Nelson Mandela, one of the most interesting men of the 20th century, also has one of the most interesting faces. That makes Mandela: The Authorized Portrait one of the most exciting books to come out this year. The book is a detailed narrative of Mandela's life, heavily dosed with images that capture his evolution from young man-about-town to honored South African president. Mike Nicol, whose arching narrative unifies the often sprawling effort to hitch photos and captions to story, follows the South African leader closely as he departs to school, the first in his family to do so. Later, Nicol chronicles Mandela's career in law, his first failed marriage, followed quickly by his wedding to Winnie Mandela, his underground war on apartheid as the Black Pimpernel, his 27 years in prison and so on. Punctuating this riveting narrative are brilliantly assembled photos that capture important moments in Mandela's rise, fall and resurrection. The book also features first-person commentaries from celebrities like former President Bill Clinton, British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Muhammad Ali, as well as friends and fellow revolutionaries who knew and worked alongside Mandela in the struggle for South African freedom.

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