October 9, 2006
News & Opinion: Big Business Biographies
Some are considering it a golden age for biographies and there are some HUGE biographies coming out this season.
In the continuing trend of Founding Father era biographies, Viking is publishing Thomas Paine: Enlightenment, Revolution, And the Birth of Modern Nations by Craig Nelson. Paine is probably one of the lesser known figures of that era and Nelson's version draws on the latest research. I should also say this one is thin, only coming in at 378 pages. (If you want a primer on his work, I wholeheartedly recommend the Penguin Great Ideas' version of Common Sense.)
From there, we jump ahead 125 years. There are two 800+ tomes on the early capitalists/robber-barrons Carnegie and Mellon. Steve Forbes reviewed Mellon on Friday in the Wall Street Journal. He loves Andrew Mellon the man, but is not keen on David Cannadine's telling of the story. I wasn't able to find a review of Andrew Carnegie.
The final biography of note is Neal Gabler's Walt Disney: The Triumph of the American Imagination. This one comes in at 880 pages. Publisher's Weekly gave it a starred review. Knopf's site has great side material including an excerpt from the book, a Q&A with Gabler, and fun facts you might not know about Disney.