Archive for the ‘Biography’ Category

Philippa Gregory Paints History in Fact and Fiction

January 6th, 2012 No comments

Last Fall, fans of British history and historical fiction were twice blessed with new books from bestselling historical novelist Philippa Gregory. Esteemed historians David Baldwin and Michael Jones joined the author in writing The Women of the Cousins’ War (Touchstone, 352pgs), a book of factual essays on three influential female figures during the events of England’s Wars of the Roses (1455–1485). Baldwin writes of Elizabeth Woodville, wife of Edward IV, who was noted as being the first commoner in England to marry a king for love. Jones, outlines the life of Margaret Beaufort, mother of Henry VII, and one of the lesser known women of the Tudor dynasty. Gregory presents the early life of Jacquetta, duchess of Bedford, who at one time stood trial for witchcraft. Along with this non-fiction account, Gregory also published The Lady of the Rivers (Touchstone, 464pgs), a fictional telling of Jacquetta’s life. Read more…


New Release: Stephen Hawking: An Unfettered Mind

January 3rd, 2012 No comments

By Kitty Ferguson
Palgrave Macmillan | 320pgs
Release Date: January 3, 2012

Science writer Kitty Ferguson builds a revealing profile of physicist Stephen Hawking’s early life in the new book Stephen Hawking: An Unfettered Mind. Hawking, best known for his research in the areas of theoretical cosmology and quantum gravity, is one of the world’s most renown scientists. With his lectures and writings, he has made highly complicated scientific theories interesting and palatable to the general public. “It’s not dumbing down [science]; it’s really making it accessible, hopefully, to a lot of people,” explains the author in an interview with NPR’s Fresh Air. Her book focuses on Hawking’s early childhood through his undergraduate and graduate work at Oxford and Cambridge respectively, and his diagnosis of ALS disease in the early 1960′s. At the time, doctors predicted he would not survive his 20′s, but the physicist has beaten the odds, and will celebrate his 70th birthday on January 8th. Read more…


New Release: Hedy’s Folly

November 29th, 2011 No comments

By Richard Rhodes
Doubleday | 272pgs
Release Date: November 29, 2011

Award winning author Richard Rhodes tells the surprising true story of the scientific contribution actress Hedy Lamarr made to the war effort during the 1940′s in his new book Hedy’s Folly: The Life and Breakthrough Inventions of Hedy Lamarr, the Most Beautiful Woman in the World. Beneath the surface, considerably more than just a pretty face, the sexy starlet had harbored a deep interest in all things mechanical from a very early age. The growing atrocities in Europe and an introduction to musician George Antheil, who shared Larmarr’s penchant for invention, prompted the pair to tackle the unlikely subject of a torpedo guidance system. They devised a system in which a plane could control a torpedo remotely, with each device maintaining communication while simultaneously cycling through different radio frequencies, preventing the enemy from breaking contact by jamming a single channel. This idea, known as spread-spectrum radio, was decades ahead of its time, and could not be implemented with the rudimentary torpedo technology of World War II, but is the basis for much of today’s widespread technology, such as WiFi, Bluetooth and GPS. Read more…


Robert Massie Dispels Myths with “Catherine the Great”

November 14th, 2011 1 comment

Pulitzer Prize winning biographer Robert K. Massie separates historical rumor from documented fact with his new book Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman (Random House, 656pgs). Massie has proven himself to be an enthusiast of all things Russian with his previous books, including the bestselling Nicholas and Alexandra and Peter the Great, and according to a review in USA TODAY, his enthusiasm does not wane with this new subject. Catherine, born into minor German nobility and married off to her second cousin, the heir to the Russian throne, at 16, is affectionately portrayed as intelligent, driven and forthright. Upon her marriage, she begins a rigorous self-education, learning Russian, adopting her new homeland’s Orthodox faith and devouring books on all subjects. Her actions endear her to the Russian people, though the citizenry feel quite the opposite about Peter, her arrogant and cruel husband. Just months into Peter’s reign, the reviled czar is overthrown and 33 year-old Catherine is enthroned, though the book posits that it is unlikely she orchestrated the coup. Read more…


An Unprecedented look into the Life of Steve Jobs

October 21st, 2011 No comments

Apple fanatics around the world are hotly anticipating the arrival of Steve Jobs (Simon & Schuster, 656pgs) the biography by Walter Isaacson, which hits shelves on Monday October 24. Isaacson, a high-profile biographer, was granted Jobs’ full cooperation with the book and was allowed exclusive access to the highly private entrepreneur. The pair met for dozens of interviews, the last taking place a few short weeks before the creative visionary’s passing on October 5. In an interview with the Associated Press, Isaacson provides an early glimpse into Jobs’ private life. Their conversations touched on many subjects, including the impetus for the Apple name, which Jobs came up with after visiting an apple orchard during his experimentation with a fruitarian diet. He felt the name was “fun, spirited and not intimidating.” Read more…


Lee Krasner Out From Under Jackson Pollock’s Shadow

April 18th, 2011 No comments

Mostly outshone by the star power of her husband, painter Jackson Pollock, Lee Krasner was often discounted as an artist in her own right, and relegated to the difficult job of managing Pollock’s erratic behavior. But in the new book Lee Krasner: A Biography (William Morrow, 560pgs), art historian and biographer, Gail Levin, sheds new light on Krasner’s resilient personality and her creative talent. Born in Brooklyn in 1908, she went on to study art at Cooper Union and do work for the Federal Art Project of the Works Progress Administration during the 1920-30′s. With her intelligence and magnetism, Krasner rubbed shoulders with many of the artistic elite of the time, including Willem de Kooning and Stuart Davis. In 1941 she met Pollock and began to help nurture his talent and placate his demons. Read more…


New Release: Moonface: A True Romance

February 1st, 2011 No comments

41b43yKPU8L._SL160_By Angela Balcita
Harper Perennial | 240pgs
Release Date: February 1, 2011

Angela Balcita’s sweet and amusing biography about life and love Moonface: A True Romance, arrives as many minds turn to romance in anticipation of Valentine’s Day. Yet, her story is anything but a fairytale romance. Suffering kidney failure in her late teens, Balcita was already dealing with the complications of her first kidney transplant, donated by her brother, when she met Chris Doyle in her junior year of college. As it became apparent that she would need another kidney, Doyle selflessly volunteered to be a donor, though their relationship was still new. This was the beginning of a deep love affair that has lasted 14 years and produced two-year-old daughter, Nico. “My big feeling was like we were transcending something magical – we were being united. I saw it as very emotional and spiritual, this gift,” Balcita expresses in an interview with USA Today. Doyle, now the author’s husband, has been her champion and cheerleader, helping her through illness and pain (she would eventually need an third transplant), and focusing their lives on a positive future. The couple’s coping mechanism of wit and humor is evident in the books narrative, and helps to craft an inspiring testimony of love’s endurance. Read more…


Cleopatra: The Woman Behind the Myth

December 21st, 2010 No comments

41JixniLMIL._SL160_Pulitzer Prize-winning author Stacy Schiff searches for the real woman behind the centuries old myths in the new biography Cleopatra: A Life (Little, Brown and Company, 384pgs). Historical propaganda has often painted the Egyptian queen as a scheming beauty who seduced powerful men like Julius Caesar and Marc Antony for political gain. But Schiff’s research revealed a much more intelligent and nuanced personality. “It’s astonishing how tenacious a myth is. I mean, Plutarch is the first to say that her beauty was by no means as remarkable as was her charm and her intellect. And here we are 2,000 years later and we’re still stressing the beauty,” says Schiff in an interview with SFGate. “Here you have an incredibly ambitious, accomplished woman who comes up against some of the same problems that women in power come up against today. Cleopatra plays an oddly pivotal role in world history as well; in her lifetime, Alexandria is the center of the universe, Rome is still a backwater.” Read more…


Twain Still a Crowd Pleaser a Century After Death

November 18th, 2010 No comments

mark_twainMark Twain has still got it. One hundred years after his death, the author has achieved a spot on the bestsellers list with the recently released Autobiography of Mark Twain, Vol. 1 (University of California Press, 760pgs), the first in a series of three volumes. At the age of 74, just four short years before he passed away, Twain used his oratory and storytelling skills to dictate the majority of the 500,000-word autobiography to his personal secretary Isabel Van Kleek Lyon and several stenographers. According to an article in USA TODAY, “Twain ordered that the full, unexpurgated text, marked by rants against Wall Street and U.S. foreign policy, not be published until 100 years after his death.” Read more…


Real-Life Ad Exec Recounts His “Mad Men” Days

July 29th, 2010 No comments

41MFEtvFmRL._SL160_Before there was Don Draper and Mad Men, real-life ad man Jerry Della Femina was living it up on Madison Avenue. Della Femina’s 1970 memoir From Those Wonderful Folks Who Gave You Pearl Harbor (Simon & Schuster, 288pgs), one of the sources of inspiration for the hit television show, was reissued this month. The book, named after a tongue-in-cheek slogan rejected by Panasonic, exposes the true hijinks and excesses of advertising’s heyday. In an interview with NPR, Della Femina discusses his time as an ad executive. “Advertising was fun,” he explains. “I wrote that it was the most fun you could have with your clothes on — and we’ll never see it again.” Comparing the antics of the characters on Mad Men with his real life experiences, he claims the show has toned down the debauchery on Madison Avenue. “Obviously it was not politically correct, but everyone took part in it and we were just enjoying doing what we were doing,” he admits. “We thought the fun would never end.”
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