This book gives short biographies of literature’s greatest authors and poets, including Chaucer, Shakespeare, Jane Austen, Poe, the Brontes, the Brownings, Dickens, George Eliot, Emily Dickinson, Oscar Wilde, Mark Twain, Hardy, Doyle, D.H. Lawrence, Fitzgerald, Hemingway, and Frost.
These are actually classroom lectures that have been written out, and the writing style reflects that. It doesn’t feel like a normal biography or literary essay. The style is more conversational. I really hated that, because the author tries to be funny and clever and does not succeed. The dad jokes are numerous.
All leaders start out as kids who want to change the world for the better. This book gives short biographies of some famous leaders and how their childhood shaped their dreams.
There are sections about “democracy”, “black lives”, “our planet”, and the “power of art”. I found the writing to be extremely biased toward the political left, and I was disappointed that the biographies were not given in a balanced way. This book basically reads like political propaganda, ignoring the real issues and reinforcing political lies from the media.
Louisa May Alcott is best known as the author of the popular classic Little Women. However, her life before she became a famous authoress was full of difficulty. She grew up poor and needy in an unstable though loving home. Her sisters, whom she immortalized as the March sisters, were her closest friends and companions. But it was her parents, Abbey and Bronson Alcott, who had the deepest influence on her life.
Bronson Alcott was insane. He literally had insanity running in his family tree. He told people he was “the Messiah of education”, and thought he would completely reform the American education system. However, all his attempts to start a school failed miserably once the parents found out what nonsense he was teaching their children. He was more interested in his daydreams than in providing for his family’s everyday needs, so it fell to Abby and eventually to Louisa to work and scrape to put food on the table.
This book was published in 1975 just before Agatha Christie’s death in January of 1976. It includes a few chapters of biography about Dame Agatha and how she became such a success. There are also chapters about her most famous characters, her theater plays, and movie adaptations of her works. There is an analysis of the components of a good mystery, and whether or not mystery novels can be considered as artistic literature. There is an entire chapter full of quotes from her critics. The last chapter is a Mystery Quiz, where the reader can try to guess which Christie book has some particular factor or item.
I was disappointed in this book. First of all, the author includes several major spoilers for some of her most popular novels, such as the ending of Murder on the Orient Express. I started skipping ahead anytime that I saw the title of one of her books that I haven’t read yet, so that I would not get spoiled!
Charlotte Bronte was truly an extraordinary individual. This biography written by her friend Elizabeth Gaskell is a powerful history of the tragic life the Bronte sisters led. Their strong personalities and steady faith drew them closer together, and provided the genius for their incredible writing.
I loved reading about the eccentric Bronte family, and the close relationships between the siblings. Their isolated home among the moors of Yorkshire inspired similar vigorous settings for many of their books. It was interesting to see how their personal experiences led to fictional creations like the terrible Lowood School in ‘Jane Eyre’ or the awful governess situation in ‘Agnes Grey’. There are many parallels from their real lives to their writing.
This biography of Jane Austen does a very thorough job of seizing on every letter, every mention, every tiny detail that can be gleaned about the famous author; unfortunately, that isn’t much. Jane’s sister, Cassandra, destroyed many of her letters after Jane’s death. Jane’s brothers and nephews and nieces didn’t preserve her letters as faithfully as they should have. The result is that there are few original writings left from one of the best-loved authors of all time, and little is known of her day to day life.
However, the author does a wonderful job of piecing together letters from cousins, diary entries of nieces and neighbors, along with the few portraits and tin-type photographs of her family and friends. Continue reading →
I read this book by listening to the audiobook, and really enjoyed the voice of the narrator and the structure of the book. Following a chronological and sometimes topical format, this book covers the lives of four of the most famous members of the Inklings. Starting from their childhoods and following them through both World Wars, their academic careers, and their writing, this book also includes details of their family lives and personal friendships right up until their deaths.
I already know a lot about these men, because Tolkien and Lewis are my two favorite authors, and I’ve already read other biographies about the Inklings. But I was really impressed with the depth of information and careful research in this book. There are some really wonderful details and anecdotes that bring these historical figures close to the reader. Continue reading →
This is difficult to review because, while I loved the artwork and the lovely cover, some of the historic people that were featured in this book are very controversial. Many of them are not fit to be held up as role models for young girls!
Pirates, shady politicians, drug addicts, tyrants from Ancient History, and downright gross people; I counted 19 bios out of 100 that I had serious problems with, and which I would never allow a child to read about.
I liked the bios of the decent people, like Helen Keller, the Bronte sisters, Amelia Earhart, Ada Lovelace, Rosa Parks, and others. However, I felt that some of those bios left out points that ought to have been emphasized, or emphasized points that I thought were inconsequential, or portrayed a mixed message of the person’s life.
Most of the writing was skewed to a certain political viewpoint that doesn’t give a complete picture of the person’s achievements or what their life meant in influencing history. I could barely enjoy the good parts of this book because of so many misdirections and illusions about what these good people stood for and what made them famous. And I really didn’t enjoy the bios of the people I don’t admire, because the writing covered up the true nature of their corrupt lives. Continue reading →
It’s impossible to read anything about the incredible life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer and not be inspired by his faith, saddened by his suffering, and full of questions about your own beliefs and faith. Does my life reflect the kind of fearless faith that Bonhoeffer showed? Is my heart filled with joy in the midst of dark circumstances the way Bonhoeffer’s was?
The answer is no. My faith looks rather puny next to his. My life looks pathetic next to his courage and generosity. One will always feel small when compared to giants, but at least we are looking up, striving for greatness, seeking to know God more intimately as they did. Continue reading →