If You Like….

I tend to associate the day after Christmas with biographies (for some reason, those show up a lot in my stocking) and slightly squished chocolate.

You’re on your own with the chocolate, but if you like biographies, you’ll probably enjoy:

— Antonia Fraser’s Mary Queen of Scots. (This book is the direct cause of my writing my senior thesis on Marie de Guise and the Scottish Reformation– and a really fun summer in Edinburgh.)

— Flora Fraser’s Pauline Bonaparte: Venus of Empire, an account of the life of Bonaparte’s unruly sister.

— Stacy Schiff’s Cleopatra: A Life, which does an amazing job brushing away layers of myth and legend to reconstruct the woman and her world.

— As some of you know, I’ve been doing a lot of reading about Kenya recently. There are two biographies that really stood out: Sara Wheeler’s lyrical biography of Denys Finch-Hatton, Too Close to the Sun: The Audacious Life and Times of Denys Finch Hatton, and Frances Osborne’s The Bolter.

— While I’m in the 1920’s and 30’s, it’s hard to ignore the Mitford sisters. The year I was living in England, I stumbled on Mary Lovell’s The Sisters: The Saga of the Mitford Family (although my edition had a slightly different title). It makes for fascinating reading, as does Ann de Courcy’s The Viceroy’s Daughters: The Lives of the Curzon Sisters, whose lives are intertwined with those of the Mitfords.

— For a compare and contrast, there’s Stephen Zweig’s Marie Antoinette (the classic biography) and Antonia Fraser’s Marie Antoinette: The Journey (a more recent take on the same subject).

— I’m a big fan of Garrett Mattingly’s Catherine of Aragon. I’d read a phone book if Garrett Mattingly wrote it. My favorite, although it doesn’t fall under the biography category, is his The Armada, an incredibly lively account of the defeat of the Spanish at the hands of Sir Francis Drake and Co. in 1588.

Which biographies have you enjoyed?


  1. Christine on December 26, 2011 at 2:36 pm

    I really liked Andre Agassi’s autobiography “Open.” There was a lot of press about his drug use when the book came out, but there was a lot in there about his childhood and how the pressure his father put on him led him to hate tennis even though he was one of the game’s greats.

  2. Susan on December 26, 2011 at 2:37 pm

    About a year or two ago I read through the life of Beatrix Potter. It was quite interesting. I would love to take of tour of England and see the places that inspired her books.

  3. Shenandoah Strojek on December 26, 2011 at 2:53 pm

    I have the Bolter! But, I haven’t gotten to read it yet. Lol!

  4. Sarah C. on December 26, 2011 at 3:05 pm

    Anything by Alison Weir is great, although not all her books are biographies per se. (And from this–the wrong side–of the Atlantic, David McCullough’s “John Adams” was great.)

  5. Céline on December 26, 2011 at 5:13 pm

    I’ve recently read the biography of Jane Austen by Claire Tomalin and found it so rich and so full of details! It cast a new light on our favourite author’s life and work! I really enjoyed it!

  6. AmyN on December 26, 2011 at 6:00 pm

    A little twist on the topic — “Marie Therese” by Susan Nagel and “The Lost King of France” by Deborah Cadbury were under the tree and are patiently waiting to be read. Anybody else read “The Return of Martin Guerre”?

  7. Lauren on December 26, 2011 at 8:50 pm

    Amy, I loved “The Lost Dauphin”! Looking forward to hearing what you think of it….

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