The Ups and Downs of Reading Biographies

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Now that it’s September, I feel like it’s time to read a good biography. (I don’t know quite why September does this to me, but it does.)

So, that’s my topic for discussion for today: Biographies. (And I’m secretly hoping for some good recommendations in the comments below.)

I like a whole range of biographies:

  • kings and queens
  • film stars and Hollywood directors
  • scientists and astronauts
  • authors and playwrights
  • people I’ve never even heard of!

What I’m looking for is a good life story, something interesting.

But before you start giving me your recommendations (see my secret hope above), here are my thoughts on biographies in general…

Note about the photo: These encyclopedias are FULL of mini-biographies!

The Upside of Biographies

I love stories and I also love history. And I also love getting a sneak peek at behind the scenes. Biographies blend these things beautifully! I love learning about the struggles… and especially how they overcame those struggles.

And it’s all true! While I love fiction, there’s something about reading true stories. To know this actually happened to a person. This can be encouraging. It can also act as a warning.

In a sense, reading a biography is like a leisurely visit to a museum about that person’s life. (Did I say how much I love museums?)

The Downside of Biographies

The person always dies at the end. That’s it. I always come out of a biography feeling really sad. Like I’ve just been to somebody’s funeral. (Which is not far from the truth if you think about it.)

Now, I’m talking about true biographies here. Not memoirs, or even autobiographies, because those are written (supposedly) by the author, who (by definition of the thing) cannot have died yet. And yes, I do like reading memoirs for this reason alone… that I know the main character will not die in the end.


What about you? Do you read biographies? What draws you to these books? Any good biographies or memoirs you’ve read recently? Let me know in the comments!

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Quick Pick Reviews #6

Today’s post is brought to you by the letter “B”. “B” is for Biography.

Note: Quick Pick books are always recommendations. (If I don’t recommend the book, it’s not a Quick Pick!)

Jim Henson: The Biography // by Brian Jay Jones

JimHenson-BiographyCover.jpgGenre: Adult, Biography

My Thoughts: Everything you wanted to know about the Muppets… it’s all here. Jim Henson’s creative genius is amazing and this book tells of his humble beginnings with Sam and Friends from his involvement with Sesame Street to the rise of Kermit and the whole Muppet gang. I particularly enjoyed the behind-the-scenes peek at The Muppet Show and the Muppet movies. I loved the chapters about the making of The Labyrinth. (I love that movie!)

Warning: I would not really recommend this book for kids. I don’t think it was written for kids. Also, [*SPOILER] I was saddened by all the accounts of infidelity. I can’t tell you how I hated those sections of the book. 😦 [*END SPOILER]


The Narnian // by Alan Jacobs

660367Genre: Adult, Biography

My Thoughts: I really enjoyed this biography of C.S. Lewis. From his childhood in Northern Ireland to his home at the Kilns. This is not the first biography I’ve read about Lewis, but I thought this is definitely one of the better ones.

Of course, my favourite parts dealt with the time in his life when he was writing the “Narnian” books.

P.S. I find the cover of this book a little odd. The photo of Lewis in his bathrobe with a lion prowling behind him. Well, I guess it’s certainly memorable!


High Society: The Life Grace Kelly // By Donald Spoto

6465776Genre: Adult, Biography

My Thoughts: I have been a long-time fan of Grace Kelly. My favourite Hitchcock movie (Rear Window) stars her. So, I particularly enjoyed finding out more about her life. I found it interesting that she (and those around her?) didn’t consider her to be a great beauty. (Really?! What planet were they living on?)

The story of how she fell in love with Prince Rainier was also very interesting. I mean, I knew the basics, but I didn’t know it was because they first became “pen pals”!

After reading this book, I just had to go to youtube to watch/re-watch a lot of the clips from her movies mentioned in the book. And considering that I have never seen High Noon (her first movie), it may to high time that I did. Or perhaps even re-watch High Society!


Review: Romancing Miss Bronte

51WvuAc7ByL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Book: Romancing Miss Bronte (a Novel)
Author: Juliet Gael
Rating: 3 Stars

Basic plot: A novelized version of the biography of Charlotte Bronte. The book covers her days at Haworth leading up to becoming an author, along with her sisters, to her untimely death.

WHAT’S COOL…

1) It’s about Charlotte Bronte. Need I say more?

2) Having studied the life of Charlotte Bronte myself years ago, I can say that the author was able to capture her life amazingly. The book reads like a biography, yet also like a novel. Well done!

3) I loved, loved, loved the stories of the events that led up to the publication of Jane Eyre.

4) I thought she did a good job weaving Arthur into the story. The book begins with his arrival at Haworth, and he keeps popping up throughout. [SPOILER] (Of course, he’s very much the focus in the latter part of the book when he reveals his esteem for Miss Bronte and eventually convinces her to marry him.) [END SPOILER]

5) The passages dealing with Branwell were heartbreaking (in a good, but sad way)… how the sisters have to deal with their brother.

WHAT’S NOT COOL…

1) [SPOILER] Arthur is no Rochester. I really wanted to root for him and Charlotte as a couple, but I felt something lacking in him as the “hero” of a romance. This may be a casualty of fiction vs. real life? I feel the author tried to somehow morph Arthur into a Rochester-mold towards the end of the book. And yet, I wasn’t fully convinced. Again, it’s hard to put this into words. [END SPOILER]

2) Every so often, the dialogue/narrative would give what I came to realize are nicknames for various people. For example: Emily and Anne call Charlotte “Tally” which threw me a few times before I realized to whom they were speaking. And Elizabeth Gaskell seems to be “Lily Gaskell”? Who’s Lily? Is that Mrs. Gaskell herself or perhaps it’s her daughter??

FINAL THOUGHTS

My rating is 3 Stars (out of 5) – I enjoyed reading this book. Biographies about my favourite authors are usually a safe bet for me. I liked how she was able to weave the biography part in with the novel part.