The odd genius behind Charlie Brown

Say “comic strip” to just about anyone born between 1940 and 1990, and there’s a pretty good chance the first word to come to his mind will be “Peanuts.” But while everyone can recognize Charlie Brown, Lucy, Linus, and Snoopy, their creator, Charles Schulz, has remained an enigma — until now. Thanks to David Michaelis’s excellent and exhaustive Schulz and Peanuts: A Biography (out October 16), we finally get an in-depth look at this complex, depressed Midwesterner and learn just how much of his (cheerful, all-American) work mirrored his own (not–so–Norman Rockwellian) life. In one strip, Snoopy’s crush on a girl dog is a none-too-subtle retelling of the illustrator’s own extramarital affair.

Michaelis, who spent six years working on the book, was given unrestricted access not only to Schulz’s studio and personal archives but also to the business end of Schulz’s $1.2 billion Peanuts empire. By the end of the book, you may pine for the days when Snoop had nothing to do with Dogg.

BUY Schulz and Peanuts: A Biography (HarperCollins; hardcover; 688 pages)

SEARCH Ask.com for Charles Schulz

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The odd genius behind Charlie Brown