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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

NPR's book critics have been compiling their lists of best books of the year. Reviewer Michael Schaub has put together of his favorite biographies, and it includes books about President Obama, Julia Child and Lillian Hellman. But Schaub's favorite is the story of the man with this distinctive voice.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, I'M YOUR MAN")

LEONARD COHEN: (singing) If you want a lover, I'll do anything you ask me to.

MICHAEL SCHAUB, BYLINE: That's singer/songwriter Leonard Cohen. In Sylvie Simmons' new biography, "I'm Your Man: The Life of Leonard Cohen," she does a wonderful job explaining how a small charismatic kid from Montreal became the world's unofficial poet laureate of, as Simmons writes, survival, sex, God and depression. "I'm Your Man" is one of the best biographies of the year in large part because Simmons shares Cohen's wry sense of humor and love for the unexpected.

She tells the story of the first time Rufus Wainwright met Cohen. Leonard was in his underwear chewing a boiled hot dog into tiny little bits and spitting it out and putting it on a toothpick and feeding this little bird that had fallen from a nest.

Cohen is known for his often depressing lyrics, and his life has been far from easy, but as Simmons points out, his darkest moments made him who he is now, or as Cohen himself once sang: Forget your perfect offering, there's a crack in everything. That's how the light gets in.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "ANTHEM")

COHEN: (Singing) There is a crack, a crack in everything. That's how the light gets in.

CORNISH: The biography of Leonard Cohen is called "I'm Your Man," and the man who recommended it is Michael Schaub.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "ANTHEM")

COHEN: (Singing) We asked for signs. The signs were sent. The birth betrayed the marriage spent...

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