Poll: What Are Your Favorite Biographies?

Friends, I’m on a fact-finding mission. Or to be more specific, I’m interested in the different ways people write about facts. Biographies can vary in style — journalistic, salacious, or massive in scope — and I want to know what biographies you all have enjoyed.

The Autobiography of Eleanor Roosevelt (Harper Perennial 2014)Recently, I finished reading The Autobiography of Eleanor Roosevelt, which Harper Perennial re-released last year. It’s a condensed version of her full autobiography, which spanned several volumes, and it presents an account of her life from the 1880s until the early 1960s. Obviously, an autobiography is a slightly different animal than a biography, since we only get the facts the subject wishes to present. Eleanor certainly does not volunteer any more information than she wants to here, and the writing can be a little dry and formal, but it’s still an enjoyable, interesting book about a remarkable woman.

Memoir, on the other hand, does not cover the whole of a person’s life, but a specific narrative from a specific time written by that person. They can be outstanding books (Wild by Cheryl Strayed and The Chronology of Water by Lidia Yuknavitch come to mind), but to me, they are more about feeling than facts. There is nothing wrong with that, but right now, I’m interested in how to cover an entire life.

So, what of biographies? I want to know what sort of books (written by someone other than the subject) have held your attention? Bonus points if the biography made you more interested in the person than you thought you would be.

Tell me your favorites in the comments.

By Sara Habein

Sara Habein is the author of Infinite Disposable, a collection of microfiction, and her work has appeared on The Rumpus, Pajiba and Word Riot, among others. Her book reviews and other commentary appear at Glorified Love Letters, and she is the co-manager of Electric City Creative.

8 replies on “Poll: What Are Your Favorite Biographies?”

Admittedly I don’t read that many biographies, but I recently read Stig Dalager’s novel about Marie Curie called “Det Blå Lys” (“the Blue Light” – I’m not entirely sure it’s been translated yet), and I thought it was very good. But it probably would be difficult to write a dull novel about Curie, to be honest. I do really enjoy his style of writing, though.
Dalager also wrote a novel about Hans Christian Andersen called “Journey in Blue” I enjoyed that one as well – it’s more of a fictionalised biography, but well worth a read.

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