5 biographies


More often than not, if I'm reading a book it's a biography. My preference is for those written within the past 25 years, about creative individuals who flourished during the 20th century. Here are five which I highly recommend, along with my own brief reviews, such as they are, from my shelf at Goodreads.

Francis Bacon: Anatomy of an Enigma by Michael Peppiatt (1997) - Written by someone who knew him for over three decades, this is a thoroughly engaging biography. The research and resources are impeccable. Anecdotes are balanced by analysis, both of Bacon's life and work, an appropriate approach since the two are so deeply intertwined. It's a sordidly entertaining tale: from lowlife and rough trade to the highest realms of society and the art world, Bacon enjoyed it all, often on the same champagne-soaked night. For all the horror represented in his paintings, he insisted that he was an optimist at heart. This book provides insight into a complex individual.

Call Me Burroughs: A Life by Barry Miles (2013) -  It would be hard to imagine a better book on William S. Burroughs. Excellent.

Lorca: A Dream of Life by Leslie Stainton (2000) - A rich and compelling biography about Spanish poet and playwright Federico Garcia Lorca.

Lee Miller: A Life by Carolyn Burke (2005) - An in-depth study of the fascinating model, muse, photographer, journalist, and gourmet cook Lee Miller. Impeccably researched and thoughtfully written, this book provides an astute look at a complex and dynamic woman. It's a riveting read, completely satisfying and highly recommended.

Empress of Fashion: A Life of Diana Vreeland by Amanda MacKenzie Stuart (2012) - Diana Vreeland was a fascinating creature, truly one of a kind. Empress of Fashion is a thoroughly enjoyable read, engaging, interesting, and perceptive from beginning to end. Follow it with a viewing of the 2011 Vreeland doc The Eye Has to Travel for added fabulosity!

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