Judging by The Snowball and this portrait of Nobel laureate V.S. Naipaul, 2008 might go down as the Year of the Authorized Biography. French is blessed with a rich subject: any book on Naipaul is also a book about Trinidad, England, the Indian diaspora, family, marriage, friendship, race, class and contemporary literature. (Also somewhat surprisingly given Naipaul's finicky, ascetic image sex!) But it takes a steady hand to pull all these strands plus a formidable range of source material into a cohesive narrative, and French has it. Naipaul's contributions, meanwhile, are invaluable and characteristically cunning; while some of his revelations especially regarding his outsize callousness toward the women in his life will make you cringe, you can't help but admire his candor. It's a seamless union of author scrutiny and subject self-scrutiny the perfect treatment for Naipaul, who has spent much of his writing life teasing out his own autobiographical enigmas.