Tom Reiss, The Black Count (Broadway Books)

The PEN/Jacqueline Bograd Weld Award for Biography is awarded for excellence in the art of biography. This prize of $5,000 will go to the author of a distinguished work published in the United States during the previous calendar year. The winning title should be a work of exceptional literary, narrative and artistic merit, based on scrupulous research.

2013 Judges

Debby Applegate, Peter Orner, and Charles Shields

From the Judges’ Citation

The Black Count is a miracle of research: Tom Reiss has resurrected a man from crumbling archives collected during the most confusing and violent revolution in European history. He uncovers more about one of France’s most courageous generals than his son, novelist Alexander Dumas, was ever able to find out about his father. The book’s dramatic arc, propulsive drive, and dynamic interplay of choice and historical forces, deliver a narrative that’s thoroughly entertaining. But most importantly, Reiss not only convinces us that his subject, the true Count of Monte Cristo, was a great and decent man; in the process he forces opens a rusty door in scholarship marked “Do Not Enter.” Inside are the ghosts of men and women forgotten due to racism or sexism. In The Black Count, Reiss calls forth one of those—full-bodied in the form of General Dumas, living, breathing and unforgettable.


Gordon BowkerJames Joyce (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

From the Judges’ Citation

Gordon Bowker’s James Joyce is a beautifully written re-examination of a man who is too often taken for granted. In Bowker’s hands, we come to know, intimately, as never before, Joyce the artist as well as Joyce the human being.  While there are other great biographies of Joyce, Bowker succeeds in breaking new ground by exploring previously unknown information and a reader comes away with a vivid picture of not only how Joyce created his singular and enduring works of fiction but what they cost him and his family. By linking the source material of Joyce’s fiction to aspects of his life, Bowker enlightens us to the complexities of Joyce’s brilliant and obsessive, but also down-to-earth imagination. James Joyce emerges no less mysterious and fascinating for being, in many ways, more ordinary than we ever knew. Bowker provides a fresh and important look at a writer whose work continues to confound and inspire.


James Joyce (Farrar, Straus and Giroux), Gordon Bowker

All We Know (Farrar, Straus and Giroux), Lisa Cohen

A Difficult Woman (Bloomsbury), Alice Kessler-Harris

The Lives of Margaret Fuller (W.W. Norton & Co.), John Matteson

The Black Count (Broadway Books), Tom Reiss

Past Winners

Janet Malcolm, Richard Brody, Michael Scammell, Stacy Schiff, and Robert K. Massie