A good biography brings its subject to life. Check out these recommendations by INK authors:

On A Beam of Light by Jennifer Berne
Steve Jobs: The Man Who Thought Different by Karen Blumenthal
A River of Words: The Story of Williams Carlos Williams by Jen Bryant
Face Book by Chuck Close
Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony: A Friendship that Changed the World by Penny Colman
Adventurous Women: Eight True Stories about Women Who Made a Difference by Penny Colman
Mother Jones and the March of the Mill Children by Penny Colman
Madam C.J. Walker : Building A Business Empire by Penny Colman
A Woman Unafraid: The Achievements of Frances Perkins by Penny Colman
Fannie Lou Hamer and the Fight for the Vote by Penny Colman
Breaking the Chains:The Crusade of Dorothea Lynde Dix by Penny Colman
The Man Who Walked Between The Towers by Mordicai Gerstein
The Mad Potter/George E. Ohr Eccentric Genius by Jan Greenberg and Sandra Jordan
Action Jackson by Jan Greenberg and Sandra Jordan
Christo and Jeanne-Claude Through the Gates and Beyond by Jan Greenberg and Sandra Jordan
Vincent Van Gogh Portrait of An Artist by Jan Greenberg and Sandra Jordan
The Dinosaurs of Waterhouse Hawkins by Barbara Kerley
Walt Whitman: Words for America by Barbara Kerley
What To Do About Alice? by Barbara Kerley
The Extraordinary Mark Twain (According to Susy) by Barbara Kerley
Those Rebels, John and Tom by Barbara Kerley
A Home for Mr. Emerson by Barbara Kerley
Wilman Unlimited by Kathleen Krull
High Hopes: A Photobiography of John F. Kennedy by Deborah Heiligman
The Boy Who Loved Math: The Improbable Life of Paul Erdos by Deborah Heiligman
Charles and Emma by Deborah Heiligman
Brave Girl by Michelle Markel
Snowflake Bentley by Jacqueline Briggs Martin
Me, Jane by Patrick McDonnell
Mysterious Thelonious by Chris Rashka
Electrical Wizard: How Nikola Tesla Lit Up The World by Elizabeth Rusch
For The Love of Music: The Remarkable Story of Maria Anna Mozart by Elizabeth Rusch
The Planet Hunter by Elizabeth Rusch
Stitches by David Small 
Balloons Over Broadway by Melissa Sweet
Abraham Lincoln: The Boy Who Loved Books by Kay Winters
Jeannette Rankin: Political Pioneer by Gretchen Woelfle
Write on Mercy! The Secret Life of Mercy Otis Warren  by Gretchen Woelfle
Mumbet's Declaration of Independence  by Gretchen Woelfle

Gretchen Woelfle was also kind enough to include some resources for teachers:

Myra Zarnowski, History Makers: A Questioning Approach to Reading and Writing Biographies.  Portsmouth, NH, Heinemann: 2003. Lesson plans and bibliographies.

Kohl, Herbert, She Would Not Be Moved: How We Tell the Story of Rosa Parks and the Montgomery Bus Boycott.  NY, The New Press: 2005. Describes how Park’s story has been distorted in textbooks and biographies. Retells the story with lesson plans.

And for, as Gretchen put it, “biographers -- and other nosy people -- who want to find out how other biographers do it”:

Bostridge, Mark, Lives for Sale: Biographers’ Tales. London, New York, Continuum: 2004. Short articles by 33 British biographers about the problems and rewards of what they do.

Hamilton, Nigel, How to Do Biography: A Primer. Cambridge, London: Harvard U Press: 2008. A little bit of everything – history, how-to, lots of examples and anecdotes by him and other biographers.

Lee, Hermione, Virginia Woolf’s Nose: Essays on Biography. Princeton, Princeton University press: 2005. Terrific essays on the historical biographical treatment of Shelley, Woolf, Austen as well as “How to End It All” on deathbed scenes.

Rollyson, Carl, Biography: A user’s guide. Chicago, Ivan R. Dee: 2008. A rich “encyclopedia” that includes the history of the genre, craft, brief bios of past and present writers, and much more.

Zinsser, William, editor, Extraordinary Lives: The Art and Craft of American Biography.  Houghton Mifflin, Boston: 1988. Essays by six prominent biographers, with stories of their work on such subjects as Emily Dickinson, harry Truman, The Adams Women.

Gretchen included “two of many novels about those bizarre people who write about other people. (See the Rollyson book for many more.)”:

A.S. Byatt, Possession. 1990. Booker prize-winning novel about two young biographers (soon to be lovers) who are researching two Victorian poets who were lovers.  Byatt  invents their research, even their poetry.

A.S. Byatt, The Biographer’s Tale.  NY, Knopf: 2001 A Chinese box of a novel: Disillusioned grad student tries to write a life of an obscure biographer. Half the book contains abstruse “notes” of his subject. Other half is the young man’s story.

Finally, Gretchen included a definition: Biography: “A relativist process of conjecture, invention, intuition, and manipulation of the evidence.” Hermione Lee, Virginia Woolf’s Nose: Essays on Biography


lvharris said...

I agree with many of your choices. Thanks also to Gretchen for the resources list--good stuff for summertime reading!

Unknown said...

Thank you! Great list for reluctant high-school readers.