This fall sees some striking memoirs by and biographies of movie and TV notables, big-name athletes, and important political figures:

Always Look on the Bright Side of Life: A Sortabiography - Eric Idle. Crown Archetype, Oct. 2

Idle, a founding member of Monty Python’s Flying Circus, looks back at his life and the creation of one of the most successful sketch comedy shows.

The Banished Immortal – Ha Jin. Pantheon, Jan. 8

National Book Award–winning novelist Jin (Waiting) turns to nonfiction with this biography of Li Bai, an eighth-century Chinese poet who was influenced by Daoist thought and who in turn influenced Jin.

Becoming – Michelle Obama. Crown, Nov. 13

This was all the talk at BookExpo, as the former first lady details her growing up on Chicago’s South Side, working as an executive while raising kids, and what it meant to be the first African-American first lady.

The Big Fella: Babe Ruth and the World He Created - Jane Leavy. Harper, Oct. 16

Leavy, who has written bestselling books on baseball legends Sandy Koufax and Mickey Mantle, focuses on Babe Ruth.

Churchill: Walking with Destiny – Andrew Roberts. Viking, Nov. 6

Roberts (Napoleon and The Storm of War) bases this 1,000-plus-page epic biography of Churchill on extensive new material, including Churchill’s private correspondence and war cabinet meeting minutes.

Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom – David W. Blight. Simon & Schuster, Oct. 2

Blight draws on archival records to trace Frederick Douglass’s life as an escaped slave through his role as an orator traveling the country during Reconstruction and the Jim Crow era.

Heartland: A Daughter of the Working Class Reconciles an American Divide – Sarah Smarsh. Scribner, Sept. 18

Smarsh’s memoir, according to our starred review, is a “candid and courageous memoir about growing up in a family of working-class farmers in Kansas during the 1980s and ’90s.”

In Pieces – Sally Field. Grand Central, Sept. 18

Actress Field—known to generations from her role as the Flying Nun—promises a literary memoir. And with a 500,000-copy announced first printing, the publisher is banking on her fans showing up for it.

Legend: My Life in Football – Joe Namath. Little, Brown, Oct. 30

“Broadway Joe” Namath, who led the New York Jets to their first and only Super Bowl win in 1969, was one of the first superstars of the NFL; the release of this memoir is timed to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the Jets’ victory.

Reagan: An American Journey – Bob Spitz. Penguin Press, Oct. 2

Biographer Spitz turns his attention to the 40th president in this full-length biography, incorporating previously unavailable documents. Spitz’s earlier biographies of Bob Dylan and Julia Child were hugely popular, and his book on the Beatles was a bestseller.

Keep reading at »