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Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Biographies

This week's Top Ten Tuesday, hosted as always by The Broke and the Bookish, is a freebie, so I can choose any theme I want. I decided to talk about biographies.  I know that's not a popular theme for this link-up, as it tends to be focused on fiction and especially a lot of young adult.... but I like biographies, so I'm writing it anyway.  I'm a huge nerd and a former history major, but I've tried not to focus only on historical figures since that might not appeal to a lot of people.  It's not everyone that will not only by a bio of Khruschev on sale, but also give it away to the university used book sale and almost buy it back after spotting it on display.  (Yep, guilty as charged.)  It's worth noting that I don't read celebrity biographies at all, tending more towards historical figures, political heroes,

1.  Bonhoeffer:  Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy by Eric Metaxas:  Some hardcore scholars dislike this work as it's not as academic, but I really enjoyed it and was very moved.  Dietrich Bonhoeffer is one of my personal heroes, and I loved reading about his difficult, but inspiring life.

2.  Team of Rivals:  The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln by Doris Kearns Goodwin:  Amazing read.  I could barely put it down, and that's saying something as it's quite the weighty tome.  I love how Goodwin chose to look not only at Lincoln, but at three of his closest rivals and later cabinet ministers, and show how their lives all developed.

3.  Catherine the Great:  Portrait of a Woman by Robert K. Massie:  A great and readable book about a fascinating woman.  I've got Massie's biography of Peter the Great on deck for this summer.  Fun fact:  When I was in St. Petersburg, I witnessed a drunk man unleashing a tirade of anger at a statue of Catherine the Great.  Apparently he wasn't a fan of her historical legacy, but he felt he knew her well enough to call her "Katya".  Put that in the "only in Russia" file.

4.  I, Rigoberta Menchu:  An Indian Woman in Guatemala by Rigoberta Menchu and Elisabeth Burgos-Debray:  Apparently this book is controversial, but I found it fascinating in the look it gave at traditional Mayan culture in Guatemala (a place I have visited many times), and the awareness of the horrible civil war there.

5.  The Verneys:  A True Story of Love, War, and Madness in Seventeenth-Century England by Adrian Tinniswood:  This book is the story of the Verney family, not overly famous or influential, but members of the English aristocracy.  The interesting thing about the Verney family is that they kept ALL of their correspondence, and even copies of the letters they sent to others, so it tells so much about life during the seventeenth century.  I know, this is really nerdy, but I found this book fascinating.

6.  In No Uncertain Terms:  A South African Memoir by Helen Suzman:  Helen Suzman is not someone many people would have heard of, but she was at one point the only person in the South African parliament who opposed Apartheid, and I found her life very inspiring.

7.  Young Stalin by Simon Sebag Montefiore:  An interesting look at the man before he became a dictator.

8.  Persepolis:  The Story of a Childhood by Marjane Satrapi:  The only memoir I can think of that is told in graphic novel format.  It's a really creative and interesting look at the Iranian revolution from the inside.

9.  The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot:  I read this last year for a book club and found it surprisingly interesting and engaging.  Henrietta Lacks was a poor African American woman, whose cells ended up being used for medical science without her consent.  It was written well enough that someone not into science could still understand, and gave a good look at the difficulties that many African American families faced in the middle of the last century (and many still face now), such as poverty and lack of access to education.

10.  A Mountain of Crumbs by Elena Gorokhova:  The memoir of a Soviet childhood, told by a woman who developed an obsession with English at a young age.  Since I too dreamed of foreign languages and travel as a youth, it was especially interesting to me.

This is definitely not an exhaustive list.  Y'all, you have no idea how many unread biographies I have in my shelves:  Books on Vaclav Havel, Fidel Castro, Andrei Sakharov, and Nelson Mandela that I swear, I will read one of these days. 

So, do you like to read biographies?  What are your favourites?

1 comment:

  1. LMAO at your story about the drunk guy and the Catherine the Great statue xD Great list! Your list reminds me that I should read more biographies (the only ones I've really read are various members of the British Royal Family from various periods it seems...and Horatio Nelson), though I did read Elena Gorokhova's book and quite enjoyed it!

    Oh, and I also finally got around to reading Montefiore's novel Sashenka and enjoyed that book too :)

    My TTT

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