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I love being around inspiring people. And that’s basically what reading biographies is! I was a history major in college (So fun! But not much you can do with a bachelor’s degree…) and it has been vital to understanding current events, cause, and effect, as well as finding and predicting patterns in human behavior.
Here are some of my all-time favorite biographies. These people now feel like dear friends and I have learned SO MUCH from them! I find myself wanting to emulate them, but also looking at my own motivations, my own weaknesses, and looking at a bigger picture of the human story.
These books are best suited for older teens and adults, as some adult themes may be present. There is no white washing in these books, neither is there censorship. They are simply factual- and we all have our weaknesses. But these books are all amazing!
1. Alexander Hamilton
By Ron Chernow
Did you just have some Broadway music run through your head? Ha! Me too! This book is what Lin Manuel-Miranda used for his research as he wrote the hit play “Hamilton”. (Hint: Don’t believe everything you hear in the play…but a lot of it is surprisingly true!)
This book blew me away (sorry- no pun intended.) Alexander Hamilton was amazing! And such a paradox. He was a genius, he was an idiot, he was humble, he was arrogant, he was a loyal friend, he was an intractable enemy. All in all, he is completely fascinating. LOVE this book. (And I felt so smart after reading it!)
2. John Adams
By David McCullough
David McCullough has SUCH a gift at making history accessible and understandable to all of us. I’ve been in love with his work ever since I found him, and John Adams has been a hero of mine since day one. Boldness, being politically incorrect, courage, sacrifice, pride and pettiness…I feel that John is a friend. This book is masterfully done, and it is a fascinating counterweight to Alexander Hamilton’s point of view. (Though I can see these two squabbling- as always- about who I put in first and second position in this post!)
By David McCullough
Ok, so it’s technically not a biography, but again, masterfully done. So many miracles! So many amazing people. So much sacrifice. It makes me wonder if we can raise children who can do the hard things required to continue their legacy. Can I do what it takes, myself?
It also makes me wonder, as the previous two books did as well, what would have happened if those men and women had been raised with smartphones, Netflix and a million other distractions. What are we and our children capable of doing if we refuse to be distracted?
4. The Wright Brothers
By David McCullough
Look at the ratings on this book. See? You really can’t go wrong with McCullough. He is someone I would LOVE to meet one day. #bucketlist
This book touches my heart in a special way. Two brothers with absolutely no selfishness or pride. They kept their money in the same bank account. They argued, but never fought. (See the difference?) They started out knowing nothing and became the world’s experts- simply because they never gave up. After their success, their humility is astonishing. This is a character study in grit, hard work and humility.
5. Team of Rivals
By Doris Kearns Goodwin
It’s been a while since I’ve read this, (I need to revisit it!) but this story has stuck with me for a long time. Lincoln was so aware of himself and other people. He saw the truth clearly. I think that is what gained him so much power and respect.
He knew of his own weaknesses and was humble enough to appreciate the strengths of others-even his enemies. So he put them in his Cabinet (can you imagine that happening today?!) and leveraged their talents to help win the Civil War. Even though these men sometimes hated and schemed against him. Even when his wife was mentally fragile. Even when he was fighting personal tragedy and depression.
I am astounded at the goodness and the strength that exists in people. I am taken aback by some of their mistakes. But in the end, it gives me great courage. It makes me think, that even with my mistakes and weaknesses that maybe, just maybe, I can make a contribution too. And so can you.
What favorite biographies do you love?
Let me know in the comments!
I’ve read all of these!! Such great choices. Team of Rivals might be my very favorite out of all of them although I am a huge David McCullough fan as well.
I think I have a history buff crush on David McCullough! 😉
I’ve read these and this is a great list! Alexander Hamilton is one of my very favorite biographies.