Twelve Books; Random House; Amistad
Readers who love to learn about the lives of the newsworthy and notable are in for a treat. This season brings an especially weighty stack of new biographies and memoirs, about sports legends, musicians, cultural icons, political figures and more. These are nine of the biggest big-name life stories you can dive into this spring.
Funny Man: Mel Brooks
The comedian famous for crazy comedies like TV’s Get Smart and the film Blazing Saddles, not to mention Broadway hits (he’s a rare EGOT, winner of Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony awards), was born Melvin Kaminsky on a kitchen table in Brooklyn. He’s made people laugh ever since. McGilligan interviewed a wide range of Hollywood insiders for the book — though not Brooks himself — to paint this portrait of a man who became “a brand name of laughter.” And “when the laughter worked, it was warm, fuzzy, rude and crude in a balanced recipe.”
Becoming Dr. Seuss: Theodor Geisel and the Making of an American Imagination
Brian Jay Jones
The author of bios of Jim Henson and George Lucas looks at the more-complicated-than-you-might-think life of the beloved children’s literature icon who was born to German immigrants in Springfield, Mass. The man who wrote such wonders of rhyme as The Cat in the Hat and The Sneetches was also a serious political cartoonist, and scornful of adults whose “capacity for healthy, silly, friendly laughter was smothered.”
Forever and Ever, Amen: A Memoir of Music, Faith and Braving the Storms of Life
The country-and-gospel star offers up stories from his working-class childhood, when he (then Randy Bruce Traywick) and his older brother, Ricky, would perform as a country duo called the Traywick Brothers; his road to mega-success — kicked off by his 1986 smash debut album Storms of Life; and more painful times, including after his nearly fatal stroke in 2013.
Politics and More
First: Sandra Day O’Connor
We've heard plenty about Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in recent years; here's a chance to explore the life of another female judge, the first to serve on the nation’s highest court. The best-selling author of Being Nixon, among others, Thomas writes about how this woman who grew up on an Arizona cattle ranch in the 1930s and ‘40s went on to graduate from Stanford University Law School and, beginning in 1981, become an influential voice on the Supreme Court. “She was a moderate who believed in compromise,” he notes, who also “liked power and knew how to use it.”
The Matriarch: Barbara Bush and the Making of an American Dynasty
Longtime political reporter Page had extraordinary access to the former first lady and first mother, who, before she passed away last year, gave Page permission to read her diaries. In the book, Page, who believes that Bush was routinely underestimated during her life, explores her evolution into a formidable political strategist and her behind-the-scenes role in facilitating the negotiations that ended the Cold War.
Where the Light Enters: Building a Family, Discovering Myself
On the heels of former first lady Michelle Obama’s megahit of a memoir Becoming, the wife of former Veep Joe Biden offers her own story as the wife of a powerful politician. She writes about her family’s beginnings, after meeting Delaware’s junior senator so long ago, along with the incredible successes and losses they’ve faced through the decades.
At Home With Muhammad Ali: A Memoir of Love, Loss and Forgiveness
Ali’s daughter paints a personal portrait of the sports and cultural icon, detailing how the family dealt with hard times such as the end of her parents’ marriage and Ali’s losing 1981 bout with Larry Holmes. She also reveals some personal gems about her father, including that he would spend time calling random phone numbers on Christmas to wish people well.
All the Way: My Life in Four Quarters
Joe Namath with Sean Mortimer & Don Yaeger
The football great, now 75, goes deep into his career here, including the obvious triumphs and dabbles in Hollywood, but also his many struggles with injury, pain and cocaine addiction. It comes 50 years after his famously fulfilled “guarantee” to lead the New York Jets to their 1969 Super Bowl win.
My Dad, Yogi: A Memoir of Family and Baseball
Another child of a legend speaks up this spring: The son of Yogi Berra and a former MLB player himself (including a brief stint with his father’s Yankees) tells his dad’s story, while delving into his own drug abuse and, with his father’s support, eventual sobriety. “My dad’s love for me did nothing less than save my life,” he writes.