Biographies That Will Change Your Life
Finding a good biography is truly a wonderful gift to bookworms across the world. Because not only are you getting an interesting story, but you are learning as you read about some of these incredible people! Sometimes taking away a whole new perspective on your life or the way you view others. These inspiring tales are ones that really left me thinking and have stayed with me after reading them.
1.) The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
Her name was Henrietta Lacks, but scientists know her as HeLa. She was a poor black tobacco farmer whose cells — taken without her knowledge in 1951 — became one of the most important tools in medicine, vital for developing the polio vaccine, cloning, gene mapping, and more. Henrietta’s cells have been bought and sold by the billions, yet she remains virtually unknown, and her family can’t afford health insurance. This phenomenal New York Times bestseller tells a riveting story of the collision between ethics, race, and medicine; of scientific discovery and faith healing; and of a daughter consumed with questions about the mother she never knew.
2.) John Adams by David McCullough
The Pulitzer Prize–winning, bestselling biography of America’s founding father and second president that was the basis for the acclaimed HBO series, brilliantly told by master historian David McCullough.
In this powerful, epic biography, David McCullough unfolds the adventurous life journey of John Adams, the brilliant, fiercely independent, often irascible, always honest Yankee patriot who spared nothing in his zeal for the American Revolution; who rose to become the second president of the United States and saved the country from blundering into an unnecessary war; who was learned beyond all but a few and regarded by some as “out of his senses”; and whose marriage to the wise and valiant Abigail Adams is one of the moving love stories in American history.
This is history on a grand scale — a book about politics and war and social issues, but also about human nature, love, religious faith, virtue, ambition, friendship, and betrayal, and the far-reaching consequences of noble ideas.
Above all, John Adams is an enthralling, often surprising story of one of the most important and fascinating Americans who ever lived.
3.) The Stranger in the Woods by Michael Finkel
In 1986, a shy and intelligent 20-year-old named Christopher Knight left his home in Massachusetts, drove to Maine, and disappeared into the forest. He would not have a conversation with another human being until nearly three decades later, when he was arrested for stealing food. Living in a tent even through brutal winters, he had survived by his wits and courage, developing ingenious ways to store edibles and water, and to avoid freezing to death. He broke into nearby cottages for food, clothing, reading material, and other provisions, taking only what he needed but terrifying a community never able to solve the mysterious burglaries. Based on extensive interviews with Knight himself, this is a vividly detailed account of his secluded life — why did he leave? what did he learn? — as well as the challenges he has faced since returning to the world. It is a gripping story of survival that asks fundamental questions about solitude, community, and what makes a good life, and a deeply moving portrait of a man who was determined to live his own way, and succeeded.
4.) Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson
Based on more than 40 interviews with Jobs conducted over two years — as well as interviews with more than 100 family members, friends, adversaries, competitors, and colleagues — Walter Isaacson has written a riveting story of the roller-coaster life and searingly intense personality of a creative entrepreneur whose passion for perfection and ferocious drive revolutionized six industries: personal computers, animated movies, music, phones, tablet computing, and digital publishing.
At a time when America is seeking ways to sustain its innovative edge, and when societies around the world are trying to build digital-age economies, Jobs stands as the ultimate icon of inventiveness and applied imagination. He knew that the best way to create value in the 21st century was to connect creativity with technology. He built a company where leaps of the imagination were combined with remarkable feats of engineering.
Although Jobs cooperated with this book, he asked for no control over what was written nor even the right to read it before it was published. He put nothing off-limits. He encouraged the people he knew to speak honestly. And Jobs
speaks candidly, sometimes brutally so, about the people he worked with and competed against. His friends, foes, and colleagues provide an unvarnished view of the passions, perfectionism, obsessions, artistry, devilry, and compulsion for control that shaped his approach to business and the innovative products that resulted.
Driven by demons, Jobs could drive those around him to fury and despair. But his personality and products were interrelated, just as Apple’s hardware and software tended to be, as if part of an integrated system. His tale is instructive and cautionary, filled with lessons about innovation, character, leadership, and values.
Winner of the 2000 Pulitzer Prize for biography and hailed by critics as both “monumental” (The Boston Globe) and “utterly romantic” (New York magazine), Stacy Schiff’s Véra (Mrs. Vladimir Nabokov) brings to shimmering life one of the greatest literary love stories of our time. Vladimir Nabokov — the émigré author of Lolita; Pale Fire; and Speak, Memory — wrote his books first for himself, second for his wife, Véra, and third for no one at all.
“Without my wife,” he once noted, “I wouldn’t have written a single novel.” Set in prewar Europe and postwar America, spanning much of the century, the story of the Nabokovs’ 52-year marriage reads as vividly as a novel. Véra, both beautiful and brilliant, is its outsized heroine — a woman who loves as deeply and intelligently as did the great romantic heroines of Austen and Tolstoy. Stacy Schiff’s Véra is a triumph of the biographical form.
Have you read any of these biographies? Let us know your favorites in the comments below!
By guest editor,
Alicia (IG: @thebookishpuff)
About the guest editor:
Alicia is currently the resident blogger over at The Bookish Puff and aspiring author. Raised under the southern sun she is a true eternal optimist with a deep love of history, stories, and a shameless addiction to caffeine. When she’s not on the internet writing about books, you can find her baking up a storm in her kitchen, watching true crime documentaries, sipping on coffee while chatting with friends, or getting lost in nature. She currently lives with her boyfriend and two crazy cats in Charleston, South Carolina in the United States.