Continuing on with our critique of the Time list of 100 Best Nonfiction titles, today we'll consider Biography. Here's the titles Time selected:
The Autobiography of Malcolm X, as told to Alex Haley
The Last Lion: Winston Spencer Churchill, by William Manchester
The Power Broker, by Robert Caro*
Now, first things first. Three bios? That's all? Why so many memoirs and so few bios? And, does the autobiography of Malcolm X count as bio or autobio? These questions are going to stump me all day.
So here's my three picks, although it hurts somewhat to limit it to three titles. And I'm not even a big biography reader!
Pistol: The Life of Pete Maravich , Mark Kriegel. I have no interest in basketball, college or pro. But Kriegel's tale of the life of "Pistol" Pete Maravich is so much more than a sports bio; it's the biography of an immigrant family, the story of a father and a son and their complicated relationship, and the story of an unlikely sports hero.
Appetite for Life: The Biography of Julia Child, Noel Riley Fitch. Intrigue! Action! Love affairs! Food! It's all here, centered on one of the most fascinating and likable women of the twentieth century, Julia Child.
This Little Light of Mine: The Life of Fannie Lou Hamer, Kay Mills. This may be a controversial choice; I suppose there are much better-known biographies out there. But I've never been able to forget it, even though I read it years ago. Fannie Lou Hamer, born in 1917 to a sharecropping family with 20 children, lived through enormous hardship and poverty and still overcame to become a leading figure in the fight for civil rights. THIS is a book they should be teaching in history and women's studies courses.
So why do you think Time magazine chose only three biographies? Do you agree with their choices? Mine? Want to make some suggestions of your own?
*Of these three, I've only read the first, and won't read the second because, for whatever reason, I find Winston Churchill boring. I think I read one of Caro's biography volumes of LBJ, and found it very interesting, but never had time to read all of them.