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January 14th, 2016
Biography: A Brief History by Nigel Hamilton
Award-winning biographer Nigel Hamilton addresses questions in an incisive and vivid narrative that will appeal to students of human nature and self-representation across the arts and sciences. Tracing the remarkable and often ignored historical evolution of biography from the ancient world to the present, this brief and fascinating tour of the genre conveys the passionate quest to capture the lives of individuals and the many difficulties it has entailed through the centuries.
February 11th, 2016
Nehru: The Invention of India by Shashi Tharoor
Tharoor delivers an incisive biography of the great secularist who-alongside his spiritual father, Mahatma Gandhi-led the movement for India's independence from British rule and ushered his newly independent country into the modern world. The man who would one day help topple British rule and become India's first prime minister started out as a surprisingly unremarkable student. Born into a wealthy, politically influential Indian family in the waning years of the Raj, Jawaharlal Nehru was raised on Western secularism and the humanist ideas of the Enlightenment.
March 10th, 2016
Dante by R. W. B. Lewis
There could hardly be a more fitting biographer for Dante than Pulitzer Prize-winning literary critic Lewis, who has called Dante's native city of Florence his second home for 50 years. Whether he is presenting the intricacies of Florentine politics or the living woman behind Dante's immortal vision of Beatrice, Lewis manages to provide just enough context to illuminate the known facts of Dante's life without losing the thread of his narrative. Anyone in search of a brief but eloquent guide to the life of the Florentine master should not hesitate to turn to this book.
April 14th, 2016
Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine and the Murder of a President by Candice Millard
The extraordinary New York Times bestselling account of James Garfield's rise from poverty to the American presidency, and the dramatic history of his assassination and legacy.
"A spirited tale that intertwines murder, politics and medical mystery. . . . Candice Millard leaves us feeling that Garfield's assassination deprived the nation not only of a remarkably humble and intellectually gifted man but one who perhaps bore the seeds of greatness . . . splendidly drawn portraits. . . . Alexander Graham Bell makes a bravura appearance."
-The Wall Street Journal
May 12th, 2016
Napoleon III: A Life by Fenton S. Bresler
This is a sparkling portrait of the man who ruled France from the aftermath of the 1848 revolution until his catastrophic defeat by the Prussians in 1870. Louis Napoleon, benevolent dictator and sexual addict, is rescued from the shadows of his more famous uncle and more esoteric academic studies. Journalist and biographer Bresler tells his story with verve: his narrative is vivid without extravagance, and meticulous without losing momentum.
June 9th, 2016
Jean-Jacques Rousseau: Restless Genius by Leo Damrosch
"An interesting madman" in the eyes of a contemporary critic, Jean-Jacques Rousseau tested the limits of all that his age considered sane. That eccentric strain, Damrosch shows, estranged Rousseau both from the defenders of the ancien regime and from the rising generation of freethinking philosophers. Readers, therefore, see the same man horrifying aristocrats with the secular and democratic principles of his Social Contract and infuriating Enlightenment progressives with the moral pieties of his Letter to D'Alembert. It was these unpredictable and wavering impulses that made Rousseau the father of five children that he abandoned at foundling homes and the author of numerous books that he subsequently could not even understand and regretted having written. A compelling portrait of a vagrant titan.
July 14th, 2016
Eleanor of Aquitaine: A Life by Alison Weir
As delicately textured as a 12th-century tapestry, royal biographer Weir's newest book is exhilarating in its color, ambition and human warmth. The author exhibits a breathtaking grasp of the physical and cultural context of Queen Eleanor's life, presenting a fuller, more holistic appreciation of a dazzling world whose charms can easily be anesthetized by dull narrative. And from the start, her auburn-haired subject, a live wire in a restrictive society, muse of poets and crusaders, seduces the reader. Above all, there is the heroine, viewed clear-sightedly in all her intoxicating and imperious irresistibility.