There’s much about the career of Sarah Palin that is unique. The hockey mom in lipstick has fashioned herself as a maverick since sashaying onto the national political stage last year as John McCain’s running mate. More recently, the former Alaska governor and would-be G.O.P. standard-bearer has defied expectations by turning in her memoir just four months after her book deal was announced — HarperCollins is rushing Going Rogue into stores Nov. 17. (Some credit for that accomplishment goes to the pol’s quick-typing co-author, Lynn Vincent.)
But there’s at least one aspect of Palin’s opus that seems familiar…perhaps too familiar. And that’s the subtitle: An American Life. Astute history buffs will remember that that was the subtitle of Ronald Reagan’s best-selling 1990 memoir, of course. But in recent years, the three-word phrase has been the default setting for biographies of a host of people who share only the same geographic accident of birth. I tracked down at least 20 examples, many of whose dust jackets appear below.
Some come attached to bios of great figures in history (Benjamin Franklin, Martha Washington, and Daniel Boone). Others accompany individuals who made a noteworthy contribution to their chosen fields (banker Andrew Mellon, filmmaker D.W. Griffith, and pediatrician Dr. Spock). But when your subtitle is shared by books on actor Burt Lancaster, golfer Ben Hogan, and Grateful Dead frontman Jerry Garcia — as well as Garcia’s chosen instrument, the guitar — well, let’s just say your book title begins to look a whole lot less mavericky.