Read Smart Podcast Episode 4: The Art of Biography

In episode 4 of Read Smart, Razia explores the art of biography with Baillie Gifford Prize alumni, Sir Jonathan Bate, Lucy Hughes-Hallett and William Feaver.

Lucy Hughes-Hallet won the Baillie Gifford Prize in 2013 with The Pike, Sir Jonathan Bate was shortlisted in 2015 with Ted Hughes: The Unauthorised Life and William Feaver was shortlisted in 2019 with The Lives of Lucian Freud: Youth. 

Together, they discuss the joys and challenges of studying and portraying somebody else’s life. They talk about the writing process for biographies, the almost all-encompassing obsession with that person and the responsibility of sharing another’s story.


They move on to explore the difficulty of subjectivity and writing about unpopular or offensive people. In addition, Bate describes his disappointment when, during his writing process, the permissions for sharing information were reduced, resulting in him publishing an ‘unfinished’ work that may never be resolved in his lifetime.

The podcast is wrapped up with Razia asking our guests to explain how it feels to let go of the subject once the book is finished, if they ever can move on…

This episode was recorded and produced completely remotely. Tune in for our next episode at the end of July.

Read Smart Podcast is commissioned by The Baillie Gifford Prize for Non-Fiction and is generously supported by the Blavatnik Family Foundation.

Listen to the podcast on iTunesSpotifyStitcher, SoundCloud and Entale.