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Jonathan Yardley Biography | Jonathan Yardley

Jonathan Yardley (born October 27, 1939) was the book critic at The Washington Post from 1981 to December 2014 and held the same post from 1978 to 1981 at the Washington Star. In 1981 he received the Pulitzer Prize for Criticism.

Yardley was born in Pittsburgh. His father, William Woolsey Yardley, was a teacher of English and the classics, as well as an Episcopal minister and a headmaster at two East Coast private schools.

His mother was Helen Gregory Yardley. Yardley graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he was the editor of the student newspaper, The Daily Tar Heel, in 1961.

Yardley is married to biographer/novelist Marie Arana, the former editor of Washington Post Book World. His sons, Jim Yardley and William Yardley, with his first wife Rosemary Roberts, are New York Times reporters, and William writes for the Los Angeles Times as well. He and his son Jim are one of two father-son recipients of the Pulitzer Prize.

After leaving Chapel Hill, Yardley interned at the New York Times as assistant to James Reston, the columnist and Washington Bureau chief.

From 1964 to 1974, Yardley worked as an editorial writer and book reviewer at the Greensboro Daily News; during this time, he was also a Nieman Fellow at Harvard University, the academic year 1968-1969, where he studied American literature and literary biography.

From 1974 to 1978, Yardley served as book editor of the Miami Herald. From 1978 to 1981, he was the book critic at the Washington Star, receiving a Pulitzer Prize for distinguished criticism in 1981. In 1981, Yardley became book critic and columnist at the Washington Post.

Yardley is the author of several books, among them biographies of Frederick Exley and Ring Lardner. His memoir about his family, Our Kind of People, describes his parents’ 50-year marriage and casts a wry eye on the American WASP experience.

He edited H.L. Mencken’s posthumous literary and journalistic memoir, My Life as Author and Editor. He has written introductions to books by Graham Greene, A. J. Liebling, Booth Tarkington, and others.

Yardley is known simultaneously as a scathingly frank critic and a Starmaker. Among the talents, he has brought to public light and championed are Michael Chabon, Edward P. Jones, Anne Tyler, William Boyd, Olga Grushin and John Berendt.

He wrote a famously harsh review of Joe McGinniss’ book The Last Brother: The Rise and Fall of Teddy Kennedy, saying “Not merely is it a textbook example of shoddy journalistic and publishing ethics; it is also a genuinely, unrelievedly rotten book, one without a single redeeming virtue, an embarrassment that should bring nothing except shame to everyone associated with it.”

In February 2003, Yardley began a series called “Second Reading”, described as “An occasional series in which The Post’s book critic reconsiders notable and/or neglected books from the past.”

Every month or so, for the next seven years, he published essays about notable books from the past, many of which had gone out of print or were in some way seen as worth reading again.

It was in this series that he gained attention for his highly critical look at The Catcher in the Rye in 2004. A collection of the Second Reading columns was published by Europa Editions in July 2011.

On December 5, 2014, Yardley announced his retirement as book critic of the Post.

Jonathan Yardley Age

Jonathan Yardley was the book critic at The Washington Post from 1981 to December 2014 and held the same post from 1978 to 1981 at the Washington Star. In 1981 he received the Pulitzer Prize for Criticism. He was born in 1939, in Pittsburgh, PA, Jonathan is 80 years old


Yardley was awarded the 1981 Pulitzer Prize for Criticism. Yardley has been a Nieman Fellow. Yardley was awarded an honorary doctorate of letters by George Washington University in 1987, and a distinguished alumnus award by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1989.

Jonathan Yardley Wife, Married, Family

Marie Arana the wife of  Jonathan Yardley  (born Lima, Peru) is an author, editor, journalist, literary critic, and member of the Scholars Council at the Library of Congress.

Marie Arana was born in Peru, the daughter of Jorge Arana Cisneros, a Peruvian born civil engineer, and Marie Elverine Clapp, an American from Kansas and Boston, whose family has deep roots in the United States.

She moved with her parents to the United States at the age of 9, achieved her B.A. in Russian at Northwestern University, her M.A. in linguistics at Hong Kong University, a certificate of scholarship at Yale University in China, and began her career in book publishing, where she was vice president and senior editor at Harcourt Brace and Simon & Schuster.

For more than a decade she was the editor in chief of “Book World”, the book review section of The Washington Post, during which time she instituted the partnership of The Washington Post with the White House (First Lady Laura Bush) and the Library of Congress (Dr. James H. Billington, Librarian of Congress) in hosting the annual National Book Festival on the Washington Mall.

She is currently Co-Director of the National Book Festival. Arana is a Writer at Large for The Washington Post. She is married to Jonathan Yardley, the Post’s chief book critic, and has two children from a previous marriage, Lalo Walsh and Adam Ward; as well as two stepchildren, Jim Yardley, and Bill Yardley.

Marie Arana is the author of a memoir about a bicultural childhood American Chica: Two Worlds, One Childhood (finalist for the 2001 National Book Award as well as the Martha PEN/Albrand Award for the Art of the Memoir); editor of a collection of Washington Post essays about the writer’s craft, The Writing Life (2002); and the author of Cellophane (a satirical novel set in the Peruvian Amazon, published in 2006, and a finalist for the John Sargent Prize).

Her most recent novel, published in January 2009, is Lima Nights (it’s Spanish edition (2013) was selected by El Comercio’s chief book critic as one of the best five novels of 2013 in Peru.

Arana’s most recent book is “Bolívar: American Liberator,” a biography of the South American revolutionary leader and founder Simon BolivarThe book was published by Simon and Schuster in April 2013. It won the 2014 Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Biography.

She has written introductions for many books, among them a National Geographic book of aerial photographs of South America, Through the Eyes of the Condor. and she is a frequent spokesperson on Hispanic issues, Latin America, and the book industry.

Arana has served on the board of directors of the National Book Critics Circle and the National Association of Hispanic Journalists. For many years, she has directed literary events for the Americartes Festivals at the Kennedy Center. She has been a judge for the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award as well as for the National Book Critics Circle.

Her commentary has been published in the New York Times, the Washington Post, the “Virginia Quarterly Review,” USA Today, Civilization, Smithsonian magazine, National Geographic, and numerous other literary publications throughout the Americas.

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Arana was a Fellow at the Hoover Institute at Stanford University in 1996 and then again in 1999, an Invited Research Scholar at Brown University in 2008-2009. In October 2009, Arana received the Alumna Award of the Year at Northwestern University.

In April 2009, Arana was named John W. Kluge Distinguished Scholar at the Library of Congress through 2010. In September 2009, she was elected to the Scholars’ Council of the Library of Congress as well as the Board of Directors of the National Book Festival.

Arana was a scriptwriter for the Latin American portion of the film “Girl Rising,” which describes the life of Senna, a 14-year-old girl in the Andean gold-mining town of La Rinconada. At 17,000 feet above sea level, it is the highest human habitation in the world.

The film was part of a campaign to promote the importance of girls’ education. Arana’s writing about that experience, which was published in The Best American Travel Writing 2013, was named one of “the most gripping and sobering” of the year.

In March 2015, Arana directed the Iberian Suite Festival Literary Series for the Kennedy Center. In the course of seven programs, she featured more than two dozen Spanish-language and Portuguese-language writers from around the world.

In October 2015, Arana was named Chair of the Cultures of the Countries of the South, an honorary post at the John W. Kluge Center of the Library of Congress.

She is currently an expert advisor to national and international outreach programs of the Library of Congress, Senior Advisor to the Librarian of Congress, as well as Literary Director in charge of programming for the National Book Festival.