Need a nice thick biography for these darker days? Try a paperback one; it won't weigh down your lap quite so much. Here are four new-in-paperback biographies – plus an out-of-this-world memoir and a delicious collection of short fiction.
"Grant" by Ron Chernow (Penguin, $22). Named one of the 10 best books of 2017 by The New York Times, Chernow's door stopper of a biography (close to 1,000 pages of text) examines the life of the 18th president of the United States, Ulysses S. Grant. The NYT called it "vast and panoramic in ways that history buffs will love."
"Ernest Hemingway: A Biography" by Mary V. Dearborn (Knopf, $18). "A perceptive and tough-minded biographer, who has written about other fabled icons of masculinity – Henry Miller, Norman Mailer – Dearborn has now tackled the big one," wrote The New York Times, calling this first full biography of Hemingway in 15 years "authoritative ... Dearborn skillfully covers an enormous range of rich material."
"Leonardo da Vinci" by Walter Isaacson (Simon & Schuster, $22). This best-selling, acclaimed biography, from the author of "Steve Jobs" and "Einstein," was featured on Bill Gates' summer reading list. "Although today he's best known as a painter, Leonardo had an absurdly wide range of interests, from human anatomy to the theater," wrote Gates. "Isaacson does the best job I've seen of pulling together the different strands of Leonardo's life and explaining what made him so exceptional."
"Endurance: My Year in Space, a Lifetime of Discovery" by Scott Kelly (Vintage, $16.95). Kelly, an astronaut who once held the American record for total number of days spent in space (520), wrote a memoir that Seattle Times reviewer Melissa Davis described as a "rollicking tale, well-told, about his journey to making the trip of a lifetime."
"Five-Carat Soul" by James McBride (Penguin, $16). The National Book Award winner ("The Good Lord Bird") published his first collection of short stories in 2017. "Full of humor, down-home vernacular and slightly twisted nostalgia," wrote Seattle Times reviewer Tyrone Beason, McBride's stories "go down like warm milk sneakily spiked with a shot of whiskey."
"Reckless Daughter: A Portrait of Joni Mitchell" by David Yaffe (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $17). Though Seattle Times reviewer Charles R. Cross cautioned that this biography of the famed singer/songwriter is "too fawning by half," fans will want to check it out for its deft analysis of many of Mitchell's albums. If Mitchell herself remains remote – well, as Cross noted, she is an "elusive quarry."