Happy Sunday everyone!! It's been a busy one, including dumping a bucket of ice water on my head for the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. So while I'm drying off I'm going to curl up with a good book, including one off of this week's list! This week's Sunday Funday List is the Top 10 Biographies to Read. I haven't done a non-fiction list and I think this would be a great way to start. On this list are biographies I want to read and ones that are highly rated/reviewed/recommended. Also big shout out and thank you to Tamra for helping me to come up with this list! In no particular order, here they are! (All synopses from Goodreads)
1. Marie Antoinette: The Last Queen of France by Evelyne Lever
In MARIE ANTOINETTE,
Evelyn Lever draws on a variety of resources, including diaries,
letters, and firsthand accounts, to write this sumptuous, addictive
delight. From family life in Vienna to the choke of the guillotine, this
gripping work combines a fast-paced historical narrative with all the
elements of scandalous fiction: Marie's wedding at Versailles to Louis
XVI, the French court, boredom, hypocrisy, loneliness, allies, enemies,
scandal, intrigue, sex, peasant riots, the fall of the Bastille, mob
rule in Paris, imprisonment, and, finally, execution.
primary source documents Lever fashions an insightful glimpse into the
French court at Versailles. The characters of court are expertly drawn.
There is the dashing Axel Fersen, Marie's great love; Maria Theresa, the
scheming mother trying to place her daughter on the Hapsburg throne;
the legendary Madame du Barry, lover to Louis XV; and, of course, Marie
Luxuriously evocative of the Versailles court,
historically sharp and witty, and detailing the compelling story of
Marie Antoinette's life, Evelyn Lever's biography entrances readers."
I chose this novel as Marie Antoinette is my favorite Queen. I love reading anything fiction and non-fiction about her. For those of you who don't know much about Marie Antoinette, this looks like it would be a great place to start!
2. J. Edgar Hoover: The Man and the Secrets by Curt Gentry
frightening, Curt Gentry s masterful portrait of America s top policeman
is a unique political biography. From more than 300 interviews and over
100,000 pages of previously classified documents, Gentry reveals
exactly how a paranoid director created the fraudulent myth of an
invincible, incorruptible FBI. For almost fifty years, Hoover held
virtually unchecked public power, manipulating every president from
Franklin D. Roosevelt to Richard Nixon. He kept extensive blackmail
files and used illegal wiretaps and hidden microphones to destroy anyone
who opposed him. The book reveals how Hoover helped create McCarthyism,
blackmailed the Kennedy brothers, and influenced the Supreme Court; how
he retarded the civil rights movement and forged connections with
mobsters; and what part he played in the investigations of President
John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr. A New York Times bestseller. 'This massive new study promises to be the most extensive and
controversial yet. . . . A chilling look at the darker side of American
politics,' Library Journal."
Tamra suggested this one and it looks very interesting! I don't know a whole lot about J. Edgar Hoover and I think this biography would be a great way to learn more about him!
3. Einstein: His Life and Universe by Walter Isaacson
How did his mind work?
What made him a genius? Isaacson's biography shows how his
scientific imagination sprang from the rebellious nature of his
personality. His fascinating story is a testament to the connection
between creativity and freedom.
Based on newly released personal
letters of Einstein, this book explores how an imaginative, impertinent
patent clerk; a struggling father in a difficult marriage who
couldn't get a teaching job or a doctorate; became
the mind reader of the creator of the cosmos, the locksmith of the
mysteries of the atom, and the universe. His success came from
questioning conventional wisdom and marveling at mysteries that struck
others as mundane. This led him to embrace a morality and politics based
on respect for free minds, free spirits, and free individuals.
traits are just as vital for this new century of globalization, in
which our success will depend on our creativity, as they were for the
beginning of the last century, when Einstein helped usher in the modern
Having learned a lot about him in my seminar on cosmologies class and written a 20 page paper on him I still don't feel I can begin to scratch the surface. Walter Isaacson is known as one of THE biography writers and I can't wait to read what he's written about one of the greatest minds of our time.
4. Killing Kennedy: The End of Camelot by Bill O'Reilly and Martin Dugard
More than a million readers have thrilled to Bill O'Reilly's Killing Lincoln,
the page-turning work of nonfiction about the shocking assassination
that changed the course of American history. Now the anchor of The O'Reilly Factor recounts
in gripping detail the brutal murder of John Fitzgerald Kennedy—and how
a sequence of gunshots on a Dallas afternoon not only killed a beloved
president but also sent the nation into the cataclysmic division of the
Vietnam War and its culture-changing aftermath.
In January 1961,
as the Cold War escalates, John F. Kennedy struggles to contain the
growth of Communism while he learns the hardships, solitude, and
temptations of what it means to be president of the United States. Along
the way he acquires a number of formidable enemies, among them Soviet
leader Nikita Khrushchev, Cuban dictator Fidel Castro, and Alan Dulles,
director of the Central Intelligence Agency. In addition, powerful
elements of organized crime have begun to talk about targeting the
president and his brother, Attorney General Robert Kennedy.
the midst of a 1963 campaign trip to Texas, Kennedy is gunned down by an
erratic young drifter named Lee Harvey Oswald. The former Marine Corps
sharpshooter escapes the scene, only to be caught and shot dead while in
The events leading up to the most notorious crime of the twentieth century are almost as shocking as the assassination itself. Killing Kennedy
chronicles both the heroism and deceit of Camelot, bringing history to
life in ways that will profoundly move the reader. This may well be the
most talked about book of the year."
Though this isn't about JKF's whole life, I'm very interested to read it. I've heard nothing but good things about this book (and Bill O'Reilly's other books), so this along with other JFK bios are on my list!
5. The Six Wives of Henry VIII by Alison Weir
bloody, and splendid reign of Henry VIII of England (1509-1547) is one
of the most fascinating in all history, not least for his marriage to
six extraordinary women. In this accessible work of brilliant
scholarship, Alison Weir draws on early biographies, letters, memoirs,
account books, and diplomatic reports to bring these women to life.
Catherine of Aragon emerges as a staunch though misguided woman of
principle; Anne Boleyn, an ambitious adventuress with a penchant for
vengeance; Jane Seymour, a strong-minded matriarch in the making; Anne
of Cleves, a good-natured and innocent woman naively unaware of the
court intrigues that determined her fate; Catherine Howard, an
empty-headed wanton; and Catherine Parr, a warm-blooded bluestocking who
survived King Henry to marry a fourth time."
I'm a huge Tudor fan and have been especially interested in them after going to London, where I bought this book. I'm a fan of Alison Weir's fiction and know I'll love her non-fiction as well.
6. Orange is the New Black by Piper Kerman
With a career, a
boyfriend, and a loving family, Piper Kerman barely resembles the
reckless young woman who delivered a suitcase of drug money ten years
before. But that past has caught up with her. Convicted and sentenced to
fifteen months at the infamous federal correctional facility in
Danbury, Connecticut, the well-heeled Smith College alumna is now inmate
#11187–424—one of the millions of people who disappear “down the rabbit
hole” of the American penal system. From her first strip search to her
final release, Kerman learns to navigate this strange world with its
strictly enforced codes of behavior and arbitrary rules. She meets women
from all walks of life, who surprise her with small tokens of
generosity, hard words of wisdom, and simple acts of acceptance.
Heartbreaking, hilarious, and at times enraging, Kerman’s story offers a
rare look into the lives of women in prison—why it is we lock so many
away and what happens to them when they’re there."
I have to watch the show, since I've been told to a million times, so I figured I should also read the book! Thank you Tamra for showing me that a book even exists! If you like the show and you're not a reader, this might be a good way to start!
7. The Mystery of Lewis Carroll: Discovering the Whimsical, Thoughtful, and Sometimes Lonely Man Who Created Alice in Wonderland by Jenny Woolf
Lewis Carroll was
brilliant, secretive and self contradictory. He reveled in double
meanings and puzzles, in his fiction and his life. Jenny Woolf’s The Mystery of Lewis Carroll shines a new light on the creator of Alice In Wonderland and
brings to life this fascinating, but sometimes exasperating human being
whom some have tried to hide. Using rarely-seen and recently discovered
sources, such as Carroll’s accounts ledger and unpublished
correspondence with the “real” Alice’s family, Woolf sets Lewis Carroll
firmly in the context of the English Victorian age and answers many
intriguing questions about the man who wrote the Alice books, such as:
• Was it Alice or her older sister that caused him to break with the Liddell family?
• How true is the gossip about pedophilia and certain adult women that followed him?
• How true is the “romantic secret” which many think ruined Carroll’s personal life?
• Who caused Carroll major financial trouble and why did Carroll successfully conceal that person’s identity and actions?
answers these and other questions to bring readers yet another look at
one of the most elusive English writers the world has known."
I love Alice in Wonderland and I read a novel about Lewis Carroll and the girl that inspired Alice entitled Alice I Have Been by Melanie Benjamin that I really enjoyed. Once I saw this biography I knew I had to read it. Authors have so many interesting back stories that inspire their works and I can't wait to read more about Lewis Carroll's.
8. Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson
From best-selling author Walter Isaacson comes the landmark biography of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs.
Steve Jobs: The Exclusive Biography, Isaacson provides an extraordinary
account of Jobs' professional and personal life. Drawn from three years
of exclusive and unprecedented interviews Isaacson has conducted with
Jobs as well as extensive interviews with Jobs' family members and key
colleagues from Apple and its competitors, Steve Jobs: The Exclusive
Biography is the definitive portrait of the greatest innovator of his
Being a Mac and Apple girl (other than my Samsung Galaxy S5, sorry not sorry) I'm intrigued by the innovator behind the trademark apple with the bite out of it. Again Walter Isaacson writes about a powerhouse in another applauded biographical novel.
9. Coco Chanel: The Legend and the Life by Justine Picardie
The story of Chanel begins with an abandoned child, as lost
as a girl in a dark fairy tale. Unveiling remarkable new details about
Gabrielle Chanel's early years in a convent orphanage, and her flight
into unconventional adulthood, Justine Picardie explores what lies
beneath the glossy surface of a mythic fashion icon.
light on her passionate and turbulent relationships, this beautifully
constructed portrait gives a fresh and penetrating look at how Coco
Chanel made herself into her own most powerful creation. An
authoritative account, based on personal observations and interviews
with Chanel's last surviving friends, employees, and relatives, it also
unravels her coded language and symbols, and traces the influence of her
formative years on her legendary style.
Feared and revered by
the rest of the fashion industry, Coco Chanel died in 1971 at the age of
eighty-seven. But her legacy lives on. Justine Picardie brings
Gabrielle Chanel out of hiding and uncovers the consequences of what
Chanel covered up, unpicking the seams between truth and myth in a story
that reveals the true heart of fashion."
I don't know much about Coco Chanel, but see references to her on a daily basis and I think it would be interesting how she turned into the legacy that she is. Tamra found this novel and the synopsis hooked me! Can't wait to read it!
10. The Lady in the Tower: The Fall of Anne Boleyn by Alison Weir
The imprisonment and
execution of Queen Anne Boleyn, Henry VIII's second wife, in May 1536
was unprecedented in English history. It was sensational in its day, and
has exerted endless fascination over the minds of historians,
novelists, dramatists, poets, artists and film-makers ever since.
was imprisoned in the Tower of London on 2 May 1536, and tried and
found guilty of high treason on 15 May. Her supposed crimes included
adultery with five men, one her own brother, and plotting the King's
Mystery surrounds the circumstances leading up to her
arrest. Was it Henry VIII who, estranged from Anne, instructed Master
Secretary Thomas Cromwell to fabricate evidence to get rid of her so
that he could marry Jane Seymour? Or did Cromwell, for reasons of his
own, construct a case against Anne and her faction, and then present
compelling evidence before the King? Or was Anne, in fact, guilty as
Never before has there been a book devoted entirely to
Anne Boleyn's fall. Alison Weir has reassessed the evidence, demolished
many romantic myths and popular misconceptions, and rewritten the story
of Anne's fall, creating a richly researched and impressively detailed
portrait of the dramatic last days of one of the most influential and
important figures in English history."
Anne Boleyn is another one of my favorite Queen's. I'm intrigued by her story and her portrayal in modern culture. Thanks to Tamra for showing me this one as well. Looks like Alison Weir has done it again!
Bonus!: Queen of Scots: The True Life of Mary Stuart by John Guy
The eminent British
historian John Guy has unearthed a wealth of evidence that upends the
popular notion of Mary Queen of Scots as a femme fatale and establishes
her as the intellectual and political equal of Elizabeth I.
draws on sources as varied as the secret communiqués of English spies
and Mary’s own letters (many hitherto unstudied) to depict her world and
her actions with stunning immediacy. Here is a myth-shattering
reappraisal of her multifaceted character and prodigious political
skill. Guy dispels the persistent popular image of Mary as a romantic
leading lady, achieving her ends through feminine wiles, driven by love
to murder, undone by passion and poor judgment. Through his pioneering
research, we come to see her as an emotionally intricate woman and an
adroit diplomat, maneuvering ingeniously among a dizzying array of
powerful factions — the French, the English, duplicitous Scottish
nobles, and religious zealots — who sought to control or dethrone her.
Guy’s investigation of Mary’s storied downfall throws sharp new light on
questions that have baffled historians for centuries, and offers
convincing new evidence that she was framed for the murder for which she
Queen of Scots, the first full-scale biography of
Mary in more than thirty years, offers a singularly novel, nuanced, and
dramatic portrait of one of history’s greatest women."
Mary Stuart is quickly becoming my second favorite Queen behind Marie Antoinette. I've seen a lot of her in modern pop culture, but haven't read much about her historically. Can't wait to check this one out!
Any of these historical figures someone you'd want to read about? Anyone you'd add to the list?