Annal: 2007 Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Biography

Results of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize in the year 2007.

Book:Young Stalin

Young Stalin

Simon Sebag Montefiore

Stalin remains one of the creators of our world—like Hitler, the personification of evil. Yet Stalin hid his past and remains mysterious. This enthralling biography that reads like a thriller finally unveils the secret but extraordinary journey of the Georgian cobbler’s son who became the Red Tsar. What forms such a merciless psychopath and consummate politician? Was he illegitimate? Did he owe everything to his mother—was she whore or saint? Was he a Tsarist agent or Lenin’s chief gangster? Was he to blame for his wife’s premature death? If he really missed the 1917 Revolution, how did he emerge so powerful?

Based on astonishing new evidence, Young Stalin is a history of the Russian Revolution, a pre-history of the USSR—and a fascinatingly intimate biography: this is how Stalin became Stalin.

Book:Boone: A Biography

Boone: A Biography

Robert Morgan

This commanding biography from New York Times bestselling author Robert Morgan transforms a mythic American hero—a legend in his own time—into a flesh-and-blood man. Morgan’s sweeping biography of Daniel Boone is the story of America—its ideals, its promise, its romance, and its destiny. It is the most comprehensive book ever written about the man who was the largest spirit of his time. Hunter, explorer, settler, he was a trailblazer and a revolutionary—an American icon for more than two hundred years.

Born in 1734, Boone participated in the colonization of North America, the settling of the Middle Plain, the French and Indian War and the Revolutionary War, the election of his friend as the first president of the United States, the Louisiana Purchase, and the Westward Expansion. Unlike others of his time, he had a reverence for the Indians, who taught him how to hunt, navigate,…[more]

Book:Fallen Founder: The Life of Aaron Burr

Fallen Founder: The Life of Aaron Burr

Nancy Isenberg

Founding Father, Revolutionary War hero, vice president, businessman, political strategist, adventurer, alleged murderer and traitor: The public personas of Aaron Burr (1756-1836) are almost too numerous to assess. In recent biographies, Ron Chernow, Joseph Ellis, and Gordon Wood have all disparaged him. Nancy Isenberg’s Fallen Founder uses primary documents to restore the image of this complex man whose story has been mainly told to us through the words of his enemies. A major biography of a most vilified man.

Book:Stanley

Stanley: The Impossible Life of Africa's Greatest Explorer

Tim Jeal

Henry Morton Stanley, so the tale goes, was a cruel imperialist who connived with King Leopold II of Belgium in horrific crimes against the people of the Congo. He also conducted the most legendary celebrity interview in history, opening with, “Dr. Livingstone, I presume?”

But these perceptions are not quite true, Tim Jeal shows in this grand and colorful biography. With unprecedented access to previously closed Stanley family archives, Jeal reveals the amazing extent to which Stanley’s public career and intimate life have been misunderstood and undervalued. Jeal recovers the reality of Stanley’s life—a life of almost impossible extremes—in this moving story of tragedy, adventure, disappointment, and success.

Few have started life as disadvantaged as Stanley. Rejected by both parents and consigned to a Welsh workhouse, he emigrated…[more]

Book:Von Braun: Dreamer of Space, Engineer of War

Von Braun: Dreamer of Space, Engineer of War

Michael J. Neufeld

The first authoritative biography of Wernher von Braun, chief rocket engineer of the Third Reich—creator of the infamous V-2 rocket—who became one of the fathers of the U.S. space program. In this meticulously researched and vividly written life, Michael J. Neufeld gives us a man of profound moral complexities, glorified as a visionary and vilified as a war criminal, a man whose brilliance and charisma were coupled with an enormous and, some would say, blinding ambition.

As one of the leading developers of rocket technology for the German army, von Braun yielded to pressure to join the Nazi Party in 1937 and reluctantly became an SS officer in 1940. During the war, he supervised work on the V-2s, which were assembled by starving slave laborers in a secret underground plant and then fired against London and Antwerp. Thousands of prisoners died—a fact he well knew and kept silent about for as long as possible. …[more]

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