Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Life Stories: Profiles from The New Yorker” as Want to Read:
Life Stories: Profiles from The New Yorker
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Life Stories: Profiles from The New Yorker

4.19  ·  Rating details ·  342 ratings  ·  39 reviews
One of art's purest challenges is to translate a human being into words. The New Yorker has met this challenge more successfully and more originally than any other modern American journal. It has indelibly shaped the genre known as the Profile. Starting with light-fantastic evocations of glamorous and idiosyncratic figures of the twenties and thirties, such as Henry Luce a ...more
Paperback, Modern Library Paperbacks, 624 pages
Published May 15th 2001 by Modern Library (first published February 29th 2000)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Life Stories, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Life Stories

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 4.19  · 
Rating details
 ·  342 ratings  ·  39 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of Life Stories: Profiles from The New Yorker
Jun 12, 2017 rated it really liked it
Below are listed the essays in the order they appear in the book. In parentheses are the persons about which the respective essays are about. Then is stated the author and my personal rating of the essay. Please do keep in mind that even a 2 stars rating indicates that I felt the essay was OK, 3 stars means I liked it, 4 that I liked it a lot and 5 that it was fantastic. The average of my ratings comes to between 3 and 4. I am choosing to give the entire book 4 because when I look at the whole, ...more
Feb 21, 2011 rated it it was amazing
So I haven't actually read this whole book, just several of the essays, but I have been spending a lot of my time lately with my nose in the New Yorker archives. My print subscription ran out a few months ago, but for some reason my digital subscription and archive access hasn't changed.

The biggest problem with the New Yorker archives is that unless you know what you're looking for, it's hard to run across anything interesting. What they need is a digital archivist, like Sports Illustrated has,
Re-reading this collection ten years later, it strikes me that a lot of these profiles haven't aged very well, especially ones written by male writers on female subjects. The one exception, the profile that most endures, to me at least, is Janet Malcolm's "41 False Starts," which is a masterpiece of form echoing content.
Mar 16, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This was amazing -- the best collection of essays I've read since, well, the best American essays of the century collection. Coming from the New Yorker this collection has more of a formula (there is a certain style that runs throughout, despite the variation in subject) and I suppose a certain similarity of perspective -- that of an uptown Eastern elite looking with somewhat clinical interest down on the specimen... Nonetheless these are wonderfully entertaining and also terribly educational (f ...more
Tian Huang
May 12, 2017 rated it liked it
Ricky Jay, Baryshnikov, Brando, and Anatole Broyard are by far the most interesting and well-written profiles.
Lee Mueller
Jul 25, 2019 rated it really liked it
Quite good; a wide range of interesting people profiled by interesting people.
Sep 08, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This is a big fat book of over 600 pages. But the quality of the writing and variety of the subject matter keeps it fresh. I especially loved checking out the different approaches the writers take to reveal their subjects -- some conventional and some much less so. Mr. Hunter's Grave (the first story) is the master of the form. It's so quiet and unassuming with such beautiful prose. The Education of a Prince wins for pure reading enjoyment. Dealing with Roseanne is funny and bold and is the best ...more
May 11, 2011 rated it really liked it
I did not read this whole book BUT: there are two profiles in it that are utterly brilliant and
The most amazing one is on Ricky Jay, the magician, scholar, and unclassifiable entertainer.
I recall reading it in the New Yorker years ago and being blown away by it. Jay is probably
a true genius and might possibly be able to do real magic, if the stories told here about him
are true. You have to read it to believe it. Plus, the article serves as a sort of introduction into
the world
Jan 29, 2008 added it
These stories make the ordinary extraordinary, and although that may sound like a back cover review quote, it's true. I started reading this book to get a break from Guns, Germs, and Steel. I felt like every time I read about a new historical tribe or new society, it was a tease because the next chapter was about crops spread around the world before the year of Christ. I do enjoy the book and I understand the magnitude of its purpose. However, I miss hearing about people... Individuals like Mr. ...more
Diana Higgins
Feb 25, 2009 rated it it was amazing
One of the best books I've ever read. Sometimes when I read New Yorker Profiles, I think they're a little too in-depth. I read the first third and think, ok, I'm good, but then it goes on and on beyond that point.

But right now this worked for me. Almost every profile opened up dozens of doors in my mind, led me down new paths of thinking. And almost every profile had at least one (some had a dozen) references which I didn't quite get; I thought more than once that going back and rereading, taki
Aug 28, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I was going to read the essays on Roseanne and Richard Pryor and call it quits but this whole book is really incredible. Especially and unexpectedly interesting: essays on the Chudnovsky Bros., Anatole Broyard, Ricky Jay, and Heloise. On Anatole Broyard:

"You know, he turned it into a joke. And when you change something basic about yourself into a joke, it spreads, it metastasizes, and so his whole presentation of self became completely ironic. Everything about him was ironic."

Also introduced m
Jenna Fisher
Jan 28, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Some amazing profiles in here. And some older, less interesting ones. Two that surprised me were "Dealing with Rosanne" by John Lahr - he painted such a full portrait of what she has overcome to be who she is. I was floored. And "Man Goes to See a Doctor (Max Grosskurth) by Adam Gopnik. That one brought tears to my eyes: a weird thing task when you're reading about someone's shrink.

Also enjoyed Malcolm Gladwell's "The Coolhunt" and Nancy Franklin's "Lady with a Pencil" about Katharine White and
Mary Whisner
Mar 31, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: biographies
A collection of profiles from the magazine that invented (or notably developed) the genre, the subjects range from Ernest Heningway to an unknown state wildlife employee. The charm of the anthology is not only in the pieces, which are individually interesting, nor in the authors, who are among the twentieth century's best, but in their arrangement. It adds something to read a profile of Mikhail Baryshnikov right after a profile of Isadora Duncan from several decades
Ogi Ogas
Oct 28, 2015 rated it it was amazing
My ratings of books on Goodreads are solely a crude ranking of their utility to me, and not an evaluation of literary merit, entertainment value, social importance, humor, insightfulness, scientific accuracy, creative vigor, suspensefulness of plot, depth of characters, vitality of theme, excitement of climax, satisfaction of ending, or any other combination of dimensions of value which we are expected to boil down through some fabulous alchemy into a single digit.
Jan 28, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
These were my favorite stories from the mix. Well written and well read.
Isadora (Isadora Duncan), by Janet Flanner

Nobody Better, Better Than Nobody (Heloise), by Ian Frazier
The Coolhunt (Baysie Wightman and DeeDee Gordon), by Michael Gladwell

Mr. Hunter's Grave (George H. Hunter), by Joseph Mitchell
Show Dog (Biff Truesdale), by Susan Orlean

The Man Who Walks on Air (Philippe Petit), by Calvin Tomkins
Covering the Cops (Edna Buchanan), by Calvin Trillin
Apr 23, 2008 rated it really liked it
I wanted this book to be perfect and it wasn't. It made me realize that too many New Yorker profiles are too long and too staidly written. That said, there are some fantastic examples of the form here. The contributions from Richard Preston, Lillian Ross, Henry Louis Gates, Jr, and janet Malcolm are stunning.
Nov 03, 2011 rated it really liked it
Read profiles of a gentleman named Hemmingway and a doting New Yorker magazine woman editor Katherine White who was the consummate worrier over the magazine's writers. Included also are Al Gore and Adam Gopnik. In the latter, Mr. Gopnik writes about his experience with psychoanalysis and learns about some worthwhile things in Life.
Aug 22, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: did-not-complete
In my opinion, some profiles were better than others (Ross' Hemingway rocked!). However, the collection contains such a big variety that I believe it will have a profile that will interest anyone.

8/22/12 - This book also gives the reader an idea what kind of nonfiction writers the reader enjoys.
Mar 28, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This was a wonderful book. The people profiled in this book had interesting lives and the authors of the stores did a great job of articulating that point. I really liked the George W Bush and Al Gore profiles - one right after the other. The first profile - "Mister Hunter's Grave" is amazing. Could go on. I loved them all.
Dec 28, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
These are examples of an amazing genre. I love to read the New Yorker's profiles when I have time. Joseph Mitchell, the author of Mr. Hunter's Grave," has a collection out entitled Up in the Old Hotel, which I highly recommend.
Oct 26, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I wish I could write half as well as these writers. Brilliant profiles, a huge inspiration to my own writing. Even if you're not a writer you should really enjoy the stories of some of these people. Some of my favourite profiles were of Marlon Brando, Steve Blass and Ricky Jay, among others.
Dec 26, 2014 rated it really liked it
Life Stories is a collection of profiles published in the New Yorker. Most are by famous New Yorker writers—Joseph Mitchell, AJ Liebling, Lillian Ross, Ian Frazier—but only one piece from each writer was allowed by the editor.
Terence Manleigh
A marvelous collection of some of the best "Profiles" pieces from "The New Yorker" magazine over the last 80 years. The writing is impeccable, the subjects fascinating, and the pleasure quotient immeasurable.
Jun 20, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: people who like people.
These profiles are my reason for reading The New Yorker mostly, and here are a bunch of the good ones, all collected in a book!
Sep 04, 2007 rated it it was amazing
These are amazing. I recommend that everyone keep this on your nighttable.
Anabelle DARIO
Jan 25, 2008 rated it really liked it
I'm in to this now. Currently reading on Ernest Hemmingway. Interesting.
May 04, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Excellent little biographies of some interesting people. Reminded me of Garrison Keillor's characters, but these people are real!
Jun 22, 2008 rated it it was ok
The Al Gore profile was worth the price of the entire book. Too bad the others that were chosen were not nearly as memorable or as good as in recent New Yorkers.
Emilie Frechie
Jul 30, 2008 rated it really liked it
Read the one about Bush.
« previous 1 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »

Readers also enjoyed

  • Tuck Everlasting
  • The Water Cure
  • The Hour of the Star
  • Beowulf
  • Thrilling Cities
  • A Long Petal of the Sea
  • Flights
  • Giovanni's Room
  • Interview with the Vampire (The Vampire Chronicles, #1)
  • The Sun Also Rises
  • The Order of Time
  • Heart of Darkness
  • Crash
  • A Midsummer Night's Dream
  • Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
  • The 40s: The Story of a Decade
  • The Apprentice: My Life in the Kitchen
  • The Crucible
See similar books…
David Remnick (born October 29, 1958) is an American journalist, writer, and magazine editor. He won a Pulitzer Prize in 1994 for his book Lenin s Tomb The Last Days of the Soviet Empire. Remnick has been editor of The New Yorker magazine since 1998. He was named Editor of the Year by Advertising Age in 2000. Before joining The New Yorker, Remnick was a reporter and the Moscow correspondent for Th ...more

Related Articles

If you follow the world of food, chances are you’ve heard of David Chang. The founder of the Momofuku restaurant group, Chang is a chef, TV...
45 likes · 5 comments
“Outside the basement door was a covered pen that housed a rooster and a seagull. The rooster had been on his way to Colonel Sanders' when he fell off a truck and broke a drumstick. Someone called Carol, as people often do, and she took the rooster into her care. He was hard of moving, but she had hopes for him. He was so new there he did not even have a name. The seagull, on the other hand, had been with her for years. He had one wing. She had picked him up on a beach three hundred miles away. His name was Garbage Belly. --John McPhee, Travels in Georgia (1973)” 1 likes
More quotes…