Even as a history major, I didn’t read all that many biographies. They weren’t really assigned in any of my classes (for which I was already reading a lot of history), they’re usually pretty massive, and I was under the impression that they were all dry and boring. Fast forward a few (okay, more than a few) years, and I have discovered that I actually really enjoy biographies. My history professors would be proud. I’ve read quite a few lately – namely Ron Chernow’s Alexander Hamilton, and my current read, Leonardo da Vinci by Walter Isaacson – and I’m definitely getting over my fear of big books about historical figures.
Today I thought I’d share some of the biographies currently on my TBR, because I haven’t read enough yet to do a recommendation post, but I’m excited to get to the ones on my list.
Washington: A Life by Ron Chernow. I loved Hamilton, and am really fascinated by Washington, so I’m excited about this one. I’m hoping to get to it soon, because I am definitely in the mood for American history at the moment.
The Life of Elizabeth I by Alison Weir. Weir is one of my favorite authors – both fiction and nonfiction – and a brilliant historian. I cannot believe I haven’t yet read a biography of Elizabeth I and I am definitely going with Weir’s when I do.
Einstein: His Life and Universe by Walter Isaacson. I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to get to a Walter Isaacson book, and I ended up reading one I didn’t even own. I have a few of his biographies, but haven’t read any of them yet. I think I want to read Einstein because I’ve realized that, as interested as I am by him, I know very little about Einstein.
Cleopatra: A Life by Stacy Schiff. Cleopatra is one of those historical figures that everyone is familiar with, but is more often than not misrepresented in pop culture. (Did you know she was Greek, not Egyptian?) I am always up for learning more about powerful women in history, and Cleopatra is pretty high up on that list.
John Adams by David McCullough. McCullough is another author I haven’t yet read – shame! – and I still somehow ended up with TWO copies of this book. I’ve heard great things, and I do want to learn more about Hamilton’s political rival.
American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House by Jon Meacham. This is another well-loved presidential biography that’s been sitting on my shelves for a while. I’m pretty curious about Jackson because he is arguably one of the worst US presidents of all time. (Though the man who hung Jackson’s portrait in the oval office is definitely giving him a run for his money.)
Alan Turing by Andrew Hodges. I almost forgot about this one! It’s been collecting dust on my shelf for years now – mostly because it is intimidatingly ginormous – but I still do want to read it. Turing’s story is both fascinating and sad, and I am definitely interested to find out more about him.
Napoleon: A Life by Andrew Roberts. This is a fairly recent acquisition following my realization that I spent a full semester studying nothing but Eastern European history and remember pretty much nothing about Napoleon.
Will in the World: How Shakespeare Became Shakespeare by Stephen Greenblatt. This was recommended by my Shakespeare professor in grad school, and I immediately went out and bought it and then proceeded to not read it. I love Shakespeare, and am curious to find out more about his life, because it’s really interesting.
I’m hoping to get to at least a couple of these this year (biographies take me a bit longer to get through than most books). But I am really looking forward to all of them.
I also need to add more biographies of women to my list, so send me recommendations! (To be fair, I have already read a few of the biographies of female figures that were on my list, which is why this list is predominantly male.) I’d love some recommendations for biographies of people of color as well. (I did just pick up a copy of Prince of Darkness: The Untold Story of Jeremiah G. Hamilton, Wall Street’s First Black Millionaire by Shane White, which looks pretty interesting.) I’ll read pretty much anything, so let me know if there are any biographies out there I need to get to.