What are your favorite profiles?
May 7, 2015 2:58 AM   Subscribe

Hi! I'm teaching a writing class and would love some examples of great profiles (famous people, ordinary people, whatever). They can be long New Yorker-style ones, or newspaper articles, or whatever -- anything that is nonfiction and skillfully captures a person (or is intended to). Short ones would be particularly helpful. Any recommendations of ones you love?
posted by caoimhe to Writing & Language (17 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
I LOVE how Humans of New York manages to capture a person's essence and tell a wonderful little story (in their own words) in such a small space. Just regular, ordinary people being themselves.
posted by Major Matt Mason Dixon at 3:14 AM on May 7, 2015 [1 favorite]

The obituary column in The Economist has beautiful profiles of many prominent and unexpected people. After reading it, I always wish that I could have known more about the person in life.

The Hairpin did an interview with the writer, Ann Wroe - it was a great insight into how she writes them and what details she focuses on.
posted by cadge at 3:21 AM on May 7, 2015 [5 favorites]

The Economist's Obituary of Allen Carr, the guy who wrote "The Easy Way to Stop Smoking" was absolutely brilliant! (I don't know how to link, but I found it easily online by googleing "Allen Car Economist")
posted by catspajammies at 3:34 AM on May 7, 2015

Javier Mariás wrote a lovely short book called Written Lives which is a series of 'biographical sketches' of writers. They're short, beautifully crafted, and usually go about the business of talking about the writers from an usual angle, or with an emphasis on something that is attractive to Mariás even if it's just a detail that other biographers would happily skim over. Wikipedia page with a list of the writers in the book.
posted by Joeruckus at 3:37 AM on May 7, 2015 [1 favorite]

Host, by David Foster Wallace, is pretty dang amazing.
posted by god hates math at 4:32 AM on May 7, 2015 [1 favorite]

Gertrude Stein! She wrote amazing portraits. It may be a little out there for what you're looking for, but I love them.

Her portrait of Picasso.
posted by frumiousb at 4:38 AM on May 7, 2015 [1 favorite]

Macleans magazine also does obituaries.
They are more like life profiles of a person's life, about 1 page long.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 4:48 AM on May 7, 2015

I have alwas loved this 1966 piece from Esquire - Frank Sinatra has a Cold
posted by cessair at 4:57 AM on May 7, 2015 [1 favorite]

Came here to post the Economist's obits page; was not disappointed. I'd go with those.
posted by fifthrider at 5:34 AM on May 7, 2015

Anything by Joseph Mitchell.
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 6:33 AM on May 7, 2015

John Mcphee's A Fleet of One in the New Yorker.
posted by vespabelle at 7:14 AM on May 7, 2015

Tom Junod's profiles of Mr. Rogers and George Clooney have enriched my life.
posted by jasper411 at 7:53 AM on May 7, 2015 [1 favorite]

Agree, pretty much any obit in the Economist.
posted by radioamy at 9:32 AM on May 7, 2015

Salon.com used to run an occasional series of profiles called "Brilliant Careers" which I remember being generally very good.
posted by gauche at 12:02 PM on May 7, 2015

I've read this New Yorker profile of Ricky Jay 20 times. I love it so.
posted by Charity Garfein at 6:04 PM on May 7, 2015 [1 favorite]

Virtually each edition of Sports Illustrated will have a profile piece of someone. SI is still considered the gold-standard of sports journalism, with ESPN Magazine a close second.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 7:52 PM on May 7, 2015

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