‘With time,’ writes David Remnick, ‘political campaigns tend to be viewed through the triumphalist prism of the winner.’ Never more so, perhaps, than in Remnick’s idolatrous new biography of Barack Obama, which presents the First Black President’s ascension to the White House as nothing less than a glorious saga.
In 1931, a 23-year-old Englishman called Henry ‘Gino’ Watkins returned from an expedition to the white depths of the Greenlandic ice cap.
The memoirs of the Grand Duchess Olga are an entertaining record for anyone interested in the imperial family’s home life during the last years of Russian autocracy.
Torn with grief, Melvyn Bragg has produced a condolence book for the South Bank Show (born 1978, died of neglect, 2010).
A hundred years ago, when Britannia still ruled the waves, the Royal Navy fell victim to a humiliating hoax, reports of which kept the public amused for a few wintry days in February 1910.
Voltaire’s was a long and amazing life.
Alistair Urquhart describes himself as ‘a lucky man as well as an angry man’.
When I was at Eton, many years before David Cameron, much of the school was run by a self-elected society known as ‘Pop’.
I have always been sceptical of those passages in the ‘Ancestry’ chapters of biographies that run something like this: Through his veins coursed the rebellious blood of the Vavasours, blended with a more temperate strain from the Mudge family of Basingstoke.
When she was a little girl, playing in the countryside around her missionary parents’ home in China, Pearl Buck used to come across the scattered body parts of babies abandoned for animals to devour. She would bury them, and tell no one.
What sort of person would you expect to be bringing out a life of J.D. Salinger two months after his death, bearing in mind that Salinger was more obsessive about his privacy than any other writer in human history and fought the publication of the last biography all the way to the US Supreme Court?
In his memoir Somebody Down Here Likes Me, Too, the boxer Rocky Graziano, on whom Paul Newman based his performance in Somebody Up There Likes Me (1956), describes the actor in perfect Runyonese:
Dave Eggers is the very model of the engaged writer.
Before the revolución of 1959, Havana was, effectively, a mafia fleshpot and colony of Las Vegas.
Winston Churchill was a racist. He said things like ‘I hate people with slit eyes and pig-tails. I don’t like the look of them or the smell of them’.
‘I never knew peaceful times’, Irène Némirovsky once said, ‘I’ve always lived in anxiety and often in danger’.
This book could have been a classic.
On 11 November 1743, the most sensational trial of the 18th century opened in the Four Courts in Dublin.
Angela Thirlwell’s previous book was a double biography of William Rossetti (brother to the more famous Dante Gabriel) and his wife Lucy (daughter of the more famous Ford Madox Brown).
For someone who barely left the house, Emily Dickinson didn’t half cause a lot of trouble.
Do we need another huge life of Arthur Koestler? He wrote a great deal about himself, including three autobiographical works: Spanish Testament (1937), describing his experience as a death-row prisoner of General Franco, Arrow in the Blue (1952) and The Invisible Writing (1954).
Mr Gladstone’s career in politics was titanic.
Must You Go? My Life with Harold Pinter, by Antonia Fraser
Frank Auerbach (born 1931) is one of the most interesting artists working in Europe today, a philosophical painter of reality who works and re-works his pictures before he discovers something new, something worth saving.
Badly behaved toffs have been a gift to writers since ancient times, and in English from Chaucer to Waugh.