Biographies are some of the most interesting books to read because they peek into the lives of other people.
Amazon released the best biographies and memoirs of 2014.
From Lena Dunham’s tell-all to Napoleon’s personal letters, here are the best biographies and memoirs of 2014.
1. “Not That Kind of Girl: A Young Woman Tells You What She’s ‘Learned’
” by Lena Dunham: Dunham’s book tackles life issues every woman can relate to, and includes everything from her first sexual experience to her obsession with death. “If I can take what I’ve learned a
nd make one menial job easier for you,” Dunham writes, “or prevent you from having the kind of sex where you feel you must keep your sneakers on in case you want to run away during the act, then every misstep of mine will have been worthwhile.”
2. “Can’t We Talk about Something More Pleasant?: A Memoir” by Roz Chast: Cartoonist Roz Chast writes about the difficulty of going from child of your parents to caretaker of your parents. Chast, an only child, details the years leading up to the deaths of her parents and how she coped with trading the family home for an institution, managing her parents’ care, and saying goodbye.
3. “Napoleon: A Life” by Andrew Roberts: Roberts brings new life to the legendary leader Napoleon. He is the first to use Napoleon’s recently found 33,000 letters which reveal a lot about his character and his relationships with his wife, friends, and enemies. Roberts visited nearly all of Napoleon’s 60 battle sites and made the trip to St. Helena, where Napoleon lived in exile, to gain further insight into this complex ruler.
4. “The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace: A Brilliant Young Man Who Left Newark for the Ivy League” by Jeff Hobbs: Hobbs was the roommate and friend of Robert Peace while at Yale University. Peace was exceptionally smart but came from an impoverished, broken home. Despite his academic success Peace could not escape his past, which ultimately cost the young man his life.
5. “A Spy Among Friends: Kim Philby and the Great Betrayal” by Ben Macintyre:
Kim Philby rose through the ranks to lead Britain’s counterintelligence team during the Cold War. The charismatic leader became friends with fellow British officer Nicholas Elliott, and the head of CIA counterintelligence James Angleton. Little did Elliott and Angleton know that their friend was a Soviet spy, tanking Western operations for years. The two men maintained their friend’s innocence until finally realising Philby’s unimaginable betrayal.
6. “The Romanov Sisters: The Lost Lives of the Daughters of Nicholas and Alexandra” by Helen Rappaport: The four Romanov sisters were admired for their beauty and wealth; however, Rappaport reveals an intelligent and perceptive side to the Russian Grand Duchesses. Newly found diary entries and letters show the sisters as witnesses to the end of imperial Russia and the start of the Russian Revolution.
7. “I’ll Drink to That: A Life in Style, with a Twist” by Betty Halbreich: Eighty-six-year-old Betty Halbreich reflects on how she became the legendary personal shopper at Bergdorf Goodman. After a failed marriage, Halbreich was lost and alone in New York where she takes a job as a personal shopper at the famous store. Running the store’s first personal shopping service, her reputation for her honesty and eye for style has earned her the trust of New York’s social scene.
8. “Tibetan Peach Pie: A True Account of an Imaginative Life” by Tom Robbins: Novelist Tom Robbins looks inward and recounts his life from his upbringing in Appalachia during the Great Depression to his international travels pre-9/11 security. He held many jobs, from Air Force weatherman to radio DJ to counter culture hero. Readers can see how Robbins’ life shaped the characters of his famous novels.
9. “The Zhivago Affair: The Kremlin, the CIA, and the Battle Over a Forbidden Book” by Peter Finn and Petra Couvée: In the mid-1950s, an Italian publisher went to the home of the great Russian poet Boris Pasternak and left with the poet’s first and only novel, and the words, “This is Doctor Zhivago. May it make its way around the world.” Pasternak’s words shook up the world during the Cold War.
10. “Updike” by Adam Begley: The story looks at the life of Pulitzer Prize-winning author John Updike. The book takes readers from Updike’s Pennsylvania childhood to his time at Harvard, his experience with suburbia, his travels, and his retirement. The biography details Updike’s complex character and how he was able to create characters that are key players in American literature.
11. “Finding Me: A Decade of Darkness, a Life Reclaimed: A Memoir of the Cleveland Kidnappings” by Michelle Knight and Michelle Burford: This is Michelle Knight’s harrowing account of her abduction and imprisonment for over a decade. Knight, along with two other women, were imprisoned and tortured in Ariel Castro’s basement for years before breaking free in 2013. Knight talks about her past, the abduction, and how she will rebuild a life for herself now that she is free.
12. “Untamed: The Wildest Woman in America and the Fight for Cumberland Island” by Will Harlan: America’s “wildest woman” Carol Ruckdeschel is a self-educated scientist who tackles alligators, eats roadkill, and built her own cabin on Georgia’s Cumberland Island. The island, owned by the Carnegie family, is also home to sea turtles whose fate is threatened by the Carnegies’ plans for the island. The story shows the poor yet courageous Ruckdeschel going against one of America’s powerful families to protect the sea turtles.
13. “Glitter and Glue: A Memoir” by Kelly Corrigan: After graduating from college, Kelly Corrigan sets out to see the world but soon finds herself broke, so she takes a job as a nanny for a widower’s kids. Corrigan’s mother always said, “Your father’s the glitter but I’m the glue” — words which start to take meaning for Corrigan as she looks after the kids and develops a stronger appreciation for the people and experiences that shaped her.
14. “My Struggle: Book One” by
Karl Ove Knausgaard: This autobiography is a tale of fathers and sons. The artistic Karl Ove struggles to find his place in the world after his alcoholic father’s death, and eventually finds new perspective when he becomes a father himself.
Please Be with Me: A Song for My Father, Duane Allman” by
Galadrielle Allman: Galadrielle Allman was just two years old when her father Duane Allman, of the Allman Brothers Band, died in a motorcycle accident. Galadrielle’s memoir tells the story of growing up with her father’s fame and music all around her and how she came to know him and his legacy even after his death.
16. “The Invisible Front: Love and Loss in an Era of Endless War” by Yochi Dreazen: Tragedy strikes when Major General Mark Graham and his wife lose both of their soldier sons within nine months: Jeff is killed in Iraq, and Kevin takes his own life. The Grahams are shocked at how the Army receives both of their sons’ deaths differently, and work to change the military’s institutional shortcomings when it comes to mental illness and PTSD.
17. “Shrinkage: Manhood, Marriage, and the Tumour That Tried to Kill Me” by Bryan Bishop: At 30 years old and with his radio career taking off, Bryan Bishop and his fiancee receive crushing news: Bryan has an inoperable brain tumour. Bryan uses his humour and positivity to chronicle the toughest fight of his life and how his will to live, mixed with an aggressive treatment, gave him back his life.
18. “Cosby: His Life and Times” by
Mark Whitaker: Journalist Mark Whitaker, through interviews with Bill Cosby and his closest friends, details how Cosby made his own way to become a television icon despite coming from poverty and a broken home. The biography also delves into Cosby’s personal dramas and struggles, and the influence his wife Camille plays in his life.
19. “Call Me Burroughs: A Life” by Barry Miles: In the 1960s, Norman Mailer deemed William Burroughs “the only American novelist living today who may conceivably be possessed by genius.” Burroughs was a figurehead of the Beat Movement. Miles chronicles Burroughs’ cultural legacy up until his death.
20. “Unremarried Widow: A Memoir” by Artis Henderson: When Artis Henderson’s husband Miles, a soldier, dies in a helicopter crash in Iraq, Artis becomes an “unremarried widow” at 26. Her husband’s death mirrors the death of her father, who died in a plane crash when Artis was five. Artis looks at the 21 years between the two tragedies and how these two men, who she only knew briefly, have impacted her life.
Disclosure: Jeff Bezos is an investor in Business Insider through his personal investment company Bezos Expeditions.
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