The best biography books give us the ability to take a peek inside another person’s life without being invasive while still maintaining our curiosity. It’s human nature to want to know more about stellar athletes, beautiful celebrities, and influential characters, which is why social media is as popular as it is. With an astounding number of biographies on the market, you can learn about anyone, from Rod Stewart to Carl Jung.
There’s something about biographies that is so satisfying, especially if you are a fan of a specific person or have always wondered what their life is like. For example, have you ever considered what it was like to be in a hair metal band in the ‘80s? Perhaps you wanted to know what it was like for an individual to work for a First Lady while living in the White House.
If there’s one thing to be said about the best biography books, it’s that it appeases every reader’s appetite. From sports personalities to YouTube vloggers, biographies can capture every demographic perfectly while still maintaining their informative nature. It truly is as if you are given an inside look into some of the most influential personalities in sociology, history, philosophy, politics, and popular culture.
Frequently, understanding a person and their character enables you to follow developments, decision-making, and, at times, better understand yourself in a positive light. You might find that you are more relatable to a particular individual than you had initially thought, which can help you to pave a new path in your life.
Alternatively, you can make immediate changes if you find that you are too relatable to a particular personality. It’s true when they say that to understand the importance of Amelia Earhart, for example, you must first understand the life of a woman in the 1900s.
The best biography books help to make it all possible, as you will be transported to any point in time to any country in the world and be able to learn. Some of the smartest people on the planet have bookshelves filled with biographies, and for a good reason, because you can always learn something new from them.
Best Biography Books
A biography has to be really good to make read you all 800 pages. To me, this was one of those books. Since reading it earlier this year, I’ve since found out it is the favorite book of a lot of people I respect. I think something about the quality of the writing and the empathic understanding of the writer that the main lessons you would take away from someone like Rockefeller would not be business, but life lessons. In fact, when I went back through and took notes on this book, I filled out more cards for Stoicism than I did for Strategy, Business or Money. I found Rockefeller to be strangely stoic, incredibly resilient and, despite his reputation as a robber baron, humble and compassionate. Most people get WORSE as they get successful, many more get worse as they age. Rockefeller did neither of these things, he grew more open-minded the older he became, more generous, more pious, more dedicated to making a difference. Does that excuse the “awful” things that he did? Well, the things he did really weren’t that awful so yes. (By that I mean I’d certainly choose him over the robber barons of this age like Zuckerberg or Murdoch.)
I just finished Vincent Cronin’s book on Napoleon, a man who definitely needed better PR. Napoleon codified the laws for the first time in Europe. He was constantly limiting kings and other tyrants. He opened the ghettos and stopped religious discrimination. He was an extraordinary man who wrote a lot of laws himself. He was incredibly polite, generous almost to a fault, a remarkable person who was vilified. By who? The kings that he deposed — the kings of England, and the old king of France, and the kings of Prussia, and the Tsar of Russia — were all threatened by this man who was bringing democracy.
I think it’s interesting to read this book and look at Napoleon and see how history has treated him. Even the expression “Napoleon complex,” Napoleon was average height for a French person. The idea is just preposterous, treating maybe the most gifted man of the 19th century as some kind of despot. He was a liberator, a law-giver, and a man of incredible gifts. He never considered himself a soldier, he considered himself a politician, though he was probably the greatest general in all history.
It’s interesting to read about him for a couple of reasons: to see what one man of modest birth can do with his life, and to see how history can distort the truth entirely. The job of historians is often just that, to distort history, because history is based on fashion. So we’re changing American history all the time, whatever’s politically fashionable. The school districts decide they want to emphasize this person in history, and de-emphasize that person. It’s illuminating to understand that even history is based on fashion. Even morality — popular morality — is based on fashion. Real morality is based on reason, and never make the mistake between the two.