If you find reading about the lives of the famous and fascinating an intriguing pursuit, you may rejoice at a long list of new memoirs and biographies available this fall. Below are 10 of the most notable, but so many more are worth checking out, including books on Sylvia Plath, John Lewis and John Steinbeck (see details on these at the end of this article).
Wild Thing: The Short, Spellbinding Life of Jimi Hendrix
Norman offers a transfixing story about a Seattle kid known as Buster who grew up to become the greatest guitarist of all time — just listen to Jimi Hendrix's rendition of Bob Dylan's “All Along the Watchtower,” the author argues. The reverent biography is filled with priceless anecdotes about Hendrix's stunning talent (Pete Townshend and Eric Clapton were spotted “holding hands like awestruck toddlers at a firework display” while watching Hendrix play). But it's also frank about Hendrix's self-destructive tendencies, from rampant womanizing to drug use, before his death at 27.
Sept. 15, Norton
Dolly Parton, Songteller: My Life in Lyrics
Dolly Parton, with Robert K. Oermann
This lovely offering, sure to be treasured by Dolly Parton's biggest fans, is more like a colorful scrapbook than a traditional memoir: It's a mix of dozens of photographs, along with handwritten and printed lyrics to more than 175 of her songs (including her first, “Little Tiny Tasseltop,” a song “about a corncob doll that my mama had made me,” composed when she was 6), with the singer's reflections throughout. “Jolene,” she writes, was inspired by a little girl of the same name who asked for an autograph: Parton says she responded, “Well, I love that name, and if you ever hear a song with it, you'll know it's about you.” And note that her first holiday album in 30 years, A Holly Dolly Christmas, comes out Oct. 2.
Nov. 17, Chronicle Books
The Meaning of Mariah Carey
Mariah Carey, with Michaela Angela Davis
The Grammy-winning singer-songwriter with a five-octave vocal range has lately been celebrating her 30 years of success with #MC30 on social media, releasing remixes of her tunes and reminiscing for her 21.5 million fans on Twitter. Now comes her memoir, which Carey describes as “my memories, my mishaps, my struggles, my survival and my songs. Unfiltered.” Audible's audiobook version is narrated by Carey and interwoven with her music.
Sept. 29, Henry Holt & Co.
Henry Holt & Co.
No Time Like the Future: An Optimist Considers Mortality
Michael J. Fox
Some 35 years since the actor first played time-traveling Marty McFly in Back to the Future, Fox, 59, writes about the health challenges he's faced since his Parkinson's disease diagnosis at age 29, as well as his thoughts on aging and mortality. Following two previous memoirs, Lucky Man and Always Looking Up, this book doesn't shy from his feelings of despair ("I've been pelted with too many lemons to even think about lemonade"), but Fox tempers that with the appealing humor, gratitude and optimism that's brought him so many admirers through the years.
Nov. 17, Flatiron
Cary Grant: A Brilliant Disguise
The actor's screen name is synonymous with effortless charm and confidence, as well as a string of Golden Age Hollywood classics, from His Girl Friday to Notorious. But behind that charisma lurked loads of anxiety and insecurity (not to mention the birth name Archibald Alexander Leach) — an emotional mix that was “a perfectly natural response to his experience of life.” That's according to the film historian author, who describes Grant's struggles growing up with an alcoholic father and a difficult, smothering mother. This epic, fact-packed biography also offers plenty on Grant's romantic life: The star dallied with both sexes and married five times. But he remained ever devoted to his daughter with actress Dyan Cannon, Jennifer, until he died in 1986 at age 82.
Oct. 20, Simon & Schuster
Simon & Schuster
His Very Best: Jimmy Carter, A Life
Alter had decades of access to the Carter family while researching this first comprehensive biography of Jimmy Carter, 96, our unlikely 39th president — a man who grew up as a little kid nicknamed “Peewee” on a farm without running water or electricity. Carter's presidency was troubled, including the Iran hostage situation and an economic crisis. But, Alter makes clear, his long life has been marked by good deeds, from his work for international peace that led to a Nobel Peace Prize and work with Habitat for Humanity to teaching Sunday school into his 90s and decades-long devotion to his wife, Roslyn. Politics aside, it's an engrossing story about a truly decent man.
Sept. 29, Simon & Schuster
Simon & Schuster
The Dead Are Arising: The Life of Malcolm X
Les and Tamara Payne
Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist Les Payne spent more than 30 years talking to everyone who'd known the former Nation of Islam spokesman and civil rights icon, including FBI moles, anyone still alive from Malcolm X's family, political leaders, and even the two men convicted of his 1965 murder who may have been wrongly accused. The resulting biography (completed by Payne's daughter, Tamara, after the author's 2018 death at age 76) includes new details on Malcolm's youth, when white neighbors set fire to the young family's home in Lansing, Michigan, and his father was run over by a streetcar. “It was as if some curse of Shakespearean proportion had befallen this American family,” the authors note. It's a fascinating, historically essential story that gets at the man behind the mythology and controversy.
Sept. 29, Liveright
This probing, detailed biography dissects the remarkable life of Eleanor Roosevelt, including her difficult childhood with troubled parents that Michaelis presents with vivid detail: “One or the other was always pouting in a dark room, injustice hanging its sulky cloud in the hallways, meals on trays creaking with reproachful indignation upstairs.” Her mother was soon lost to diphtheria, her father to alcohol; the family's privilege offered no protection from heartache. Michaelis goes on to explore her groundbreaking roles as first lady and human rights warrior, as well as her complicated romantic relationships with husband Franklin and others.
Oct. 6, Simon & Schuster
Simon & Schuster
Once I Was You: A Memoir of Love and Hate in a Torn America
Hinojosa, 59, the Mexican American host of NPR's Latino USA, has penned an inspiring, deeply personal exploration of the immigrant story that reads like an ambivalent love letter to a sometimes painfully hostile America. She describes her father's long-ago arrival in Texas (where he's baffled by bathroom doors labeled “White” and “Colored"), on his way to take a research job at the University of Chicago, and her own entry in 1962, when she was “marked as a ‘dirty Mexican.'” She also discusses her upbringing on the South Side of Chicago and sexual assault at age 16. Hinojosa turned to meditation and spirituality to heal herself, then went on to become award-winning reporter who's covered the immigration crisis at the U.S. border and is devoted to giving voice to the many who have none.
Sept. 15, Atria
Eat a Peach: A Memoir
Korean American chef and the star of Netflix's Ugly Delicious, Chang dishes out an outrageously entertaining memoir about his improbable ascent to culinary fame. He started out angry, depressed, and given to manic episodes and suicidal thoughts, and initially, he admits, not such a great cook. But he nonetheless managed to tap, as he puts it, “a reserve of sheer, stubborn willpower to make up for what I lacked in talent.” Armed with that wild ambition and a bad-boy persona — he's often described as a “rebel chef” — Chang opened his first noodle shop in New York City's East Village. His mission: to make casual Asian cuisine as popular in America as french fries.
Sept. 8, Clarkson Potter
More big biographies and memoirs out this year:
- His Truth Is Marching On: John Lewis and the Power of Hope, by Jon Meacham (Aug. 25)
- JFK: Coming of Age in the American Century, by Fredrik Logevall (Sept. 8)
- Abe: Abraham Lincoln in His Times, by David S. Reynolds (Sept. 29)
- Let Love Rule, by Lenny Kravitz with David Ortiz (Oct. 6)
- Red Comet: The Short Life and Blazing Art of Sylvia Plath, by Heather Clark (Oct. 13)
- Mad at the World: A Life of John Steinbeck, by William Souder (Oct. 13)
- Greenlights, a memoir by Matthew McConaughey (Oct. 20)
- The Search for John Lennon: The Life, Loves and Death of a Rock Star, by Lesley-Ann Jones (Dec. 1)