters never before seen.

Readers may be less familiar with the details of the life of Cornelius Vanderbilt (The First Tycoon: the epic life of Cornelius Vanderbilt by T. J. Stiles). Vanderbilt was a major influence on modern capitalism.

And other biographies of note:

Judas: a biography. by Susan Gubar.

The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe by J. Randy Taraborrelli


Some lives may not have a direct impact on history, but rather illustrate a particular time in history. The Bolter by Frances Osborne is the story of Idina Sackville who was a socialite in Edwardian and post World War One England. She shocked society with her affairs and drug fueled lifestyle. Abandoning her husband and children, she fled to Africa marrying many more times.

In a similar vein, The Lady in Red: an Eighteenth Century tale of sex, scandal and divorce by Hallie Rubenhold, tells the story of Dorothy and Richard Worsley. Details of the divorce and scandalous behaviour provides an entertaining look at Georgian England.

Though in more contemporary times (Root died in 2006) Wildflower: an extraordinary life and untimely death in Africa by Mark Seal tells the story of Joan Root, an Kenyan conservationist. Sadly, her death brings to mind Dian Fossey and propels her story to the world's attention.

The only living entertainers on my list this year are Tom Waits (The Lowside of the Road: A life of Tom Waits by Barney Hoskyns) and Pete Seeger (The Protest Singer: an intimate portrait of Pete Seeger by Alex Wilkinson). Hoskyns examines Waits' eclectic and influential career which spans four decades. Nonagenarian Seeger, musician and civil rights/anti-war/environmental activist, is the subject of Wilkinson's affectionate biography.

These books were selected using, The Globe and Mail and Quill and Quire.

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