Biography or Autobiography

Finalists have been announced since 1980.


2015 The Pope and Mussolini: The Secret History of Pius XI and the Rise of Fascism in Europe by David I. Kertzer (Random House)

An engrossing dual biography that uses recently opened Vatican archives to shed light on two men who exercised nearly absolute power over their realms.

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2014 Margaret Fuller: A New American Life by Megan Marshall (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

A richly researched book that tells the remarkable story of a 19th century author, journalist, critic and pioneering advocate of women’s rights who died in a shipwreck.

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2013 The Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, and the Real Count of Monte Cristo by Tom Reiss (Crown)

A compelling story of a forgotten swashbuckling hero of mixed race whose bold exploits were captured by his son, Alexander Dumas, in famous 19th century novels.

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2012 George F. Kennan: An American Life by John Lewis Gaddis (The Penguin Press)

An engaging portrait of a globetrotting diplomat whose complicated life was interwoven with the Cold War and America’s emergence as the world’s dominant power.

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2011 Washington : A Life by Ron Chernow (The Penguin Press)

A sweeping, authoritative portrait of an iconic leader learning to master his private feelings in order to fulfill his public duties.

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2010 The First Tycoon: The Epic Life of Cornelius Vanderbilt by T.J. Stiles (Alfred A. Knopf)

A penetrating portrait of a complex, self-made titan who revolutionized transportation, amassed vast wealth and shaped the economic world in ways still felt today.

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2009 American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House by Jon Meacham (Random House)

An unflinching portrait of a not always admirable democrat but a pivotal president, written with an agile prose that brings the Jackson saga to life.

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2008 "Eden's Outcasts: The Story of Louisa May Alcott and Her Father" by John Matteson (W.W. Norton)
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2007 The Most Famous Man in America: The Biography of Henry Ward Beecher by Debby Applegate (Doubleday)
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2006 American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer by Kai Bird and Martin J. Sherwin (Alfred A. Knopf)
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2005 de Kooning: An American Master by Mark Stevens and Annalyn Swan (Alfred A. Knopf)
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2004 Khrushchev: The Man and His Era by William Taubman (W.W. Norton)
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2003 Master of the Senate by Robert A. Caro (Alfred A. Knopf)
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2002 John Adams by David McCullough (Simon & Schuster)
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2001 W.E.B. Du Bois: The Fight for Equality and the American Century, 1919-1963 by David Levering Lewis (Henry Holt and Company)
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2000 Vera (Mrs. Vladimir Nabokov) by Stacy Schiff (Random House)
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1999 Lindbergh by A. Scott Berg (G.P. Putnam's Sons)
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1998 Personal History by Katharine Graham (Alfred A. Knopf)
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1997 Angela's Ashes: A Memoir by Frank McCourt (Scribner)
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1996 God: A Biography by Jack Miles (Alfred A. Knopf)
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1995 Harriet Beecher Stowe: A Life by Joan D. Hedrick (Oxford University Press)
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1994 W.E.B. Du Bois: Biography of a Race 1868-1919 by David Levering Lewis (Henry Holt)
1993 Truman by David McCullough (Simon & Schuster)
1992 Fortunate Son: The Healing of a Vietnam Vet by Lewis B. Puller
1991 Jackson Pollock by Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith (Clarkson N. Potter)
1990 Machiavelli in Hell by Sebastian de Grazia (Princeton University Press)
1989 Oscar Wilde by the late Richard Ellmann (Alfred A. Knopf)
1988 Look Homeward: A Life of Thomas Wolfe by David Herbert Donald (Little)
1987 Bearing the Cross: Martin Luther King Jr. and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference by David J. Garrow (William Morrow)
1986 Louise Bogan: A Portrait by Elizabeth Frank (Alfred A. Knopf)
1985 The Life and Times of Cotton Mather by Kenneth Silverman (Harper & Row)
1984 Booker T. Washington: The Wizard of Tuskegee, 1901-1915 by Louis R. Harlan (Oxford U. Press)
1983 Growing Up by Russell Baker (Congdon & Weed)
1982 Grant: A Biography by William McFeely (Norton)
1981 Peter the Great: His Life and World by Robert K. Massie (Knopf)
1980 The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt by Edmund Morris (Coward)
1979 Days of Sorrow and Pain: Leo Baeck and the Berlin Jews by Leonard Baker (Macmillan)
1978 Samuel Johnson by Walter Jackson Bate (Harcourt)
1977 A Prince of Our Disorder: The Life of T. E. Lawrence by John E. Mack (Little)
1976 Edith Wharton: A Biography by R. W. B. Lewis (Harper)
1975 The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York by Robert Caro (Knopf)
1974 O'Neill, Son and Artist by Louis Sheaffer (Little)
1973 Luce and His Empire by W. A. Swanberg (Scribner)
1972 Eleanor and Franklin by Joseph P. Lash (Norton)
1971 Robert Frost: The Years of Triumph, 1915 -1938 by Lawrance Thompson (Holt)
1970 Huey Long by T. Harry Williams (Knopf)
1969 The Man From New York: John Quinn and His Friends by Benjamin Lawrence Reid (Oxford Univ. Press)
1968 Memoirs by George F. Kennan (Little)
1967 Mr. Clemens and Mark Twain by Justin Kaplan (Simon & Schuster)
1966 A Thousand Days by Arthur M. Schlesinger
1965 Henry Adams, three volumes by Ernest Samuels (Harvard Univ. Press)
1964 John Keats by Walter Jackson Bate (Harvard Univ. Press)
1963 Henry James by Leon Edel (Lippincott)
1962 (No Award)
1961 Charles Sumner and the Coming of the Civil War by David Donald (Knopf)
1960 John Paul Jones by Samuel Eliot Morison (Little)
1959 Woodrow Wilson by Arthur Walworth (Longmans)
1958 George Washington, Volumes I-VI by Douglas Southall Freeman
1957 Profiles in Courage by John F. Kennedy (Harper)
1956 Benjamin Henry Latrobe by Talbot Faulkner Hamlin (Oxford Univ. Press)
1955 The Taft Story by William S. White (Harper)
1954 The Spirit of St. Louis by Charles A. Lindbergh (Scribner)
1953 Edmund Pendleton 1721-1803 by David J. Mays (Harvard Univ. Press)
1952 Charles Evans Hughes by Merlo J. Pusey (Macmillan)
1951 John C. Calhoun: American Portrait by Margaret Louise Coit (Houghton)
1950 John Quincy Adams and the Foundations of American Foreign Policy by Samuel Flagg Bemis (Knopf)
1949 Roosevelt and Hopkins by Robert E. Sherwood (Harper)
1948 Forgotten First Citizen: John Bigelow by Margaret Clapp (Little)
1947 The Autobiography of William Allen White by William Allen White (Macmillan)
1946 Son of the Wilderness by Linnie Marsh Wolfe (Knopf)
1945 George Bancroft: Brahmin Rebel by Russell Blaine Nye (Knopf)
1944 The American Leonardo: The Life of Samuel F B. Morse by Carleton Mabee (Knopf)
1943 Admiral of the Ocean Sea by Samuel Eliot Morison (Little)
1942 Crusader in Crinoline by Forrest Wilson (Lippincott)
1941 Jonathan Edward by Ola Elizabeth Winslow (Macmillan)
1940 Woodrow Wilson, Life and Letters. Vols. VII and VIII by Ray Stannard Baker (Doubleday)
1939 Benjamin Franklin by Carl Van Doren (Viking)
1938 Andrew Jackson, 2 vols. by Marquis James (Bobbs)
1938 Pedlar's Progress by Odell Shepard (Little)
1937 Hamilton Fish by Allan Nevins (Dodd)
1936 The Thought and Character of William James by Ralph Barton Perry (Little)
1935 R. E. Lee by Douglas S. Freeman (Scribner)
1934 John Hay by Tyler Dennett (Dodd)
1933 Grover Cleveland by Allan Nevins (Dodd)
1932 Theodore Roosevelt by Henry F. Pringle (Harcourt)
1931 Charles W. Eliot by Henry James (Houghton)
1930 The Raven by Marquis James (Bobbs)
1929 The Training of an American: The Earlier Life and Letters of Walter H. Page by Burton J. Hendrick (Houghton)
1928 The American Orchestra and Theodore Thomas by Charles Edward Russell (Doubleday)
1927 Whitman by Emory Holloway (Knopf)
1926 The Life of Sir William Osler, 2 vols. by Harvey Cushing (Oxford Univ. Press)
1925 Barrett Wendell and His Letters by M. A. Dewolfe Howe (Little)
1924 From Immigrant to Inventor by Michael Idvorsky Pupin (Scribner)
1923 The Life and Letters of Walter H. Page by Burton J. Hendrick (Houghton)
1922 A Daughter of the Middle Border by Hamlin Garland (Macmillan)
1921 The Americanization of Edward Bok by Edward Bok (Scribner)
1920 The Life of John Marshall, 4 vols. by Albert J. Beveridge (Houghton)
1919 The Education of Henry Adams by Henry Adams (Houghton)
1918 Benjamin Franklin, Self-Revealed by William Cabell Bruce (Putnam)
1917 Julia Ward Howe by Laura E. Richards and Maude Howe Elliott assisted by Florence Howe Hall (Houghton)


2015 Louis Armstrong: Master of Modernism by Thomas Brothers (W.W. Norton)

The masterfully researched second volume of a life of the musical pioneer, effectively showing him in the many milieus where he lived and worked in the 1920s and 1930s.

2015 Stalin: Volume I: Paradoxes of Power, 1878-1928 by Stephen Kotkin (Penguin Press)

A superbly researched tour de force of pre- and post-revolutionary Russian history told through the life of Joseph Stalin.

2014 Jonathan Swift: His Life and His World by Leo Damrosch (Yale University Press)

A seminal work that illuminates the famous yet enigmatic satirist who was also a crucial figure in 18th century Anglo-Irish politics.

2014 Karl Marx: A Nineteenth-Century Life by Jonathan Sperber (Liveright)

An impressively researched work that provides a fresh perspective on Marx and his ideas by placing him in the social and intellectual swirl of the 1800s.

2013 Portrait of a Novel: Henry James and the Making of an American Masterpiece by Michael Gorra (Liveright)

An elegant and enlightening book that brings together the complicated life of a great author and the evolution of his great novel, "The Portrait of a Lady."

2013 The Patriarch: The Remarkable Life and Turbulent Times of Joseph P. Kennedy by David Nasaw (Penguin)

A monumental work that tells the story of the relentless tycoon who created a dynastic family that helped shape modern American history and also suffered immense tragedy.

2012 Love and Capital: Karl and Jenny Marx and the Birth of a Revolution by Mary Gabriel (Little, Brown and Company)

An enlightening, richly researched book on the saga of Marx, his family and the ideas and historical events they helped to shape.

2012 Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention by the late Manning Marable (Viking)

An exploration of the legendary life and provocative views of one of the most significant African-Americans in U.S. history, a work that separates fact from fiction and blends the heroic and tragic. (Moved by the Board to the History category.)

2011 The Publisher: Henry Luce and His American Century by Alan Brinkley (Alfred A. Knopf)

A fresh, fair minded assessment of a complicated man who transformed the news business and showed busy Americans new ways to see the world.

2011 Mrs. Adams in Winter: A Journey in the Last Days of Napoleon by Michael O'Brien (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

A graceful account of a remarkable journey by Louisa Catherine Adams, the wife of a future president, who traveled with a young son across a Europe still reeling from warfare.

2010 Woodrow Wilson: A Biography by John Milton Cooper, Jr. (Alfred A. Knopf)

A magisterial work that corrects erroneous perceptions and casts important new light on one of the most pivotal and enigmatic American presidents, fully placing the man in the context of his times.

2010 Cheever: A Life by Blake Bailey (Alfred A. Knopf)

An absorbing, impeccably researched exploration of the famed writer John Cheever, illuminating his greatness as well as flaws, told in a compelling voice worthy of the subject.

2009 Traitor to His Class: The Privileged Life and Radical Presidency of Franklin Delano Roosevelt by H.W. Brands (Doubleday)

A richly textured and highly readable exploration of the inner Roosevelt, presented with analytical acuity and flashes of originality.

2009 The Bin Ladens: An Arabian Family in the American Century by Steve Coll (The Penguin Press)

An epic tale extending far beyond Osama Bin Laden and the calamity of 9/11, rooted in meticulous research and written with an urgency, clarity and flair that entertains as easily as it educates.

2008 The Worlds of Lincoln Kirstein by Martin Duberman (Alfred A. Knopf)
2008 The Life of Kingsley Amis by Zachary Leader (Pantheon)
2007 John Wilkes: The Scandalous Father of Civil Liberty by Arthur H. Cash (Yale University Press)
2007 Andrew Carnegie by David Nasaw (The Penguin Press)
2006 The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion (Alfred A. Knopf)
2006 The Peabody Sisters: Three Women Who Ignited American Romanticism by Megan Marshall (Houghton Mifflin)
2005 Will in the World: How Shakespeare Became Shakespeare by Stephen Greenblatt (W.W. Norton)
2005 Under a Wild Sky: John James Audubon and the Making of The Birds of America by William Souder (North Point Press/Farrar)
2004 Isaac Newton by James Gleick (Pantheon Books)
2004 Arshile Gorky: His Life and Work by Hayden Herrera (Farrar)
2003 The Fly Swatter by Nicholas Dawidoff (Pantheon Books)
2003 Beethoven: The Music and the Life by Lewis Lockwood (W.W. Norton)
2002 An Hour Before Daylight: Memories of a Rural Boyhood by Jimmy Carter (Simon & Schuster)
2002 Grant by Jean Edward Smith (Simon & Schuster)
2001 The First American: The Life and Times of Benjamin Franklin by H.W. Brands (Doubleday)
2001 Johann Sebastian Bach: The Learned Musician by Christoph Wolff (W.W. Norton & Company)
2000 Clear Springs: A Memoir by Bobbie Ann Mason (Random House)
2000 Galileo's Daughter: A Historical Memoir of Science, Faith, and Love by Dava Sobel (Walker & Company)
1999 At Home with the Marquis de Sade: A Life by Francine du Plessix Gray (Simon & Schuster)
1999 A Beautiful Mind by Sylvia Nasar (Simon & Schuster)
1998 Alfred C. Kinsey: A Public-Private Life by James H. Jones (W.W. Norton)
1998 Whittaker Chambers: A Biography by Sam Tanenhaus (Random House)
1997 In the Wilderness: Coming of Age in Unknown Country by Kim Barnes (Doubleday)
1997 Herman Melville: A Biography, Volume 1, 1819-1851 by Hershel Parker (The Johns Hopkins University Press)
1996 John Sloan: Painter and Rebel by John Loughery (Henry Holt)
1996 Mozart: A Life by Maynard Solomon (Alfred A. Knopf)
1995 Hugo Black: A Biography by Roger K. Newman (Pantheon)
1995 Saint-Exupery: A Biography by Stacy Schiff (Alfred A. Knopf)
1994 In Extremis: The Life of Laura Riding by Deborah Baker (Grove Press)
1994 Genet: A Biography by Edmund White (Alfred A. Knopf)
1993 Genius: The Life and Science of Richard Feynman by James Gleick (Pantheon)
1993 Kissinger by Walter Isaacson (Simon & Schuster)
1992 Orwell: The Authorized Biography by Michael Shelden (HarperCollins)
1992 Frederick Douglass by William S. McFeely (W.W. Norton & Company)
1991 The Five of Hearts: An Intimate Portrait of Henry Adams and His Friends1880-1918 by Patricia O'Toole (Clarkson N. Potter)
1991 Alfred I. Du Pont: The Man and His Family by Joseph Frazier Wall
1990 The Road From Coorain by Jill Ker Conway (Alfred A. Knopf)
1990 Clear Pictures: First Loves, First Guides by Reynolds Price (Atheneum)
1990 A First-Class Temperament: The Emergence of Franklin Roosevelt by Geoffrey C. Ward (Harper & Row)
1989 Freud: A Life For Our Time by Peter Gay (W.W. Norton)
1989 The Life of Langston Hughes: Volume II, 1941-1967: I Dream a World by Arnold Rampersad (Oxford University Press)
1989 A Bright Shining Lie: John Paul Vann and America in Vietnam by Neil Sheehan (Random House)
1988 Hemingway by Kenneth S. Lynn (Simon and Schuster)
1988 George Santayana: A Biography by John McCormick (Alfred a. Knopf)
1987 Dostoevsky: The Stir of Liberation, 1860-1865 by Joseph Frank (Princeton University Press)
1987 The Life and Times of Congressman John Quincy Adams by Leonard L. Richards (Oxford University Press)
1987 Murrow: His Life and Times by A.M. Sperber (Freundlich Books)
1986 George Washington Williams: A Biography by John Hope Franklin (University of Chicago Press)
1986 A Hidden Childhood: A Jewish Girl's Sanctuary in a French Convent, 1942-1945 by Frida Scheps Weinstein (Hill and Wang)
1985 Becoming William James by Howard M. Feinstein (Cornell University Press)
1985 The Seven Mountains of Thomas Merton by Michael Mott (Houghton Mifflin)
1984 Thomas Carlyle: A Biography by Fred Kaplan (Cornell University Press)
1984 Black Apollo of Science: the Life of Ernest Everett Just by Kenneth Manning (Oxford University Press)
1983 Churchill: Young Man in a Hurry, 1874-1915 by Ted Morgan (Simon & Schuster)
1983 Thomas E. Dewey and His Times by Richard Norton Smith (Simon & Schuster)
1982 Waldo Emerson by Gay Wilson Allen (Viking)
1982 Mornings on Horseback by David McCullough (Simon & Schuster)
1981 Walt Whitman: A Life by Justin Kaplan (Simon & Schuster)
1981 Walter Lippmann and the American Century by Ronald Steel (Atlanti'Little)
1980 Bernard Berenson, The Making of a Connoisseur by Ernest Samuels (Belknap-Harvard)
1980 Being Bernard Berenson by Meryle Secrest (Holt)
1980 The Duke of Deception by Geoffrey Wolff (Random House)