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.
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.
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.
And he seems to like the word BLUE in his titles, ha.
But you’re right, it would be hard to have a dull Marie Curie bio.
PS: I’ve got a list of books going that people have recommended to me in this category: https://www.goodreads.com/review/list/4105913-sara-habein?shelf=biography-non-fiction-research
“The Black Count” by Tom Reiss. It tells about Alex Dumas, the father of Alexandre Dumas (you know, the guy who wrote “The Three Musketeers” and “The Count of Monte Cristo”). Alex Dumas, a former slave, became a general in Napoleons army.
That does sound interesting.
Oh, as always, it has to be “Wedlock” by Wendy Moore. It was honestly a life changing read for me. Incredible book. Incredible women, too.
One of these days, I’ll finally read that.
It’s well worth it, at least, I thought so. In a weird way, it was a little like reading a Mary Roach book: incredibly well researched and very accessible. It has to be up there in my top 5 books of all time.