Friday, January 02, 2009

Best of Biography 2008: Seven Lists

At the end of the year, many publications issue their "best of the year" lists. Looking at the lists for 2008, you will see that biographies and memoirs claimed a lot of spots. You'll also notice that there is little agreement between lists, as most of the titles mentioned make only one list. There is even less agreement about memoirs as there is in third-person biography. As a reader this is great, for there are many titles from which to choose. As a librarian from a small library with limited funds, it is tough. How can we ever get all the good books. We can't. It is good we belong to a large consortium.

I identify the biographies and memoirs from seven well-known sources below. There should be something for almost any reader here, including family biographies, such as The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family (in four of the lists) and The Bid Ladens: An Arabian Family in an American Century.

There are several group or collective biographies, as well, including Capitol Men: The Epic Story of Reconstruction Through the Lives of the First Black Congressmen and Girls Like Us: Carole King, Joni Mitchell, Carly Simon—and the Journey of a Generation.

Memoirs The Night of the Gun: A Reporter Investigates the Darkest Story of His Life--His Own and The Suicide Index: Putting My Father's Death in Order make three of the lists.

The final list, Kirkus Reviews Top Picks for Reading Groups 2008, includes only memoirs and no third-party biographies.


Amazon Editors' Picks: Top 100 Books of 2008

Biography
The Last Campaign: Robert F. Kennedy and 82 Days That Inspired America
Thurston Clarke

Sitting Bull
Bill Yenne

The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family
Annette Gordon-Reed

The Irregulars: Roald Dahl and the British Spy Ring in Wartime Washington
Jennet Conant

Nixonland: The Rise of a President and the Fracturing of America
Rick Perlstein

The Chris Farley Show: A Biography in Three Acts
Tom Farley

The Snowball: Warren Buffett and the Business of Life
Alice Schroeder

Traitor to His Class: The Privileged Life and Radical Presidency of Franklin Delano Roosevelt
H.W. Brands

Angler: The Cheney Vice Presidency
Barton Gellman



Memoirs
Collections of Nothing
William Davies King

The Thing About Life Is That One Day You'll Be Dead
David Shields

The Night of the Gun: A Reporter Investigates the Darkest Story of His Life--His Own
David Carr

The Monster of Florence
Douglas Preston

The Suicide Index: Putting My Father's Death in Order

Joan Wickersham

Beautiful Boy: A Father's Journey Through His Son's Addiction
David Sheff



New York Times 100 Notable Books of 2008

Biography
American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House
Jon Meacham.

Angler: The Cheney Vice Presidency
Barton Gellman.

Bacardi and the Long Fight for Cuba: The Biography of a Cause
Tom Gjelten

Capitol Men: The Epic Story of Reconstruction Through the Lives of the First Black Congressmen
Philip Dray

Champlain's Dream
David Hackett Fischer

Chasing the Flame: Sergio Vieira de Mello and the Fight to Save the World
Samantha Power

Condoleezza Rice: An American Life: A Biography
Elisabeth Bumiller

The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family
Annette Gordon-Reed

Nixonland: The Rise of a President and the Fracturing of America
Rick Perlstein

Nureyev: The Life
Julie Kavanagh

Shakespeare's Wife
Germaine Greer

White Heat: The Friendship of Emily Dickinson and Thomas Wentworth Higginson
Brenda Wineapple

The World Is What It Is: The Authorized Biography of V. S. Naipaul
Patrick French


Memoirs
Blood Matters: From Inherited Illness to Designer Babies, How the World and I Found Ourselves in the Future of the Gene
Masha Gessen

An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination: A Memoir
Elizabeth McCracken

Hallelujah Junction: Composing an American Life
John Adams.

The House at Sugar Beach: In Search of a Lost African Childhood
Helene Cooper

Nothing to Be Frightened Of
Julian Barnes.


The Three of Us: A Family Story
Julia Blackburn

Thrumpton Hall: A Memoir of Life in My Father’s House
Miranda Seymour




Publisher's Weekly Best Books of the Year 2008


Biography
Abraham Lincoln: A Life
Michael Burlingame


The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family
Annette Gordon-Reed


Champlain's Dream
David Hackett Fischer

The Snowball: Warren Buffett and the Business of Life
Alice Schroeder

The Open Road: The Global Journey of the 14th Dalai Lama
Pico Iyer




Memoirs
Nothing to Be Frightened Of
Julian Barnes

The Journal of Hélène Berr
Hélène Berr

The Soloist: A Lost Dream, an Unlikely Friendship, and the Redemptive Power of Music
Steve Lopez

An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination: A Memoir
Elizabeth McCracken

The Soul of the Rhino: A Nepali Adventure with Kings and Elephant Drivers, Billionaires and Bureaucrats, Shamans and Scientists, and the Indian Rhinoceros
Hemanta Mishra with Jim Ottaway Jr.

Epilogue: A Memoir
Anne Roiphe

Audition: A Memoir
Barbara Walters

My Jesus Year: A Rabbi's Son Wanders the Bible Belt in Search of His Own Faith
Benyamin Cohen

Reasons to Believe: One Man's Journey Among the Evangelicals and the Faith He Left Behind
John Marks

Acedia & Me: A Marriage, Monks, and a Writer's Life
Kathleen Norris




Library Journal Best Books 2008

Biography
The Last Flight of the Scarlet Macaw: One Woman's Fight To Save the World's Most Beautiful Bird
Bruce Barcott

Shakespeare's Wife
Germaine Greer

John Lennon: The Life
Philip Norman

Charles Fort: The Man Who Invented the Supernatural
Jim Steinmeyer

Girls Like Us: Carole King, Joni Mitchell, Carly Simon—and the Journey of a Generation
Sheila Weller


Memoirs
The Night of the Gun: A Reporter Investigates the Darkest Story of His Life. His Own.
David Carr

Split: A Memoir of Divorce
Suzanne Finnamore

Hurry Down Sunshine: A Memoir
Michael Greenberg

Books: A Memoir
Larry McMurtry



Washington Post Book World Best Books 2008

Biography
The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family
Annette Gordon-Reed

Lincoln: The Biography of a Writer
Fred Kaplan

Alfred Kazin

Richard M. Cook

American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House

Jon Meacham

Five Easy Decades
Dennis McDougal

Gerard Manley Hopkins

Paul Mariani

Ida

Paula J. Giddings

Madame de Staël
Francine du Plessix Gray

The Man Who Created Sherlock Holmes

Andrew Lycett

The Open Road

Pico Iyer

A Passion for Nature

Donald Worster

The Snowball: Warren Buffett and the Business of Life

Alice Schroeder

Stanley

Tim Jeal

Traitor to His Class: The Privileged Life and Radical Presidency of Franklin Delano Roosevelt

H.W. Brands

Tried by War

James M. McPherson

The World Is What It Is: The Authorized Biography of V. S. Naipaul

Patrick French


Memoirs
The Eaves of Heaven: A Life in Three Wars
Andrew X. Pham


Audition: A Memoir

Barbara Walters

Counselor
Ted Sorensen

From Harvey River
Lorna Goodison

Grand Obsession
Perri Knize

Hope's Boy
Andrew Bridge

Kinky Gazpacho
Lori L. Tharps

Résistance
Agnès Humbert

The Suicide Index: Putting My Father's Death in Order
Joan Wickersham


Chicago Tribune "Favorites from '08" and "2008: An Impressionistic Array of This Year's Titles"


Biography
Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family

Annette Gordon-Reed

Mr. Gatling's Terrible Marvel: The Gun That Changed Everything and the Misunderstood Genius Who Invented It
Julia Keller

Nixonland: The Rise of a President and the Fracturing of America
Rick Peristein

Traitor to His Class: The Privileged Life and Radical Presidence of Franklin Delano Roosevelt
H. W. Brands

Painter in a Savage Land: The Strange Saga of the First European Artist in North America
Miles Harvey

The Bid Ladens: An Arabian Family in an American Century
Steve Coll

Charlatan: America's Most Dangerous Huckster, the Man Who Pursued Him, and the Age of Flimflam
Pope Brock

Gerald Manley Hopkins: A Life
Paul Mariani

Ida: A Sword Among Lions: Ida B. Wells and the Campaign Against Lynching
Paula J. Giddings

Lincoln: The Biography of a Writer
Fred Kaplan

American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House
Jon Meacham

Memoirs

The Crowd Sounds Happy: A Story of Love, Madness, and Baseball
Nicholas Dawidoff

The House at Sugar Beach: In Search of a Lost African Childhood
Helene Cooper

The Suicide Index: Putting My Father's Death in Order
Joan Wickersham


Kirkus Reviews Top Picks for Reading Groups 2008

Memoirs

I'm Looking Through You: Growing Up Haunted: A Memoir
Jennifer Finney Boylan

Loose Girl: A Memoir of Promiscuity
Kerry Cohen

Love and Consequences: A Memoir of Hope and Survival
Margaret B. Jones

How to Sleep Alone in a King-Size Bed: A Memoir
Theo Pauline Nestor

"Socialism Is Great!": A Worker's Memoir of the New China
Lijia Zhang

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

I believe there's an error in your "Best of Biography 2008" about The Washington Post's best books of the year. The Post separately lists its 10 best books of the year & then separately lists the rest of the best books of the year in a longer list. You've somehow missed the Post's 10best books, which includes in the five non-fiction entries my "Lincoln, the Biography of a Writer."

____Maggie said...

Capitol Men sounds very promising! I am looking for information on the Mystic Years WEB Debois talked about. Thanks for the title! :)

ricklibrarian said...

Dear Mr. Kaplan,

You are so right, I did miss the separate Washington Post list. I have corrected the entry, adding your title and two others that I had missed. Thank you for the notice.

Rick

T. Ross said...

Thanks for assembling these lists. Just wanted to not a small typo in one title in the Chicago Trib list. It's "Bin Laden" not "Bin Laden"