Saturday, April 25, 2009

'Could you suggest any biographies?'

A reader wrote to ask for recommendations, and where to start? I look over on my desk at Willard Sterne Randall's Thomas Jefferson: A Life, arguably the best one-volume biography of the author of the Declaration of Independence, and a fine place to start.

Wander over to the bookshelf in my office and see David Horowitz's autobiography, Radical Son. Surely you wouldn't want to miss that, one of the most insightful political memoirs of our era.

Looking up to the top shelf of my desk, I see Robert Novak's memoir, The Prince of Darkness. Anyone interested in the business of journalism should not neglect that. Also up there is Destruction and Reconstruction, the brilliant Civil War memoir of Richard Taylor.

Tucked into the shelf to the left of my computer is The Proud Highway, a collection of Hunter S. Thompson's letters 1955-67. Not a biography, per se, but a splendid insight into the formative years of the great Gonzo.

On a shelf down in the basement is Thomas Wolfe's The Right Stuff, a history of the Mercury space program that is, in some sense, a collective biography of the astronauts and that great non-astronaut, heroic test-pilot Chuck Yeager.

What else? Oh, sitting open on my desk is William Middendorf's A Glorious Disaster, about Barry Goldwater's 1964 presidential campaign. Again, a combination of history and biography. Lou Cannon's Governor Reagan is up on the top shelf of my desk, and in my main library (what is now our dining room) are Steven Hayward's The Age of Reagan and the collection Reagan: A Life in Letters. I'd also recommend Reagan, In His Own Hand.

Just wandered into the dining room/library and spotted a couple of books everyone should read: Up From Slavery by Booker T. Washington and The Autobiography of Malcolm X. Both of these authors, in one way or another, stand in opposition to the sort of liberalism Shelby Steele examined in White Guilt. If you read Malcolm X carefully, you'll see a man more angry at white liberal condescension than anything else. Sometimes I wonder what might have become of Malcolm X if he hadn't been assassinated.

Well, that's a list to start with, at any rate. I suppose commenters can suggest others.

UPDATE: Jimmie Bise has suggestions, too.


  1. Edmund Morris' three volume biography on Theodore Roosevelt.

  2. The late George MacDonald Fraser, author of the superb Flashman novels, wrote an outstanding memoir of his service in Burma during WWII called Quartered Safe Out Here.

  3. Wellington, The Years of the Sword and Wellington, the Years of the Pen by Lady Longford.

  4. John Adams by David McCoullogh is such an excellent book, you won't be able to put it down. I feel like really know John Adams after reading it and know what he would think about our country now.

  5. Not just biographies but a few historical reads that I found very enlightening and enjoyable.
    Read "Bully Boy" by Jim Powell the exposing of Teddy Roosevelt for the big government egocentric fraud he was. "The New Dealers War" by Thomas Fleming showing the scary stuff that went on under FDR as we entered and fought WW2. "Manhunt" by James L. Swanson The 12 day chase for John Wilkes Booth after Lincoln's assassination. "Liberal Fascism" by Jonah Goldberg who argues that today's liberals owe their heritage to 20th century fascism

  6. Thanks, Stacy. I'm eating this up! I've got a couple under my belt already, but have a long way to go.