Learning to Love Biographies

St. Anne's Park::One of my favourite places to run and listen to audio books.
St. Anne’s Park::One of my favourite places to run and listen to audio books.

I don’t like biographies.” I’ve said that on numerous occasions. I love to read, but generally I love to read a few specific genres. For non-fiction that would include books on leadership (general and church), theology, and behavioural economics. For fiction (which I need to read more of) it would science fiction and mystery. But again, I rarely read biographies.

I do remember reading books about Ted Williams and Carl Yastrzemski when I was a kid. In fact the last thing I’ve read that could even be considered close to a biography was again, a book about Ted Williams, The Teammates:A Portrait of Friendship.

However, back in October I had back to back conversations with people raving about Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy, by Eric Metaxas.

While I’d consider Cost of Discipleship one of the 3 most important books I’ve read in my life, and Life Together, also a crucial read, I’d never even considered reading Metaxas’ work. But after these two conversations, I decided to give it a try…

But I’d do it by restarting my old Audible account so I could listen to the book while I ran or cycled (on bike paths, not roads:-).

That thing I said about biographies…I was wrong. At least in this case as the book was incredible and added depth to a person whose work I love. And while going through it I was constantly peppering Liz with facts about Bonhoeffer, Germany and World War II.

Once I finished that, I decided to keep my Audible account going. The thought of another biography didn’t even cross my mind. I downloaded Michael Frost’s Incarnate. That was a mistake. Not getting the book, as the content was quite good. The problem was that Incarnate. is the kind of book that I like to read with a highlighter, pen and notebook. I’m actually planning to get a paper copy shortly to do that.

However, while listening to Incarnate., Frost briefly mentioned the book Team of Rivals, which is Doris Kearns-Goodwin’s Pulitzer Prize winning (and 944 page long) biography of Abraham Lincoln. While I’d seen the book and watched the movie, I never gave reading the book much thought. While a couple of my kids seem to have learned how to speed read naturally, I read at a fairly average rate, and almost 1000 pages seemed a bit much.

But after my experience with Bonhoeffer, I decided I could give it a go. I downloaded Team of Rivals and learned I had just made a 41 hour and 32 minute commitment. (Although I generally listen to audiobooks sped up a bit so it wouldn’t be quite that much.)

While I did fairly well in history class, I’m amazed at how much I didn’t know about that period in our history. Especially since one of the key people in the book, William Seward, spent time in a town 7 miles from where I grew up, and was from Auburn, NY which is so close to where our family spent most of the past two decades.

After a good deal of additional listening while hanging up laundry and washing dishes, I finished Team of Rivals on Monday night, and I think I’m hooked. (I downloaded Steve Jobs the same night and am just about half-way through.)

I still don’t see myself sitting down with a biography, but incorporating them into my exercising, housework and other such times in my day has been a major positive. An interesting side benefit is that its got me reading more books as well.

Can you think of any ways you might get more good books into your head over the next year?

(please note that all links to books in this post are Amazon.com affiliate links and if you were to purchase one of them, I receive a small payment from Amazon)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *