Most people who read books tend to have a particular genre of book that they prefer. Some read science fiction, others poetry, mysteries, self help or personal growth. While some readers focus exclusively in their area of career focus.
In our household, it is biographies and autobiographies specifically that are king. Reading a great biography (or autobiography) can be as exciting as your favourite thriller, provide more valuable and useful lessons than most self-help best sellers and offer more professional development wisdom than you can apply.
Delving into the lives and learnings of others offers a number of benefits and insights. There’s our top five reasons for choosing this genre.
- They let you see the world in new ways.
Rather than being completely focused on your professional discipline, looking at the way you and your colleagues always look at things, reading about someone from a different era, a different background or a totally different set of life experiences will give you new perspective.
- They allow you to stand on the ‘shoulders of giants’.
Sir Isaac Newton wrote “If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” and that is exactly what reading biographies can do for you. They can allow you to see further because of what these people have achieved.
- They offer you a mentor.
If you have read about the life of Abraham Lincoln, Gandhi, Churchill or anyone else you select, you have had a glimpse into their mind and now have the advantage or “knowing” them. These people can become your mentors at a distance, if you allow yourself the chance to think about what advice they might give you, or what they might do in a the situation or choice you are facing.
- They promote self discovery.
A good self help or professional development book will outline specific steps, tools, techniques and approaches to try. These can be valuable and successful shortcuts to help you make improvements and get results in most any area of your life. A biography, on the other hand, won’t be as direct. You will discover ideas and approaches on your own through the stories and experiences of others. This discovery learning process is often far more satisfying, and most always more lasting, than reading a list of steps.
- They remind you that history often repeats itself.
Reading about the real experiences of others gives context for the decisions and consequences that we all will face. History (recent or distant) often repeats itself because those who are making history were, and are, human beings.
Here’s a few of our favourites to entice you to share this wonderful genre.
I am Malala by Malala Yousafzai
In 2009 Malala Yousafzai began writing a blog on BBC Urdu about life in the Swat Valley as the Taliban gained control, at times banning girls from attending school. When her identity was discovered, Malala began to appear in both Pakistani and international media, advocating the freedom to pursue education for all. In October 2012, gunmen boarded Malala’s school bus and shot her in the face, a bullet passing through her head and into her shoulder. Remarkably, Malala survived the shooting.At a very young age, Malala Yousafzai has become a worldwide symbol of courage and hope. Her shooting has sparked a wave of solidarity across Pakistan, not to mention globally, for the right to education, freedom from terror and female emancipation.
Long Walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandela
Long Walk To Freedom recreates the drama of the experiences that helped shape Nelson Mandela’s destiny. From his imprisonment on Robben Island, to his remarkable journey to freedom and inauguration as President, this work describes his frustrations and strength of heart.
Losing my Virginity by Sir Richard Branson
“Oh, screw it, let’s do it.” That’s the philosophy that has allowed Richard Branson, in slightly more than twenty-five years, to spawn so many successful ventures. From the airline business (Virgin Atlantic Airways), to music (Virgin Records and V2), to cola (Virgin Cola), to retail (Virgin Megastores), and nearly a hundred others, ranging from financial services to bridal wear, Branson has a track record second to none. Losing My Virginity is the unusual, frequently outrageous autobiography of one of the great business geniuses of our time. When Richard Branson started his first business, he and his friends decided that “since we’re complete virgins at business, let’s call it just that: Virgin.” Since then, Branson has written his own “rules” for success, creating a group of companies with a global presence, but no central headquarters, no management hierarchy, and minimal bureaucracy.
Start Something That Matters by Blake Mycoskie
Blake Mycoskie is the founder of TOMS Shoes and a contestant on The Amazing Race. Mycoskie uses his experience with TOMS, as well as interviews with leaders of non-profits and corporations, to convey valuable lessons about entrepreneurship, transparency of leadership, and living by one’s values. This book displays the transformation from a businessperson to an advocate, in an account that outlines his philosophy about working in ways that both fulfils material desires and have philanthropic and social benefits.
Steve Jobs: The Exclusive Biography by Walter Isaacson
From bestselling author Walter Isaacson comes the landmark biography of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs. In 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, key colleagues from Apple and its competitors. Steve Jobs: The Exclusive Biography is the definitive portrait of the greatest innovator of his generation.