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The 2007 books we liked best: biography

Of the biographies reviewed in the Monitor this year, these received the top marks.

BEATRIX POTTER: A LIFE IN NATURE,by Linda Lear (St. Martin's Press, 584 pp., $30)

Linda Lear tells how Beatrix Potter, born wealthy and expected to lead a life of ease, instead became the best loved children's writer of her time. (1/9/07)

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THOMAS HARDY: THE TIME-TORN MAN,by Claire Tomalin (Penguin, 512 pp., $35)

Acclaimed literary biographer Claire Tomalin brings fresh insight to the life of English novelist and poet Thomas Hardy. (1/23/07)

EINSTEIN: HIS LIFE AND UNIVERSE,by Walter Isaacson (Simon and Schuster, 641 pp., $32)

Former managing editor of Time magazine Walter Isaacson frames Einstein's landmark physics theories within the context of a life almost as remarkable as the theories themselves. (4/10/07)

EDITH WHARTON,by Hermione Lee (Knopf, 869 pp., $35)

This authoritative, absorbing new biography of the great 19th-century author offers detailed context forWharton's life and work. (5/15/07)

RALPH ELLISON,by Arnold Rampersad (Knopf, 686 pp., $35)

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The author of "Invisible Man" is portrayed as a romantic haunted by self-doubt in this perceptive work by biographer and literary critic Arnold Rampersad. (5/22/07)

FDR,by Jean Edward Smith (Random House, 858 pp., $35)

Distinguished historian Jean Edward Smith paints a portrait of America's four-term president as a leader willing to risk failure. (6/5/07)

IKE: AN AMERICAN HERO,by Michael Korda (HarperCollins, 779 pp., $34.95)

This thorough, affectionate biography by novelist and former Simon and Schuster executive Michael Korda illuminates the quiet virtues of Dwight D. Eisenhower. (8/21/07)

EDEN'S OUTCASTS: THE STORY OF LOUISA MAY ALCOTT AND HER FATHER,by John Matteson (W.W. Norton, 468 pp., $29.95)

Matteson tells the odd, fascinating story of the ├╝ber idealistic Bronson Alcott and the impact of his life decisions on his daughter, beloved children's book authoress Louisa May Alcott. (8/21/07)

TWO LIVES: GERTRUDE AND ALICE,by Janet Malcolm (Yale University Press, 229 pp., $25)

Janet Malcolm takes another look at the contradictions and quirks in the lives of Gertrude Stein and her partner, the enigmatic Alice B. Toklas. (10/2/07)

SCHULZ AND PEANUTS,by David Michaelis (HarperCollins, 655 pp., $34.95)

In this controversial work (contested by Schulz's children) new light is shed on the uneasy genius behind America's most beloved comic strip. (10/16/07)

YOUNG STALIN,by Simon Sebag Montefiore (Knopf, 460 pp., $30)

Following up on "Court of the Red Tsar," his highly praised account of Stalin's years in power, Simon Sebag Montefiore now tackles the dictator's early years. (10/30/07)