Yes, this book is more than a quarter of a century old; but I am still going to recommend it to you ... well, to those of you who don't already have it, or who don't refer often to it ...
John Henry Newman A Biography by Ian Ker (Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1988) (available in paparback).
Blessed John Henry Newman is exactly the man you need to read now. And "Dr Ker's biography is gripping because it allows Newman to speak for himself. An acknowledged master of Newman scholarship, he writes with sympathy and fairness of the polemical masterpieces written during the Anglican half of Newman's life ... Dr Ker has been able to use a goldmine of unpublished papers and correspondence. The letters fascinate not only for their style or for the religious and educational topics central to Newman's mind, but also for the accidental flashes of social and personal history ..." So went the review by the late Henry Chadwick, who was himself one of the last of the great Anglican minds of the twentieth century, before the noble construct which had been Anglicanism collapsed into women bishops, Area Ministerial Training Schemes, and Messy Church.
But why should a modern Catholic read Newman, just one of those cobwebby Victorians, in 2016? Because his world was, to an uncanny degree, our world: the problems he faced were so often the problems we as Catholics face. His was a a world in which hyperultrapapalists were trying to impose a bloated and maximalised and unCatholic model of Papacy upon the Catholic world ... the notion that a Pope can do anything. Nor was Newman sentimental about bishops: he had studied deeply a period of Church History in which the majority of the Episcopate had been heretical. Liberalism and relativism stalked the world hand in hand; Newman's detestation of those errors is expressed in the speech he made when he accepted his Cardinal's hat: if you haven't read it, you ought to be ashamed of yourself. Read it; and never again will you be able to keep your temper when some ignorant fool implies that Newman was a 'Liberal Catholic'.
This great Blessed lived through a Council in which a gang of bullies tried to take control, and he was prepared to entertain the speculation that it had not been a genuinely Ecumenical Council at all. He talked about the problems which could arise if the Magisterium attempted to impose dubious doctrine. He even wished that the pope under whom he lived had not survived so long. He was subtle; but his sophistication had nothing soft or soggy about it. It better resembled a sharpened steel blade.
The best reassurance I can give you about Blessed John Henry's character and hence his readability is that he was not always very 'nice'. He took no prisoners.
Ker's biography is a big book; but you can get into it in sections, subject by subject, through the index at the end.
I conclude with another quotation from Chadwick: "[Newman] is an unsurpassed master of English prose. Deeply sensitive and subtle (some of his contemporaries thought too much so), stamped with high culture so as to give the lie to the venerable myth that unreformed Oxford was intellectually torpid, he was a formidable controversialist, as supreme a master of irony and satire as any in our literature."
Blessed John Henry Newman is fun to read, and so, very often, is this book about him.
Beate Iohannes Henrice, ora pro nobis.