Honor roll: Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Biography

Each of these books has been nominated for a Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Biography. They are ranked by honors received.

Book:Master of the Senate

Master of the Senate: Volume 3 of The Years of Lyndon Johnson

Robert A. Caro

Book Three of Robert A. Caro’s monumental work, The Years of Lyndon Johnson—the most admired and riveting political biography of our era—which began with the best-selling and prizewinning The Path to Power and Means of Ascent.

Master of the Senate carries Lyndon Johnson’s story through one of its most remarkable periods: his twelve years, from 1949 to 1960, in the United States Senate. At the heart of the book is its unprecedented revelation of how legislative power works in America, how the Senate works, and how Johnson, in his ascent to the presidency, mastered the Senate as no political leader before him had ever done.

It was during these years that all Johnson’s experience—from his Texas Hill Country boyhood to his passionate representation in Congress of his hardscrabble constituents to his tireless construction of a political machine—came to fruition. Caro…[more]

Book:Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention

Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention

Manning Marable

Years in the making—the definitive biography of the legendary black activist.

Of the great figure in twentieth-century American history perhaps none is more complex and controversial than Malcolm X. Constantly rewriting his own story, he became a criminal, a minister, a leader, and an icon, all before being felled by assassins’ bullets at age thirty-nine. Through his tireless work and countless speeches he empowered hundreds of thousands of black Americans to create better lives and stronger communities while establishing the template for the self-actualized, independent African American man. In death he became a broad symbol of both resistance and reconciliation for millions around the world.

Manning Marable’s new biography of Malcolm is a stunning achievement. Filled with new information and shocking revelations that go beyond the Autobiography, Malcolm X unfolds a sweeping story of race and class in America, from the rise of…[more]

Book:De Kooning: An American Master

De Kooning: An American Master

Mark Stevens, Annalyn Swan

Willem de Kooning is one of the most important artists of the twentieth century, a true “painter’s painter” whose protean work continues to inspire many artists. In the thirties and forties, along with Arshile Gorky and Jackson Pollock, he became a key figure in the revolutionary American movement of abstract expressionism. Of all the painters in that group, he worked the longest and was the most prolific, creating powerful, startling images well into the 1980s.

The first major biography of de Kooning captures both the life and work of this complex, romantic figure in American culture. Ten years in the making, and based on previously unseen letters and documents as well as on hundreds of interviews, this is a fresh, richly detailed, and masterful portrait. The young de Kooning overcame an unstable, impoverished, and often violent early family life to enter the Academie in Rotterdam, where he learned both classic art and gild techniques. Arriving in New York as…[more]

Book:Angela's Ashes: A Memoir

Angela's Ashes: A Memoir

Frank McCourt

“When I look back on my childhood I wonder how I managed to survive at all. It was, of course, a miserable childhood: the happy childhood is hardly worth your while. Worse than the ordinary miserable childhood is the miserable Irish childhood, and worse yet is the miserable Irish Catholic childhood.”

So begins the luminous memoir of Frank McCourt, born in Depression-era Brooklyn to recent Irish immigrants and raised in the slums of Limerick, Ireland. Frank’s mother, Angela, has no money to feed the children since Frank’s father, Malachy, rarely works, and when he does he drinks his wages. Yet Malachy—exasperating, irresponsible and beguiling— does nurture in Frank an appetite for the one thing he can provide: a story. Frank lives for his father’s tales of Cuchulain, who saved Ireland, and of the Angel on the Seventh Step, who brings his mother babies. …[more]

Book:The Passage of Power

The Passage of Power: Volume 4 of The Years of Lyndon Johnson

Robert A. Caro

Book Four of Robert A. Caro’s monumental The Years of Lyndon Johnson displays all the narrative energy and illuminating insight that led the Times of London to acclaim it as “one of the truly great political biographies of the modern age.  A masterpiece.”

The Passage of Power follows Lyndon Johnson through both the most frustrating and the most triumphant periods of his career—1958 to1964.  It is a time that would see him trade the extraordinary power he had created for himself as Senate Majority Leader for what became the wretched powerlessness of a Vice President in an administration that disdained and distrusted him. Yet it was, as well, the time in which the presidency, the goal he had always pursued, would be thrust upon him in the moment it took an assassin’s bullet to reach its mark. …[more]

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:Shot in the Heart

Shot in the Heart

Mikal Gilmore

Gary Gilmore, the infamous murderer immortalized by Norman Mailer in The Executioner’s Song, campaigned for his own death and was executed by firing squad in 1977. Writer Mikal Gilmore is his younger brother. In Shot in the Heart, he tells the stunning story of their wildly dysfunctional family: their mother, a blacksheep daughter of unforgiving Mormon farmers; their father, a drunk, thief, and con man. It was a family destroyed by a multigenerational history of child abuse, alcoholism, crime, adultery, and murder. Mikal, burdened with the guilt of being his father’s favorite and the shame of being Gary’s brother, gracefully and painfully relates a murder tale “from inside the house where murder is born… a house that, in some ways, [he has] never been able to leave.” Shot in the Heart is the history of an American family inextricably tied up with violence, and the story of how the children of this family committed murder and murdered themselves in payment for a long lineage of ruin. Haunting, harrowing, and profoundly affecting, Shot in the Heart exposes and explores a dark vein of American life that most of us would rather ignore. It is a book that will leave no reader unchanged.

Book:A First-Class Temperament

A First-Class Temperament: The Emergence of Franklin Roosevelt

Geoffrey C. Ward

Drawing upon thousands of original documents as well as interviews with Roosevelt family members and others who knew Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt intimately, this book provides a vivid, unsentimental, sometimes startling biography of the young lawyer who became our thirty-second president.

Book:Will in the World

Will in the World: How Shakespeare Became Shakespeare

Stephen Greenblatt

A young man from the provinces—a man without wealth, connections, or university education—moves to London. In a remarkably short time he becomes the greatest playwright not just of his age but of all time. His works appeal to urban sophisticates and first-time theatergoers; he turns politics into poetry; he recklessly mingles vulgar clowning and philosophical subtlety. How is such an achievement to be explained?

Will in the World interweaves a searching account of Elizabethan England with a vivid narrative of the playwright’s life. We see Shakespeare learning his craft, starting a family, and forging a career for himself in the wildly competitive London theater world, while at the same time grappling with dangerous religious and political forces that took less-agile figures to the scaffold. Above all, we never lose sight of the great works—A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, Macbeth,…[more]

Book:The Most Famous Man in America

The Most Famous Man in Amerca: The Biography of Henry Ward Beecher

Debby Applegate

Henry Ward Beecher was, for much of the nineteenth century, America's most widely known public figure. In place of his own preacher father’s fire-and-brimstone theology, Beecher preached a gospel of unconditional love and forgiveness, giving us the Christianity we have today. Men such as Emerson, Thoreau, Whitman, and Twain befriended—and sometimes parodied—him.

And then it fell apart. Beecher was accused by feminist firebrand Victoria Woodhull of adultery with his best friend’s wife, and the cuckolded Theodore Tilton brought charges of “criminal conversation,” leading to a salacious trial that was the most widely covered event of the nineteenth century, garnering, by some counts, more headlines than the entire Civil War.

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